BEAUMONT – The denial of a motion for mistrial in an Orange County testamentary dispute has been upheld by a court of appeals.
Judge Steve McKeithen, on the bench of the Texas 9th District Court of Appeals, issued a 47-page ruling on Aug. 30 affirming the Orange County Court at Law's decision in the lawsuit involving the estate of Ricky Boyd Stack, filed by Benjamin Stack against his siblings, Kristin Prentice and Jacob Boyd Stack.
Stack sued his brother and sister in regards to the will left by their father, attempting to probe the validity of the will.
As stated in the ruling, on June 8, 2015, Jacob "filed an application to probate Stack’s self-proving written will," which was left by Ricky, naming Jacob as independent executor. The same will, per the ruling, "left 47.5 percent of the decedent’s estate to Jacob, 47.5 percent to Kristin and 5 percent to Benjamin."
According to the ruling, Benjamin claimed he filed the suit to "probate of the will and an application for declaratory relief, in which he argued that he did not recognize Stack’s signature and the will was witnessed and executed while Stack was 'very ill and mentally incapacitated' in the hospital."
He also claimed that "the changes Stack made to his probate and nonprobate estates were ineffective due to Stack’s alleged lack of contractual and testamentary capacity and undue influence or coercion allegedly exerted by Jacob and Kristin," the ruling stated.
Benjamin also sought, according to the ruling, "a declaration from the trial court that the will is invalid, and he asserted claims against Jacob and Kristin for tortious interference with inheritance," as well as a claim for exemplary damages, and an upholding of the will by the lower court.
"The jury on court found that Stack had capacity to sign the will," and it "was not the product of undue influence," the ruling states. That same jury decided that Jacob and Kristin "did not tortiously interfere with Benjamin’s inheritance." Benjamin filed a motion for a new trial, however, the lower court denied it.
In his decision, McKeithen dismissed all issues raised by Benjamin in his motions, including the claim that the lower court abused its discretion when denying the motion for mistrial.
"On this record, we conclude that the trial court’s instruction to the jury to disregard the complained-of portion of counsel’s opening statement was sufficient to cure any harm. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Benjamin’s motion for mistrial," McKeithen said.
Texas 9th District Court of Appeals case number 09-17-00089-CV