Valensi Rose, PLC litigators Laurie Murphy and Lynda Chung won an award of $18,223,343 on behalf of their client, Brittnee Barnes, involving her father’s Trust. At issue in the case were the distributions and investments by Brittnee’s older half-siblings, Tom and Kristine Barnes, of funds derived from various business and real estate holdings their father, Thomas H. Barnes, amassed and acquired during his lifetime, including Tom’s Farms in Corona. The award was issued on February 1, 2012 by Honorable Judge Harold W. Hopp at Riverside Superior Court in Indio, California. Having settled with Kristine Barnes, the case proceeded to trial against Tom Barnes only.

“After a six week trial in Indio, in Riverside County, and after numerous post-trial briefs and hearings over the past year, we obtained a ruling in favor of our client that her older half-brother, Tom Barnes breached his obligations as trustee of the trust that their father Thomas H. Barnes created. The court’s ruling states what we have contended all along – that Tom Barnes spent trust assets and gambled with our client’s inheritance, living a lavish lifestyle and investing Trust assets in risky businesses in which he had no experience, much of which took place while his minor half siblings were in the foster care system,” said Ms. Murphy.

Brittnee’s father also had 1,852 ounces of gold and $855,000 in cash in safe deposit boxes when he died that Tom Barnes argued was meant by their father to be a gift to him. The Court disagreed and awarded the client and her younger brother the fair market value of the gold that the Court found their father intended to be held in trust for his two youngest children.

The Court also found that Tom Barnes breached his fiduciary obligations, acted with malice, fraud or oppression and awarded a total of $18,223,343 in favor of the client and her younger brother. Because the Court found that Tom Barnes converted trust assets in bad faith, it awarded double damages, which is permitted under the Probate Code. The Court permanently removed Tom and Kristine Barnes as trustees of the trust and appointed the professional trustee who has been running the businesses since 2008, when Tom and Kristine Barnes’ powers were suspended. The judgment is expected to be satisfied when the businesses and real estate is sold.

Case Name: In Re the Matter of the Thomas H. Barnes Separate Property Trust

Place: Riverside Superior Court, Indio, California
Case No.: RIP089261

Presiding Judge: Harold W. Hopp

Date of Award: February 1, 2012

For more information or assistance with a similar issue, contact Laurie Murphy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Lynda Chung at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..