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Lowman v. Martino

Superior Court of Rhode Island

January 13, 2016

ROBERT A. LOWMAN, in his capacity As Executor of the Estate of David A. Lowman (deceased)

Providence County Superior Court

For Plaintiff: John B. Harwood, Esq.

For Defendant: Richard C. Tallo, Esq.



"Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind."[1]

The Court is reminded of the sage observation of William Shakespeare, as it commences its examination of the relationship between the Plaintiff David A. Lowman (Plaintiff or Mr. Lowman) and the Defendant Sarah T. Martino (Ms. Martino or Defendant). This matter came before the Court, without a jury, on Plaintiff's Complaint for Equitable Relief. Mr. Lowman, later replaced with Robert Lowman, executor of Mr. Lowman's estate, requested that the Court impose a constructive trust on certain property Mr. Lowman gave to Ms. Martino, throughout their fourteen-year relationship, including funds totaling $290, 000 in a bank account, an engagement ring, and two motor vehicles.

Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 8-2-13.


Facts and Travel

The Court makes the following findings of fact. Mr. Lowman and Ms. Martino met and began dating in 1998. The parties became engaged on Valentine's Day of 2007, but never married. They intermittently cohabitated during their fourteen-year relationship. Even while the parties were living together, Mr. Lowman maintained an apartment that contained an office in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Lowman Dep. Tr. 21:13-22:3, Feb. 4, 2013.

Mr. Lowman suffered from many ailments over the course of their relationship. In 2002, Mr. Lowman was diagnosed with congestive heart failure with his heart functioning at only 10 to 12 percent capacity. Lowman Dep. Tr. 7:6; Stipulation ¶ 4, Dec. 7, 2015. At that time, Mr. Lowman was hospitalized at Tuft's Medical Center in Boston and put on its heart transplant list. Ms. Martino accompanied Mr. Lowman during his stay in Boston, at which time she talked to his doctors and became fully aware of the seriousness of Mr. Lowman's health problems. Notwithstanding Mr. Lowman's grave heart condition, he continued to work outside of the home and led a seemingly normal life until 2012. In late 2012, Mr. Lowman's health took a turn for the worse after undergoing gallbladder surgery in Rhode Island. After the surgery, Mr. Lowman was hospitalized several times, and eventually died in hospice on February 27, 2013.

In some respects Mr. Lowman and Ms. Martino had a loving and caring relationship. See Ex. D, Cards. Their relationship was at its peak when Mr. Lowman proposed to Ms. Martino with a $15, 000 engagement ring on Valentine's Day in 2007. During their relationship, they held joint bank accounts, in addition to their own separate ones. Lowman Dep. Tr. 29:12-30:17; 32:5-33:7. Ms. Martino also maintained Mr. Lowman on her health insurance plan. Id. at 28:20-29:11. Around 2008, Mr. Lowman and Ms. Martino started searching for a house to live in together. At this same time, Mr. Lowman began transferring funds to Ms. Martino, until about 2010. These funds were transferred by fifteen checks payable to Ms. Martino between December 5, 2008 and July 2, 2010. In total, Mr. Lowman transferred at least $259, 640, through checks payable to Ms. Martino, to hold in her own independent bank account. (Stipulation ¶ 1, Dec. 7, 2015.) Of those checks, about $105, 000 contained the notation "house" or "for house" in the memo line. See Pl.'s Ex. 1. The eight checks that contained a house-related notation were written between January 1, 2009 and July 2, 2010. One check, dated April 26, 2009, contained the notation "J. Car." The six remaining checks contained blank memo lines. Furthermore, in 2012, Mr. Lowman bought two new 2012 motor vehicles, a Honda and Toyota, for both his and Ms. Martino's use. Mr. Lowman purchased these vehicles with his money; however, Ms. Martino registered and insured them in her name.

On December 27, 2012, Mr. Lowman filed a Complaint against Ms. Martino asking the Court to impose a constructive trust on the funds he transferred to Ms. Martino. Lowman Dep. Tr. 8:2-12. He alleged that he transferred about $290, 000[2] to Ms. Martino from 2008 to 2012. Id. at 8:18-24. He explained in his deposition that he earned this money through consulting and paid all taxes relating to this money. Id. at 8:25-9:8. Mr. Lowman described how he trusted Ms. Martino and expected that she would hold the money for him until he needed it. Id. at 11:9-11:22. He clarified that he did not consider the money a gift to Ms. Martino. Id. at 12:15-17. After he was hospitalized, Mr. Lowman averred that he tried contacting Ms. Martino ten to fifteen times, but she refused to return his money. Id. at 13:20-14:11. Furthermore, in his deposition he requested the engagement ring back because she indicated ...

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