Monday, April 23, 2012

Detailed and Unchallenged Expert Testimony is Sufficient Basis for Trial Court Findings

Liston v. Liston, 2011 UT app 433, December 22, 2011

Husband appealed the Decree which found wife’s credit card accounts and Husband investment accounts to be marital property. The trial court further awarded wife a sum of money for her ½ interest in water rights associated with the marital home. Husband Appealed.

Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s finding that Wife’s detailed and specific explanation that the credit card expenses were marital expenses was more credible when compared to Husband’s lack of explanation of the credit card expenses.  Indeed, Husband’s testimony that he had no idea of what expenses were on the Credit Cards displayed his ignorance on the issue.

Husband had a sizeable investment account to which he added funds that he claimed were from his mother.  The combined amounts were then placed in an account held solely in Wife’s name, then the entire amount (including Wife’s investments) were transferred into an account held in Husband’s deceased mother’s name.  Upon distribution, the Court described how it determined that Husband original investment in the account along with other token investments and interest thereon was Husband’s separate property. The remainder, including the portion that allegedly came from Husband’s mother, the Court found to be marital.   The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court based on the trial court’s detailed findings and reliance on the CPA report.

Husband argued that the water rights were resolved in the parties’ partial stipulation.  As part of the stipulation husband was awarded the marital home and water rights “appurtenant thereto.”  An unchallenged expert testified that three of the four shares were not appurtenant to the home, but could be sold separately.  Court affirmed the trial court based on the expert’s unchallenged testimony.

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