Providence County Superior Court Associate Justice Sarah Taft-Carter(PC 09-6095)
For Plaintiff: Timothy J. Dodd, Esq.
For Defendant: Thomas M. Dickinson, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.
The defendant, Marilyn Loppi,  appeals from a declaratory judgment entered in Providence County Superior Court on April 25, 2012, declaring that she had no right to the proceeds of a life insurance policy of her late husband, Robert Loppi. This case came before the Supreme Court pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily decided. After a close review of the record and careful consideration of the parties' arguments (both written and oral), we are satisfied that cause has not been shown and that this appeal may be decided at this time. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.
Facts and Travel
In 2003, Robert Loppi purchased a life insurance policy from United Investors Life Insurance Co. (United Investors), in which, the parties agree, he initially named his wife, Marilyn Loppi, as the beneficiary. In 2008, Marilyn filed for divorce from Robert. On July 19, 2008, Robert was served with the summons and complaint in that divorce action. However, on July 17, 2008, before the service of the divorce summons and complaint, Robert had applied (through a signed written request) to United Investors to change the beneficiary on his life insurance policy; the new beneficiary was Robert's uncle, David Loppi, who is the plaintiff in this action.
On March 27, 2009, in the course of the divorce proceeding, an interlocutory order was entered in Family Court ordering that life insurance policies, annuities, and investment policies be "cashed in forthwith" and that the cash surrender value be divided equally between Robert and Marilyn. That interlocutory order instructed Robert and Marilyn to "execute any and all documents as needed to cash in said accounts, inclusive of any and all authorizations necessary for the attorneys to obtain information or for the policies to be liquidated and/or powers of attorney so that counsel for the parties may do so for the parties." However, on May 28, 2009, before he had complied with that part of the just-referenced interlocutory Family Court order relating to the cash value of the life insurance policy at issue and before a final judgment was entered in the divorce action, Robert passed away.
According to the complaint filed by David in Superior Court, after Robert's death United Investors declined to pay the life insurance death benefit, the face amount of which was $375, 000, to either David or Marilyn, even though United Investors acknowledged that David was the named beneficiary. In consequence, on October 21, 2009, David filed the instant action in Superior Court, seeking a declaratory judgment that he alone was entitled to the life insurance policy death benefit. On December 1, 2011, Marilyn filed a document which indicated that it constituted both an objection to David's complaint seeking a declaratory judgment and a cross-motion for declaratory judgment. On March 8, 2012, David filed a "Motion to Close Record and Submit for Decision."
On April 17, 2012, the hearing justice issued a bench decision. Subsequently, on April 25, 2012, final judgment was entered, granting David's "Petition for Declaratory Judgment" and denying Marilyn's "Cross-Motion for Declaratory Judgment." The final judgment specifically stated that David was "entitled to 100% of the policy proceeds" and that Marilyn was "entitled to no portion of the proceeds of the life insurance policy." Marilyn filed a timely notice of appeal on May 11, 2012.
Standard of ...