County Superior Court PC 13-5808 Associate Justice Daniel A.
Plaintiff: Gregory J. Acciardo, Esq.
Defendant: Paul A. Anderson, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
A. Suttell Chief Justice
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.
and Procedural History
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.
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.
Zubiago, Mr. Zubiago's nephew, also
testified. 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.
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
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.
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.
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