On Friday, November 13, Lane Attorneys Chris Wells and Inessa Baram-Blackwell prevailed on a motion to dismiss in King County Superior Court. The plaintiffs were beneficiaries of an IRA that their deceased father had maintained with Firm client JP Morgan Securities (JP Morgan). They also sued parent JP Morgan Chase & Co. The plaintiffs contended that JP Morgan’s failure to deliver the proper form to obtain spousal written consent to change beneficiaries caused them to lose nearly $200,000 that their deceased father had intended to leave to them. Instead, purportedly because JP Morgan sent a form that did not have a provision for spousal consent, no written consent was obtained, and their father’s spouse — their stepmother — received half the IRA as her community property and a 50-percent named beneficiary.
We contended that the plaintiffs were obligated to take their claims to securities industry (FINRA) arbitration and should not have sued in court. Since they did, thereby inviting the court’s attention and imposing unnecessary expense upon the defendants, we asked that the court assess the viability of their claims before compelling arbitration. We moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The plaintiffs had not alleged, and we showed that they had no reasonable basis to allege, that the stepmother had ever actually agreed to convey her community property rights in the IRA assets through her spouse to the plaintiffs. Having failed to allege that threshold fact, the plaintiffs could not prove that any negligence on our clients’ part caused any damage. Judge Mary Roberts dismissed all claims with prejudice after extensive briefing and nearly an hour of oral argument. Baram-Blackwell did much of the briefing and related research, and Wells handled the oral argument.