Submitted: June 14, 2019
Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware C.A. No.
STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA and VAUGHN, Justices.
L. Valihura Justice.
consideration of the parties' briefs and the record on
appeal, it appears to the Court that:
plaintiff below-appellant, Michaela Cephas, filed this notice
of appeal from a Superior Court order granting the motion for
summary judgment filed by the defendant below-appellee,
Katrina Cephas. After careful consideration of the
parties' arguments, we affirm the Superior Court's
Katrina is Michaela's aunt. In 2002, after the death of
Michaela's mother following surgery, the Family Court
named Katrina the guardian of Michaela's person. Katrina
filed, on behalf of the estate and Michaela, a medical
malpractice case arising from the death of Michaela's
mother. In 2004, Katrina filed a petition for her appointment
as guardian of Michaela's property and approval of a
settlement in the Superior Court and the Court of Chancery.
The petition was granted and jurisdiction was transferred to
the Court of Chancery.
part of the settlement agreement, a lump sum was paid to
Katrina as next friend and guardian ad litem for Michaela.
The court order approving the settlement required this money
to be placed in a guardianship account for Michaela. The
settlement agreement also provided for the payment of $500 a
month to Katrina as guardian of Michaela until 2016. The
order approving the settlement did not refer to the monthly
payments. The payor paid the $500 a month to Katrina, not the
guardianship account for Michaela.
January 2007, the Family Court rescinded Katrina's
guardianship and returned Michaela to her father's
custody. In 2012, Michaela's father asked the Office of
the Register in Chancery about replacing Katrina with himself
as the guardian of Michaela's property, but did not file
a petition to do so. In March 2016, a Court of Chancery
Master granted Katrina and Michaela's petition for the
transfer of the guardianship account funds to Michaela.
Katrina was discharged as guardian. Michaela signed a release
acknowledging that she had received all money owed to her by
Katrina and releasing Katrina from all suits concerning the
November 2016, Michaela's father sent a letter to the
Court of Chancery alleging that the $500 monthly payments
were intended for Michaela's benefit and that Katrina
should not have received those payments after the rescission
of the Family Court guardianship. Katrina responded to the
allegations. A Court of Chancery Master issued a report
concluding that Katrina had not breached her fiduciary duties
and that the release barred Michaela's claims against
Katrina. Michaela's father filed exceptions to the
February 7, 2017, the Court of Chancery affirmed the
Master's rulings on procedural grounds, not the
substantive grounds in the report. The Court of Chancery held
that Michaela's father lacked standing to assert the
claims because Michaela was a competent adult who could
assert the claims in her own name. If Michaela wished to
pursue a claim for breach of fiduciary duty, she could do so
by initiating a new, separate action in her own name. The
Court of Chancery ruled that the affirmance of the
Master's report was without prejudice to Michaela's
right to pursue her claims in accordance with Court of
Chancery rules and procedures. Michaela's father sent a
letter to the Office of the Register in Chancery objecting to
the Court of Chancery's decision, which was returned to
him because the matter was closed.
March 30, 2017, Michaela filed a one-page complaint in the
Superior Court. She alleged that Katrina was not entitled to
the $59, 500 (119 monthly payments of $500) she received
while Michaela was with her father. On June 22, 2017,
Michaela filed an amended complaint that included the Family
Court order rescinding guardianship and excerpts of the
settlement agreement and the order approving the settlement.
After answering the complaint, Katrina filed a motion for
summary judgment. The Superior Court granted the motion for
summary judgment on January 9, 2019. The Superior Court held
there was no breach of the settlement agreement, the issue
raised by Michaela was fully litigated in the Court of
Chancery, and the Superior Court lacked jurisdiction over any
breach of fiduciary duty claims. This appeal followed.
appeal, Michaela argues that Katrina should not have retained
the $500 a month payments after the Family Court guardianship
was rescinded in 2007. We review grants of summary judgment
and questions of law de novo.
the extent Michaela is asserting a breach of the settlement
agreement, the Superior Court did not err in concluding that
there was no breach. The settlement agreement provided for
the payment of $500 a month to Katrina as guardian of
Michaela from December 16, 2004 through February 16, 2016.
Although the Family Court guardianship was rescinded in 2007,
Katrina remained guardian of Michaela's property in the
Court of Chancery until 2016. As the Superior Court
recognized, it may have made sense to ...