Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Glassie v. Doucette

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

May 10, 2017

Marcia Sallum Glassie
v.
Paul Doucette, in his capacity as Executor of the Estate of Donelson C. Glassie, Jr.

         Newport County Superior Court NC 12-184, NC 12-261 Walter R. Stone Associate Justice

          For Plaintiff: Joseph R. Palumbo, Jr., Esq.

          For Defendant: R. Daniel Prentiss, Esq.

          Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Robinson, Flaherty, and Indeglia, JJ.

          OPINION

          Paul A. Suttell Chief Justice

         The plaintiff, Marcia Sallum Glassie, and the defendant, Paul Doucette, the Executor of the Estate of Donelson C. Glassie, Jr., cross-appeal from a Superior Court judgment awarding the plaintiff the sum of $2, 000, 000 under the provisions of the last Will and Testament of Donelson C. Glassie, Jr. (testator), less $437, 861.59 in life insurance proceeds. In addition, the defendant also appeals from the trial justice's award of attorney's fees to the plaintiff, and the plaintiff appeals from the trial justice's denial of prejudgment interest. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we vacate the judgment of the Superior Court and remand the matter for further proceedings.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         The plaintiff married testator on February 14, 1986; three children were born during their marriage. The marriage dissolved and on July 1, 1993, testator and plaintiff entered into a property-settlement agreement (the agreement). Under the terms of the agreement, testator undertook a number of financial obligations. As security, testator covenanted to execute an irrevocable will within forty-five days of signing the agreement to "provide that all of the obligations under th[e] [a]greement * * * shall be a claim against any assets in [testator's] [e]state" and to "specifically bequest to [plaintiff] an amount equal to said obligations." The agreement further provided that "[t]he obligation of [testator] to maintain said assets and to bequest said sum to [plaintiff] shall be subject to modification by the Family Court from time-to-time as the obligations of [testator] diminish under th[e] [a]greement."

         Thereafter, testator executed a will in December 1993. In an affidavit submitted to the Superior Court, plaintiff maintained that she had objected to certain language in the will, contending that the will failed to provide her a sum certain bequest as required under the agreement.

         On October 16, 1997, a hearing was held in Family Court to determine whether the 1993 will was in compliance with the agreement. In a bench decision, a Family Court justice determined that "[plaintiff] [was], indeed, entitled * * * to the bequest of a sum certain equal to [testator's] obligations." The justice also noted that it was "clearly anticipated" in the agreement that testator's "obligations [would] change periodically and, hence, require repeated trips to [the] Family Court for modification." An order embodying the Family Court's decision was subsequently entered, from which testator timely appealed to this Court.

         On March 20, 1998, testator executed a subsequent will. Thereafter, he executed a codicil to this will, [1] dated June 1998, the twelfth provision of this will provided, in pertinent part, that:

"TWELFTH: I give, devise and bequeath to my former spouse, Marcia S. Glassie, * * * the sum of $2, 000, 000.00, or such other amount as shall be then required to fully satisfy all of my remaining obligations and responsibilities pursuant to the terms and provisions of that certain Property Settlement Agreement dated July 1, 1993, entered into between my former spouse, Marcia S. Glassie, and me, as the same may be amended from time to time. To the extent such obligations and responsibilities remain executory, they shall survive my death, and shall be binding upon and constitute a charge upon my estate."

         Thereafter, the case was remanded to the Family Court for further proceedings.[2]

         On August 4, 1998, plaintiff and testator stipulated in the Family Court that the will dated March 20, 1998, as amended by the codicil dated June 1998, was in "full compliance" with the agreement. A stipulation (1998 stipulation), signed by the Family Court justice, entered, further indicating that the obligation of testator to make a specific monetary bequest as required "shall only be subject to modification by the Family Court or by agreement of the parties."[3] A final will was subsequently executed on July 16, 1999 (1999 will), in which testator incorporated the language of the twelfth provision of the June 1998 codicil amending the March 20, 1998, will bequeathing to plaintiff "$2, 000, 000.00, or such other amount as shall be then required to fully satisfy all of [his] remaining obligations and responsibilities * * *."[4]

         The testator passed away on February 3, 2011. After his death, the will was properly admitted to probate in the City of Newport. It is undisputed that testator had never returned to Family Court in an attempt to seek permission to alter or otherwise modify the language of the will during the thirteen years after entry of the 1998 stipulation.

         On May 3, 2012, plaintiff filed a claim against testator's estate for $2, 000, 000. The defendant, citing to G.L. 1956 § 33-11-14, [5] disallowed the claim on May 11, 2012.

         The plaintiff also filed a complaint in the Superior Court on May 4, 2012, requesting that the court construe testator's will and declare that she is entitled to the bequest of $2, 000, 000, in addition to "interest from the date such bequest should have been paid, plus reasonable attorney's fees." On June 25, 2012, plaintiff filed a separate complaint in the Superior Court against testator's estate challenging defendant's disallowance and requesting "judgment on her disallowed claim in the amount of $2, 000, 000 plus interest from the date such bequest should have been paid, plus reasonable attorney's fees." Eventually, the matter was heard on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment.

         At the hearing, plaintiff argued that "the only reasonable inference that one [could] draw" from testator's failure to return to Family Court was that testator had no desire to modify the $2, 000, 000 bequest in the will. The defendant, on the other hand, averred that the bequest was similar to an insurance policy, arguing that, in the event that testator's obligations were not met before his death, the monies would be expended to fulfill all obligations remaining on the agreement.

         The hearing justice granted summary judgment to plaintiff. The extent of his decision is as follows:

"If I looked at this as a contract and there's any ambiguity in the contract I would look at it as the person drafting the contract. In this particular situation, [testator] is the one with the experience.
He appeared before the Family Court at least five times between 1993 and 1998. The $2 million dollars in his mind would be a dot over the 'i' compared to what we may think is a lot of money."

         Unexpectedly, the hearing justice then reduced the $2, 000, 000 by the proceeds of a life insurance policy that plaintiff had received upon the death of testator, ultimately "grant[ing] summary judgment to * * * plaintiff in the amount of $1, 550, 000."[6] The hearing justice then scheduled another hearing to discuss attorney's fees and prejudgment interest.

         The parties reconvened before the hearing justice on March 10, 2015, at which time plaintiff sought prejudgment interest in the amount of "$656, 000" and attorney's fees in the amount of $42, 440.55. The hearing justice denied plaintiff's request for prejudgment interest, but ultimately awarded her the full requested amount of attorney's fees. Final judgment in both cases pursuant to Rule 54(b)[7] of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure entered on March 30, 2015, awarding plaintiff $2, 000, 000 "pursuant to the [1998 will], less $437, 861.59 in life insurance proceeds from an insurance policy on the life of [testator], for a net award of $1, 562, 138.41." In addition, the trial justice awarded plaintiff attorney's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.