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Luray Caverns' sisters want lawsuit dismissed

By Sally Voth - svoth@nvdaily.com

Two Luray Caverns heiresses have asked a judge to dismiss a federal lawsuit filed against them by their siblings.

Elizabeth Graves Vitu, who lives in France, and Katherine G. Fichtler, of Montana, filed the motion in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg on Thursday, according to online court records.

Their brothers, John H.H. Graves and James R.O. Graves, as well as their sister, Cornelia G. Spain. filed a lawsuit against them in June. That suit seeks a judgment declaring that Vitu and Fichtler violated the no-contest provisions of trusts left by their late parents.

The plaintiffs are co-trustess of the H.T.N. Graves Trust and the Rebecca Jackson Graves Trust, which held nearly all the stock of the Luray Caverns Corp. as of 2004, according to court records. A fourth sister, Rebecca "Becca" Hudson, isn't named in the suit.

According to H.T.N. (Henry Theodore Northcott) Graves' obituary from two years ago, he served as Luray Caverns president for more than 50 years, until 2008. It states the caverns were bought by the elder Graves' grandfather, Theodore Clay Northcott.

The siblings' mother, Rebecca Jackson Graves, died in April, according to the lawsuit.

The trusts call for any heir and that heir's descendants to be removed from the will if he or she were to "in any way, directly or indirectly, challenge, contest or object" to H.T.N. or Rebecca Jackson Graves' or their attorney's choice of a trustee for the Northcott trusts, or attempt to have Rebecca Jackson Graves removed as trustee of either trust,or challenge any of her actions in relation to them.

The complaint claims Hudson, Fichtler and Vitu "generally took adverse positions to their parents" when it came to the corporation, which then led to the no-contest provisions.

In a memorandum supporting the motion to dismiss the suit, it is stated that other trust beneficiaries are "necessary parties."

"When all necessary parties are joined, diversity will be destroyed and the the Court will lack subject matter jurisdiction," it states.

It would instead belong in state court, the memo states.

There are "ongoing disputes with Plaintiffs on the one hand, and the Defendants and Rebecca Hudson on the other," it states.

Those disputes involve the Belle Brown Northcott Trust and the Theodore Clay Northcott Trust, according to the memo.

According to online court records, a trial date will be set in about eight months.

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