The Mystery of Danny Rand’s Inheritance

Several readers have asked the same question about the new(ish) Netflix series Iron Fist: how exactly could Danny legally recover a 51% interest in Rand Enterprises?  This is a good question.  Unfortunately the series doesn’t give us quite enough information to answer it definitively, but I think there are a couple of reasonable theories.  Spoilers follow!

I. Regular Inheritance: The Straightforward but Legally Dubious Way

One possibility is that when the Rand family died in the plane crash, Wendell Rand’s interest passed to Harold Meachum, possibly by the terms of Wendell’s will, possibly by the Rand Enterprises operating agreement.  When Harold ‘died’, his children (Joy and Ward) inherited that combined interest, giving them essentially complete control over the company.  Thus, Danny’s lawsuit would essentially be an effort to claw back the shares that would otherwise have passed to him, presuming that Wendell’s will (or the New York intestate succession laws) would have made Danny an heir.

This all seems straightforward enough factually, but the problem is that 15 years have passed, and New York has a six year statute of limitations for probate claims.  NY CPLR  § 213.  Here’s where it starts to get tricky.

Danny was a minor (10 years old) when his parents died.  In theory this means that the statute of limitations was tolled (i.e. paused) until he either came of age or a personal representative could be appointed, whichever comes first.  NY CPLR § 208.  In the first of many stretches, one could argue that a personal representative can’t be appointed for a supposedly dead person, and so the statute would be tolled until Danny turned 18.  But that only gets us 8 years out of 15.  At a minimum we need another 2 years after Danny turned 18.  Can we get there?

Maybe.  The clock starts running from the time facts are discovered or from the time when facts can be discovered with reasonable diligence.  NY CPLR § 203(g).  Danny could argue that—as an extremely socially isolated child—he could not discover the fact that his inheritance had been withheld from him (even with reasonable diligence) until some time later, probably after he left K’un-Lun to return to New York.  I don’t know exactly how long it took Danny to get back to New York, but it seems to be implied that although it took him a while, it likely wasn’t more than a few years.   Eight years as an infant plus a few more years isolated in K’un-Lun might be enough to place Danny within the 6 year statute of limitations.

 

That said, the law puts a high value on settled expectations, and Danny would be fighting an uphill battle.

 

II. A Trust: The More Complicated but Legally Plausible Way

But all is not lost.  As we learn from Jeri Hogarth, one of Wendell’s attorneys, the family has a trust that—presumably among other things—pays for the upkeep of the family memorial.  It is possible that, rather than passing to Harold, Wendell’s shares passed to the Rand family trust.  Indeed it’s possible they were held by that trust the entire time, depending on how exactly Harold set things up.

In any event, it would be typical for Danny to be a beneficiary of that trust, with his exact level of benefit and control dependent on whether his parents were still alive and whether he had reached a certain age (possibly majority, possibly older).  In the absence of a more typical beneficiary, the trust may have been directed to invest conservatively and distribute its income to various charitable causes.  There may also be some direction as to how its influence over Rand Enterprises should be exercised, if at all.   This is speculative, but not an unusual setup.

In this case, Danny’s suit would be to claim benefit from the trust, and Rand Enterprises would be acting as an intervenor in the case, arguing that it had an interest in the outcome, since it didn’t want majority control to transfer to an imposter or an incompetent.  In this case the court would be less concerned about settled expectations because all of the assets would remain with the trust, which would simply be changing its beneficiary to Danny.

That setup is all well and good, but what about the statute of limitations?  Why could Danny bring this action but probably not a probate claim?  There are two arguments.

First, specific to certain claims against trusts and other fiduciary agents, the clock starts “when the person having the right to make the demand discovered the facts upon which the right depends”.  NY CPLR § 206.  That’s a much narrower rule than the general discovery rule.  In this case Danny’s profound ignorance of the situation right up until he walked into the Rand offices seems to work to his benefit.

Second, continuous or repeated wrongs renew the statute of limitations.  In this case, the fiduciary is continuing to repeat the wrong of denying Danny the benefit of the trust, and so he can make a claim even though the first wrong may have occurred more than six years ago.1050 Tenants Corp. v. Lapidus, 289 A.D.2d 145 (1st Dep’t 2001).

 

III. Conclusion

There are plenty of other legal issues in Iron Fist (e.g. Jeri’s questionable contingency fee arrangement with Danny; Jeri’s complete failure to explain any of the documents Danny was given to sign after the settlement with Rand; the fact that Danny commits numerous serious crimes from the moment he arrives in the US), but this major plot point is at least semi-justifiable.

22 responses to “The Mystery of Danny Rand’s Inheritance

  1. Thanks! The serial crimes was annoying, but kind of run of the mill for shows like this. The inheritance is what I was really wondering!

  2. This only answers half of the inheritence questions raised by the show, since (spoiler alert) there is another character who is not quite as dead as the world believes.

    As to Danny’s “inheritance”, I gathered that the Meechums acceded to transferring the shares to Danny not because they were legally required to do so, but because the PR hit from denying him would severely damage the company’s interests in some (unspecified) way.

    • Perhaps the attention might be a problem in other ways. Who knows? There might be some crimes they want hidden.

    • Fernando Santoianni

      Ward transferred the shares because an influential person told him to accept all of Danny’s requests. It was just an out-of-court settlement.

  3. “Danny commits numerous serious crimes from the moment he arrives in the US”
    I’m guessing you’re referring to the fact that he enters with documents that are not his. It took me a while to figure this out, because at the start of the show, he isn’t doing anything criminal until he starts sleeping in the park.

  4. “trespassing, resisting arrest, and battery at the Rand offices”

    0/4

    Rand building:
    You don’t trespass when you are someplace you are actually entitled to be. You don’t resist arrest when the person attempting to arrest you has no authority to do so. And there’s no battery at the Rand offices… more correctly, Danny is the VICTIM of battery at the Rand offices.

    Joy’s home:
    And, no, he found the spare key but it no longer worked. However, there was no intent to satisfy a charge of burglary or trespass. Trespass requires knowingly entering a place one has no legal authorization to enter, and burglary requires intent to commit a felony within the premises.

    • Danny was not entitled to be in the Rand building as soon as he was informed he needed to leave. From that moment, his decision to remain was a trespass. NY Penal Law § 140.05. And once he misused another person’s ID card to gain access to a restricted floor, it became a criminal trespass: “A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the third degree when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building or upon real property which is fenced or otherwise enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders.” NY Penal Law § 140.10(a) (emphasis added).

      Similarly, Danny trespassed at Joy’s house. “A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the second degree when he or she knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling”. NY Penal Law § 140.15. Even if Danny honestly believed that the house was somehow still his when he entered the house, as soon as he was inside he realized it belonged to someone else. His decision to remain, even briefly, was a criminal trespass.

      You’re right that Danny probably did not commit burglary, but you overstate the elements. Burglary in New York does not require intent to commit a felony, only a crime. § 140.20.

      As for resisting arrest: Danny did not resist arrest but only because that only applies to arrests by police officers and peace officers, which the security guards likely were not.

      As for the battery (more properly assault in the New York criminal law context): you’re going to have to argue why the guards did not have the authority to attempt to use reasonable physical force to compel Danny to leave or why the force they used was unreasonable.

      A person in possession or control of any premises, or a person licensed or privileged to be thereon or therein, may use physical force upon another person when he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to prevent or terminate what he or she reasonably believes to be the commission or attempted commission by such other person of a criminal trespass upon such premises. Such person may use any degree of physical force, other than deadly physical force, which he or she reasonably believes to be necessary for such purpose

      NY Penal Law § 35.20(2) (emphasis added). There’s a lot of reasonable belief there. It doesn’t matter that it turns out Danny was who he says he was. The guards almost certainly had a reasonable belief that the force was necessary to prevent or terminate what they reasonably believed was a criminal trespass. This was bolstered by the fact that Danny then went on to, in fact, commit a criminal trespass.

      If the guards were justified in their use of force, then Danny’s use of force was necessarily unjustified, making his supposed self-defense an assault.

      Don’t let the fact that Danny is the protagonist cloud your judgment, here. Many of his actions are legally indefensible, and contacting an attorney should have been the first thing he did. He’s an ill-educated trauma victim with a distinctly self-centered, childish view of the world. His problem solving approach is both consistent with that and often criminal.

      • “If the guards were justified in their use of force, then Danny’s use of force was necessarily unjustified”

        Is that necessarily so in all cases, even if reasonable beliefs on each side come into conflict?

      • Is that necessarily so in all cases, even if reasonable beliefs on each side come into conflict?

        I could not find an example of this situation in New York, so it’s hard to say. “Necessarily” was a strong word, but if the guards use force first and are acting reasonably, then at minimum it makes Danny’s case defense much harder to prove.

      • Even if Danny honestly believed that the house was somehow still his when he entered the house, as soon as he was inside he realized it belonged to someone else.

        That assumes facts not in evidence.

        I suspect at best he thought someone else was *living there*, not that someone else *owed* it.

        In fact, we don’t have much evidence about who *does* own it. The logical conclusion is that the trust does, because there’s not any way that Joy could have bought it when Danny and his parents ‘died’, she was too young. Unless the house somehow remained on the market for years after that, or Joy purchased it from the new owners, the most logical thing is that Danny’s trust owns it, and, without any beneficiaries to live in it, has decided to rent the house to one of the family’s old friends, probably with some sort of maintenance agreement on her part.

        Which means Danny does, in fact, own the house, sorta. Although at best he’s a landlord, and thus *cannot legally walk into her house*…except, again, he probably doesn’t understand the legal situation, and, I suspect, thinks someone’s just living in *his* house.

        Yes, he’s a complete dumbass for not understanding ‘Houses do not remain mine after a decade of deadness’ situation, along with the ‘Hey, maybe I need to speak to someone about this ‘legally dead for more than a decade’ problem, but he…didn’t understand that.

        Ignorance of the law is no excuse…but ignorance of the fact is, and Danny appears completely ignorance of any facts about that house, making completely stupid assumptions…and, legally, those completely stupid assumptions protect him from trespassing charges.

      • Ah, but it turns out that Danny both owns the building, and is the superior of the security guards – he even says so to them honestly and is correct. Of course that fact isn’t yet provable, because bad actors have taken steps to secure all the paperwork that would make it easy for Danny Rand to re-establish his personage.

        So, while the security guards may well have acted reasonably – Danny can’t sue or fire them – it looks to me that it would be seriously difficult for them to have him arrested for these previous trespasses and minor physical contacts at later points.

        As for Danny’s problem-solving approach, it is well-suited only for a person living in a world where his episodes have titles like, “Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch” and “Eight Diagram Dragon Palm.”

      • Fernando Santoianni

        Ingot9455, have in mind that the role of guards is not that of lawyers or a court of law. Right then and there, Ward and Joy are authority figures in the building, and Danny is not. If he is truly Danny Rand or not, or if he is the inheritor of the building or not, is for lawyers to perhaps determine at some later point. Or not, they may simply ignore the whole case if there is no evidence to even start it; in any case that’s none of their business. Right then and there, Danny has trespassed into the building, and Ward and Joy confirmed that they do not want him in the building: that’s more than enough to take him out. Note that they are not meant to arrest him (they are not cops), merely to keep him out of the building.

  5. When Danny, Colleen, and Claire capture Gao, could Gao (theoretically) sue the trio for false imprisonment?

    • Absolutely, if she’s willing to go to jail for embezzlement, drug dealing, racketeering (with her cadre of drug dealing ninjas), various forms of murder, and countless other crimes.

  6. Okay, perhaps a smarter question (Spoilers): About halfway through the series, Ward Meachum stabs Harold Meachum to death and hides the body in a swamp. A few episodes later, Harold comes back to life. Is Ward still guilty of murder, or merely attempted murder? (It’s stated that Harold totally died, but came back.)

    • There is no legal precedence for that exact sort of case, where someone is 100% legally and clinically dead and comes back.

      The closest though would be someone declared dead after being attacked but turns out they survived; in those cases, they are not considered to have legally died, so assault and attempted murder are in play.

      Basically a lawyer would probably go for attempted murder, and a judge would probably agree, and afterwards everyone would agree that they might need a new law (or an official reinterpretation of the law) to deal with this sort of situation.

      • To my understanding, the legal definition of death is the ‘irreversible cessation’ of functions (circulatory & respiratory, or brain). If that cessation is reversed… Then obviously it was not irreversible. Legally, they were never dead, even if by any ‘normal’ understanding they were definitely obviously completely dead.

  7. Fernando Santoianni

    There is another issue: how can this vagrant who claims to be Daniel Thomas Rand confirm that he is indeed the man he claims to be? Ward asked him for evidence, and he could not provide any: he has no living relatives for a DNA test (not even the corpses of his parents are available, as they must be buried under tons of snow in the himalayas by now), and he was too young to register his fingerprints. He does know anecdotes that only Danny Rand may possibly know, but convincing Joy is not the same as convincing a court of law.

    And another: what about his escape from the psychiatric hospital? The doctor accepted that he may indeed be Daniel Rand, but still diagnosed him with “an anxiety disorder with psychotic features”. And, after all this, he is allowed to go on with his life as if nothing had happened. Even as a public figure to boot. Shouldn’t the hospital request Rand that they return him to their custody? Can he take part in unrelated legal actions with such a diagnosis? And the best part: can Rand ignore the requests of the man with 51% of the shares (or even take them away from him somehow), on the grunds of his diagnosed disorder?

    • Wasn’t there that piece of pottery Joy had found, that Danny made as a child, which had his fingerprint embedded in it?

      No idea whether there is criminal liability for escaping a psychiatric hospital; I presume it would depend on whether or not the relevant laws governing criminal escape cover such a facility if it has lawful custody of you.

      As to the significance of the doctor’s diagnosis: I think you’re reading way too much into it. One doctor’s diagnosis, without a court order backing it up, doesn’t carry that kind of power. Also, a clinical diagnosis doesn’t necessarily correspond to relevant legal standards, and there are different legal standards for different purposes. For example, within criminal law alone, having the mental capacity to stand trial is different from having had the mental capacity to be responsible for a crime, and both of those things differ from what doctors would say constitutes mental illness.

      As a civil matter, just because one doctor (or however many doctors you care to name) says you have “an anxiety disorder with psychotic features” doesn’t make you a non-person whose legal rights can be ignored. If someone is incapable of managing their affairs, a court can appoint a conservator to do so on their behalf, but (1) someone actually has to petition a court to do so first — you can’t just say “I’m ignoring your rights as a shareholder because a doctor said you’re mentally ill”; (2) I doubt that such a diagnosis, even if it were uncontested, would be sufficient to impose a conservatorship over Danny; (3) it ain’t going to be uncontested — Danny has an attorney who can arrange for medical experts who will testify that sure, this K’un L’un stuff sounds a little silly, but Mr. Rand is perfectly capable of managing his affairs; and (4) there’s not much point in anyone pursuing such a petition — even if successful, a conservatorship doesn’t take the Rand shares away from Danny, it just means that Jeri or whoever is appointed makes the decisions in Danny’s best interests, and in any event, you’re talking about exactly the kind of ugly public fight that the Meachums don’t want.

      • James Pollock

        “No idea whether there is criminal liability for escaping a psychiatric hospital; I presume it would depend on whether or not the relevant laws governing criminal escape cover such a facility if it has lawful custody of you.”

        Plus, of course, there’s the question of whether it has lawful custody of you. Even if the doctor thinks you’re dangerous, that doesn’t give them the right to hold you indefinitely, and in this case specifically, we know the doctor was bribed or otherwise coerced.

        “Danny has an attorney who can arrange for medical experts who will testify that sure, this K’un L’un stuff sounds a little silly, but Mr. Rand is perfectly capable of managing his affairs”

        Of course, it’s possible his affairs would not have included control of Rand corporation were the Meachums not willing to concede the point. If the Rands are legally dead, then their assets were distributed according to the terms of the will (Danny didn’t have one, but for sure his parents did), and… that’s pretty much the end of it. When you show up later and say “actually, I own this.”, the person who paid good money for it from a person with good title at the time says “actually, you don’t.”

        With viewer omniscience, we know that Danny’s best legal attack is a wrongful death claim against Meachum, Sr., assault, battery, and wrongful imprisonment against Meachum, Jr., and grand theft city against the Hand (to be resolved in season 2).

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