Crowley v. Katleman

8 Cal. 4th 666, 34 Cal. Rptr. 2d 386, 881 P.2d 1083 (1994)

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Crowley v. Katleman

California Supreme Court
8 Cal. 4th 666, 34 Cal. Rptr. 2d 386, 881 P.2d 1083 (1994)

Facts

Beldon Katleman divorced his wife, Carole Katleman, and thereafter executed a will naming Arthur Crowley, his neighbor, best friend, and attorney, as executor and a residuary legatee. Beldon and Carole remarried before Beldon died, but Beldon never revoked the will nor executed a subsequent will. Crowley became the principal beneficiary. Crowley offered Carole half of Beldon’s estate, but she declined and instead filed a will contest that alleged six grounds as to why the will was invalid, including that Crowley exerted undue influence over Beldon and that Beldon revoked the will by destroying it. The probate court rejected all six grounds and validated the will. Crowley then filed a malicious-prosecution action against Carole and her attorneys, alleging that her will contest lacked probable cause; however, Crowley’s claim against Carole only alleged that five of the six grounds lacked probable cause, and his claims against the attorneys only alleged that four of the six grounds lacked probable cause. Crowley’s claim against Carole did not allege lack of probable cause as to the undue-influence ground, and his claims against the attorneys did not allege lack of probable cause as to the undue-influence and revocation grounds. Carole and the attorneys demurred and argued that because Crowley did allege that all six grounds lacked probable cause, his malicious-prosecution claim was deficient on the required element that the prior action was brought without probable cause. The court dismissed Crowley’s action, and Crowley appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Mosk, J.)

Dissent (Arabian, J.)

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