Case of Warring Siblings to Get Supreme Court Audience

WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Thursday to intervene in the spat between the squabbling children of a deceased Virgin Islands landowner.

A three-judge panel of the Third Circuit was the last to weigh in on the case, finding this past February that it lacked jurisdiction to hear an appeal because a post-trial motion had set the stage for retrial.

Half of the 8-page ruling is devoted to the case’s tangled background. It says matriarch Ethlyn Hall had once been close to her son, Samuel.

An attorney who once provided his mom with many free hours of legal work, Samuel found himself on the outs with Ethlyn while striving to develop one of the parcels of land she owned on St. John.

Ethlyn cut off contact with Samuel when she learned that he had received a large cash payment in connection with the construction of a home she agreed to fund for him. The ruling calls Elsa’s funding agreement alleged but does not explain which part is in dispute.

Ultimately Ethlyn’s health deteriorated, however, and she moved to Florida to live with her daughter, Elsa. In addition to altering her trust so that Elsa was the sole successor trustee, and tow of her grandchildren were the sole beneficiaries, Ethlyn brought a federal complaint against Samuel.

Daughter Elsa took over the case when her mother died, and she was soon hit with counterclaims from her brother.

Samuel accused Elsa of turning their mother against him, and a jury who credited these claims awarded Samuel $2 million.

While Elsa appealed the dismissal of the estate’s claims, the District Court granted a post-trial motion vacating Samuel’s jury verdict.

Noting that Samuel’s claims are awaiting retrial, the Third Circuit found that it could not hear Elsa’s appeal. The ruling from the Philadelphia-based federal appeals court was unpublished.

Elsa persuaded the Supreme Court on Monday to intervene.

Per its custom, the court did not issue any statement in granting a writ of certiorari.

Elsa is represented by Andrew Simpson, of Christianstsed, Virgin Islands.

Samuel is represented by Marie Griffith of the St. Thomas firm Hall & Griffith.

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