SW Legal studies in Business

Probate Court Does Not Have Jurisdiction Over Claims for Damages in Law
Description

Maine high court held that a suit filed for tort claims, which asked for damages in law, must be tried in district court, not in probate court. While the dispute was over probate of an estate, probate courts do not have jurisdiction over tort damage cases.

Topic Court Procedure
Key Words

Jurisdiction; Forum Non Conveniens; Probate Court; Jury Trial

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Thibodeau died intestate. The probate court notified Tomlinson, his daughter, that she has been appointed personal representative of Thibodeau’s estate. Voisine, Thibodeau’s sister, filed a complaint in district court seeking damages from Tomlinson for breach of fiduciary duty, self-dealing, and wrongful interference with her expectation of an inheritance. Tomlinson denied the claims. The district court ordered the matter to be moved to probate court to settle all claims, holding that the district court was not a convenient forum and that all estate matters were handled by the probate court. Voisine appealed that order.

Decision

Vacated and remanded. To dismiss a claim for forum non conveniens there must be an alternative forum available to the plaintiff. The claims made by Voisine are actions at law for which a damages remedy may be sought in a jury trial. Probate courts lack jurisdiction over such claims for compensatory and punitive damages. The district court is the proper venue for the claims made by Voisine.

Citation

Voisine v. Tomlinson, 955 A.2d 748 (Sup. Ct., Maine, 2008)

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