Jacquelin S. Bennett, Genevieve S. Felder, and Kathleen S. Turner, individually, as Co-Trustees and Beneficiaries of the Marital Trust and the Qualified Terminable Interest Trust created by the Thomas Stevenson Will, and Jacquelin S. Bennett, and Kathleen S. Turner, as Co-Personal Representatives on behalf of the Estate of Jacquelin K. Stevenson, Respondents,
T. Heyward Carter Jr., Evans, Carter, Kunes & Bennett, P.A., Douglas Capital Management, Inc., Dixon Hughes f/k/a Pratt-Thomas Gumb & Co., P.A., and Lynne L. Kerrison, Defendants, Of Whom Dixon Hughes f/k/a Pratt-Thomas Gumb & Co., and Lynne L. Kerrison are the Petitioners. Appellate Case No. 2016-000065
May 24, 2017
OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS
from Charleston County Roger M. Young Sr., Circuit Court
Dawes Cooke Jr., of Barnwell Whaley Patterson & Helms,
LLC, of Charleston, and Frederick K. Sharpless, of
Greensboro, both for Petitioners.
M. Babcock, A. Camden Lewis, James Mixon Griffin, and Ariail
Elizabeth King, all of Lewis Babcock & Griffin, LLP, of
Columbia, for Respondents.
granted certiorari to review the court of appeals'
decision reversing in part a circuit court order which
granted Petitioners summary judgment on Respondents'
individual cause of action for aiding and abetting a breach
of fiduciary duty. Bennett v. Carter, Op. No.
2015-UP-491 (S.C. Ct. App. filed Oct. 14, 2015). The sole
issue before the Court is whether this cause of action
survives summary judgment. We affirm as modified.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Stevenson (Mother) was the sole lifetime beneficiary of two
trusts created by the will of her husband, who died in
1988. The residual beneficiaries of the two
trusts were her sons, Thomas Stevenson III and Daniel
Stevenson II (collectively, the Stevenson brothers), and her
Stevenson brothers were also co-trustees of the two trusts
from 1999 to 2006. Respondents allege that while the
Stevenson brothers were co-trustees, they violated their
fiduciary duties by unlawfully taking money from the trusts.
Respondents claim the Stevenson brothers stole approximately
five million dollars from the two trusts.
1997, Lynne Kerrison and her accounting firm Dixon Hughes
(collectively, Petitioners) began preparing the income tax
returns of Mother and the two subject trusts. Mother's
personal bookkeeper, Pat Neapolitan, provided Kerrison with
the information needed to complete Mother's tax returns
and those of the trusts. In 2001, while preparing
Mother's tax returns, Kerrison noticed the records
reflected loans to one of the Stevenson brothers and had
concerns about the propriety of the transactions. She
contacted Mother's attorney, Heyward Carter Jr., and
informed him of the transactions. In October of 2001,
Kerrison, Carter, and the Stevenson brothers met to discuss
the suspect transactions. At this meeting, the Stevenson
brothers were advised about the impropriety of these
transactions, and they were advised to tell Respondents about
their actions. Neither Carter nor Kerrison had any
discussions with Respondents about Mother's finances or
the finances of the trusts. The Stevenson brothers did not
tell Respondents about the transactions until a meeting in
the meeting in 2001, the Stevenson brothers continued to
withdraw money from the trusts. Neapolitan died, and at some
point in 2003, Petitioners began performing the bookkeeping
for Mother and the trusts. Petitioners had possession of the
trust checkbooks and would write checks from the trusts to
the Stevenson brothers. The Stevenson brothers held sole
obtain checks from the trusts, the Stevenson brothers would
request a withdrawal at Petitioners' office, and
Petitioners' employees would then write the checks as
requested. Petitioners knew the Stevenson brothers continued
to withdraw money from the trusts after the October 2001
meeting. Petitioners were aware some of the checks written
for the Stevenson brothers were to the Stevenson
brothers' companies, and Petitioners were aware one of
Petitioners' partners was personally investing in one of
those businesses, as well as sitting on its board.
2006, Respondent Kathleen S. Turner (Turner) attended a
meeting with Kerrison, Carter, and the Stevenson brothers. At
this meeting, Turner learned for the first time that the
Stevenson brothers had withdrawn money from the two trusts
over a five year period. Mother passed away in 2007. In 2008,
Respondents brought suit against the Stevenson brothers,
resulting in a settlement with Thomas Stevenson and a
judgment against Daniel Stevenson. In 2009, Respondents filed
the present ...