St. Louis Record

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Federal judge tells parties to work out agreement in dispute over stock or case will go to trial


By John Breslin | Apr 4, 2019

ST. LOUIS – The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri recently said two parties involved in a dispute over stock need a "meeting of the minds" or the case will go to trial.

U.S. District Judge Jean C. Hamilton made the ruling in a memorandum and order filed March 25 regarding a suit filed by plaintiff Lana Weinbach claiming a subsidiary of hotel group Marriott International wrongly identified stock she held as abandoned and transferred the stock to the state of Missouri, which subsequently sold the shares. 

Weinbach filed the claim for compensation for the "wrongful escheat of stock" in Starwood Hotels and Resorts World Wide, a subsidiary of Marriott. Her parents bought stock, initially, in ITT Corporation, which was later bought by Starwood.

The dispute turns on one paragraph that defendant Marriott wants included in any agreement between the two parties. The paragraph states that the plaintiff gives up any future claim to the stock, first bought by her parents in 1997, court filings said.

Weinbach claims that Starwood reported the shares as "abandoned property" to the state's office of treasurer in 2003. The complaint states that Missouri sold shares for $35,213 in 2009. Other shares in a related company were sold by the state for $8,959.

Hamilton, in her ruling, noted that Weinbach claims that "consideration and mutuality of obligation and mutuality of assent were present on Jan. 24, 2019."

"In exchange for a settlement sum plaintiff asserts that she agreed to release all claims against the defendants," Hamilton wrote. "Defendants argue that the disputed paragraph is material to the settlement because it ensures that the defendants will be sufficiently protected from any future claims against them through plaintiff relinquishing ownership, or interest in the disputed stock."

Hamilton concluded that there is no "meeting of the minds sufficient to find an agreement between the parties."

She added, "Absent a meeting of the minds, the court will not enforce an agreement between the parties. If the parties cannot come to an agreement and file a notice of settlement with the court within 30 days of this order, this case will be set for trial."

Hamilton also dismissed motions to dismiss filed by both parties.

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