In Collins v. HSBC Bank USA (305 AD2d 361, 759 N.Y.S.2d 156 [2d Dept 2003]), the decedent Arthur Medley died on March 20, 1998 at which time he held a bank account in his own name in trust for one Carolina Miller.
Carolina Miller post-deceased Arthur Medley on June 19, 1998 without having collected the proceeds of the account. On July 22, 1998, the bank mistakenly paid the proceeds to the estate of Arthur Medley.
The administrator of Carolina Miller's estate commenced an action against the bank, who, in turn, brought a third-party action against the executors of Arthur Medley's estate.
They claimed that they had distributed the assets of his estate, including the proceeds of the bank account, prior to being notified that Arthur Medley's estate was not entitled to the proceeds.
On these facts the court held that "[g]enerally, if a payor pays money based upon the erroneous assumption that it is indebted to the payee, the payee is not entitled to retain the money acquired by the mistake of the payor, even if the mistake is the result of negligence.
However, where the receiving party has changed its position to its detriment in reliance upon the mistake recovery may be denied"