The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has affirmed the federal court’s ruling that denied Derron G. Flores’ request to substitute him as plaintiff in the $40-million lawsuit that his late mother filed against a bank and its former employees.
The Ninth Circuit judges agreed with U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona that Cecilia Flores’ tort claims were extinguished once she died.
Citing the CNMI Supreme Court’s decision in Indalecio v. Yarofalir, Ninth Circuit judges said the decision in that case is controlling.
In the Indalecio case, the Ninth Circuit judges said, the court interpreted the Commonwealth Code, which provides for the survival of tort claims upon the tortfeasor’s death, but does not speak to the survival of claims where the tort victim dies.
The judges said the court “assume[d] that the Legislature’s silence here was not an oversight, but a calculated decision,” and ruled that “the NMI has no statute which preserves a tort victim’s after his death.”
The Ninth Circuit judges said the Indalecio ruling makes clear that Cecilia Flores’ tort claims did not survive her death, and that they are bound by that decision.
The judges said that Derron Flores’ attempt to distinguish Indalecio is unavailing. They said Indalecio’s interpretation of CNMI law is not limited to wrongful death torts or injuries to the person.
The case was originally filed by Cecilia Flores in the CNMI Superior Court. It was moved to the federal court.
Cecila Flores sued Union Bank and its two former employees over a bank manager’s alleged unauthorized release of Donald Flores’ money several years prior to his death. The money was from Donald Flores’ $200,000 time certificate of deposit with Union Bank and was released to a person representing him.
Cecilia Flores alleged that Union Bank fraudulently “allowed an impostor to redeem her 1993 certificate of deposit and hid that fundamental material fact…all these years.”
Both Cecilia Flores and her husband, former Saipan Mayor Donald Flores, who bought the certificate of deposit, died while the lawsuit was pending.
Derron Flores, the son and only known child of the Flores couple, attempted to substitute as plaintiff.
In an April 2016 order denying Derron Flores’ request to substitute, Manglona ruled that Cecilia Flores’ claims were extinguished when she died in September 2015. Manglona also dismissed Cecilia Flores’ lawsuit.
Derron, through counsel Juan T. Lizama, then appealed to the Ninth Circuit to reverse Manglona’s ruling.
In November 2017, federal jurors favored Union Bank in Derron Flores’ separate lawsuit to collect the $200,000 certificate of deposit.
The jurors found that Donald Flores and Union Bank did enter into a contract. The jurors, however, determined that Derron Flores failed to prove that Union Bank breached the contract by failing to do something that the contract had required it to do without a valid excuse.