DiGaetano v. DiGaetanoAnnotate this Case
Plaintiffs Lynne DiGaetano, Michael John DiGaetano, Christopher D. DiGaetano, Scott M. DiGaetano, and Shauna Arsenault, appealed a superior court order that granted the motion in limine of Defendant, John M. DiGaetano, to exclude parol evidence. Defendant cross-appealed a prior order of the same court that denied his motion to strike Plaintiffs’ notice of appeal. The matter arose from the distribution of trust proceeds from the death of the parties' parents-grandparents. Paragraph eleven of this trust provided that the trust “may be revoked in its entirety or amended from time to time by an instrument in writing executed by the said Donors jointly or by a surviving Donor.” The patriarch died in 2002, and the matriarch amended the trust in 2003 to establish Defendant as the sole trustee and beneficiary. Following his mother's death in 2006, Defendant sold the trust assets and collected the proceeds. Seeking to establish his right to the proceeds, Defendant petitioned the probate court who concluded that the 2003 amended trust was enforceable, and ruled in Defendant's favor. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that they were entitled to a jury trial on the issues of whether the original trust was a contractual "common plan" and whether the matriarch breached that contract when she amended it. Defendant moved to strike Plaintiffs' notice of appeal. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed the superior court's order denying Defendant's motion to strike Plaintiffs' notice of appeal: The Court was not persuaded by Plaintiffs' contention that the original trust was a contract, the existence of which would be evidence to reform the family trust and to impose a constructive trust in their favor. Plaintiffs were not entitled to a jury trial. The Court therefore reversed the trial court's order denying Defendant's motion and remanded the case to dismiss Plaintiffs' appeal.