Plaintiff filed an amended suit against BankChampaign in 2009, alleging breach of fiduciary duties when the bank withdrew $262, 633 from three accounts associated with his parents — purportedly for termination fees and prospective attorney fees.
Plaintiff's father and mother set up trust accounts in 1997. The father, a Champaign attorney and developer who owned local hotels, died in May 1999. The Mother was declared "disabled" in a guardianship case in December 1999. She died in April 2006.
BankChampaign was appointed "successor trustee" of the family trust accounts and guardian of the mother's estate.
In December 2001, BankChampaign withdrew $262, 633 from the accounts, with $122, 633 of that described as termination fees and $140, 000 as "prospective" attorney fees.
Prior to the bank's resignation, the co-guardians and trust beneficiaries were threatening legal action against the bank.
Strategic Capital Trust Co. then became successor trustee of the accounts and, in February 2002, Strategic Capital expressed "concern" to BankChampaign about the withdrawn fees.
Strategic Trust, along with the plaintiff and the other co-guardians, sued BankChampaign in 2003, alleging breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. That case was voluntarily dismissed three years later due to the lawyer for the trustee resigned.
The plaintiff filed a suit against BankChampaign on his own in 2007, alleging breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. That complaint was amended in 2009, alleging only breach of fiduciary duty.
The plaintiff sought compensation for loss and damage caused by the bank's conduct, as well as punitive damages.
BankChampaign said its fee schedule allowed termination fees equal to 1 percent of the market value of the guardianship account and 1 percent of the market value of the trust accounts. The only evidence of this fee was claimed on a brochure, which was never produced in court. There also was never a signed contract between the parties agreeing to these conditions.
In 2009, Champaign County Circuit Judge Michael Q. Jones dismissed the plaintiff's claims regarding the trust accounts. Last year, the judge found in favor of BankChampaign on the claim concerning the guardianship account.
The plaintiff appealed the case, and in March of this year (2011), the Fourth District Appellate Court found in his favor. It reversed Jones' dismissal of the trust account claims and the judgment on the guardianship account.
Among other things, the appellate court, in a 3-0 decision, ruled that "a question of fact exists" regarding the termination fees.
The justices determined that:
— There was no signed agreement regarding termination fees so it was unclear whether the fee schedule applied to the accounts.
— The fee schedule said the termination fee "may" be imposed, not that it was mandated.
— It was unclear whether "termination" referred to termination of the trusts or termination of the accounts. The justices said the accounts were transferred to Strategic Capital, not terminated.
BankChampaign contended that the statute of limitations for breach of fiduciary duty ran out after five years. But the justices said Judy's suit was a "permitted refiling" since it was filed within a year of the voluntary dismissal.
The appellate court also ruled that the trial court erred in finding that BankChampaign did not have a fiduciary duty to Judy concerning the guardianship account.