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Quillen v. Macera

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

May 30, 2017

Mark Quillen
Mary Macera.

         Providence County Superior Court PC 13-5808 Associate Justice Daniel A. Procaccini

          For Plaintiff: Gregory J. Acciardo, Esq.

          For Defendant: Paul A. Anderson, Esq.

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


          Paul A. Suttell Chief Justice

         Mark Quillen (plaintiff) appeals from a Superior Court judgment in favor of Mary Macera (defendant), the beneficiary of an Amica Insurance Company (Amica) annuity policy created by Domenic Zubiago (Mr. Zubiago), the plaintiff's great-uncle and the defendant's brother. 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 considering the parties' written and oral submissions and reviewing the record, we conclude that cause has not been shown and that this case may be decided without further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.


         Facts and Procedural History

         Among other assets accumulated during his twenty-five-year career with the Providence Police Department and subsequent twenty-five years as a security officer for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Mr. Zubiago owned two Amica annuity policies. At the time of his death, one account was valued at approximately $360, 000 and the other at $20, 000; only the larger account is the subject of this appeal. The two annuities were opened approximately a decade apart and each named Mr. Zubiago's sister, Emelia, as the primary beneficiary. After Emelia's death in 2002, Mr. Zubiago executed two change-of-beneficiary forms naming defendant, his younger sister, as the beneficiary of both policies.

         The plaintiff is Mr. Zubiago's grandnephew. He testified at the nonjury trial that, in May 2004, he received a telephone call from Mr. Zubiago requesting plaintiff's personal information because Mr. Zubiago "was going to put [plaintiff's] name on an account * * *." Approximately five or six months later, according to plaintiff, he learned that he had been named beneficiary of the two annuities.

         Donald Zubiago, Mr. Zubiago's nephew, also testified.[1] He stated that, in early 2008, his uncle called him and said, "I screwed up. I left [plaintiff] too much money." Donald recommended that his uncle see a lawyer. He also testified that Mr. Zubiago later told him that he had taken care of it.

         Two Amica employees testified about Mr. Zubiago's request for beneficiary-change forms in September 2009. Maria Shurick said that she received a telephone call from defendant, whom she mistakenly identified on a call sheet as "Mary Zubiago, " requesting beneficiary forms for both policies. The request was for forms in which the name of the intended beneficiary is left blank, as opposed to forms in which the name of the new beneficiary is preprinted by Amica. Sarah Driscoll testified that several days later she received a telephone call from Mr. Zubiago in which he authorized her to speak with his sister, Mary, because he had a speech impediment.

         The defendant testified that she did not remember any telephone conversations with Amica representatives in which she requested beneficiary-change forms for her brother's annuity policies. She did state that she would sometimes initiate telephone calls for Mr. Zubiago because of his speech impediment, but that she would give the telephone to him and then leave the room, never listening to his conversations. The defendant further testified that, after he received the appropriate forms, Mr. Zubiago asked her to fill in her name, address, and social security number on them. She was adamant, however, that she did not read the forms other than, perhaps, the top line, which said "Amica." Both forms were subsequently signed by Mr. Zubiago, witnessed, and recorded with Amica.

         On April 29, 2013, Mr. Zubiago died testate, leaving defendant as the sole beneficiary of the two Amica annuity policies. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff contacted Amica to notify it of Mr. Zubiago's passing and was informed that he was not listed as a beneficiary of the annuities. On the day after Mr. Zubiago's funeral, plaintiff confronted defendant; and, on November 14, 2013, he filed a complaint against her alleging forgery, fraud, manipulation, false pretenses, and misrepresentation. The plaintiff also alleged a lack of intent on the part of Mr. Zubiago.

         A trial was held before a Superior Court justice sitting without a jury in January 2015. On the third day of trial, plaintiff filed, without objection by defendant, an amended complaint alleging that the beneficiary-change forms were executed by Mr. Zubiago through mistake or inadvertence. The trial justice filed a written decision on February 2, 2015; and, on February 4, 2015, final judgment entered in favor of defendant. ...

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