J., Goldberg, Robinson, Flaherty, and Indeglia, JJ.OPINIONThe plaintiff, Marcia Sallum Glassie, and the defendant, Paul Doucette, the Executor of the Estate of Donelson C.The hearing justice granted summary judgment to plaintiff.
In this particular situation, [testator] is the one with the experience.
He appeared before the Family Court at least five times between 19.
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.
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. 1956 § 33-11-14, disallowed the claim on May 11, 2012. 1980), this Court held that § 9-21-10(a) applied to both contract and tort “litigants to collect interest on judgments.” In so doing, this Court employed a historical analysis to construe the Legislature's intent. Therefore, because this case “is neither a contract claim nor a tort claim,” we conclude that the trial justice did not err in refusing to add prejudgment interest to plaintiff's claim. (quoting Rhode Island Insurers' Insolvency Fund, 763 A.2d at 598). This bequest is incorporated in the fourteenth provision of the 1999 will.5.
On May 3, 2012, plaintiff filed a claim against testator's estate for ,000,000. 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 ,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 ,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. Moreover, “[t]he issue of whether there exists a basis for awarding attorneys' fees generally is legal in nature, and therefore our review of such a ruling is de novo.” America Condominium Association, Inc. General Laws 1956 § 33-11-14, “Disallowance of claim,” provides that:“Any claim presented within six (6) months from the first publication may be disallowed in full or in part, within six (6) months and thirty (30) days from the first publication by the personal representative, or by any interested party, by filing in the office of the clerk of the probate court a statement disallowing the claim, and giving notice in writing, either personally or by registered or certified mail, to the claimant, whose claim is disallowed; and any claim presented after six (6) months from the first publication may be disallowed in full or in part, within thirty (30) days after presentation.”6. Rule 54(b) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure provides, in pertinent part, that:“When more than one (1) claim for relief is presented in an action, whether as a claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third party claim, or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct the entry of final judgment as to one (1) or more but fewer than all of the claims or parties only upon an express determination that there is no just reason for delay and upon an express direction for the entry of judgment.”8.East Greenwich Fire District, 138 A.3d 163, 166 (R. 2016) (quoting Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association of Rhode Island v. at 166-67 (quoting Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association of Rhode Island, 115 A.3d at 1002). The parameters of res judicata are determined by a “broad ‘transactional’ rule.” Ritter, 864 A.2d at 605 (quoting El Gabri, 681 A.2d at 276). We discern no language in said section that signifies an intent by the General Assembly to authorize the Family Court to construe or enforce testamentary documents.“The doctrine of collateral estoppel makes conclusive in a later action on a different claim the determination of issues that were actually litigated in a prior action.” E. IIIIssues on Appeal The defendant argues on appeal that the hearing justice erred in awarding plaintiff a specific bequest under the will. In effect, the “rule precludes the re-litigation of ‘all or any part of the transaction, or series of connected transactions, out of which the [first] action arose.’ ” Id. “What factual grouping constitutes a ‘transaction,’ and what groupings constitute a ‘series,’ are to be determined pragmatically, giving weight to such considerations as whether the facts are related in time, space, origin, or motivation, whether they form a convenient trial unit, and whether their treatment as a unit conforms to the parties' expectations * * *.” Ritter, 864 A.2d at 605 (quoting El Gabri, 681 A.2d at 276). 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.” 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 “,000,000.00, or such other amount as shall be then required to fully satisfy all of [his] remaining obligations and responsibilities * * *.” The testator passed away on February 3, 2011. Though we acknowledge that prejudgment interest is appropriate for the enforcement of property-settlement agreements, see Donelan v. The crux of the matter now before us is not a breach of the agreement, as the will conforms to the agreement—but the bequest in the will. EAttorney's Fees Finally, defendant asserts that the Superior Court had no authority to award counsel fees in this case since plaintiff's “civil actions on their face were not for breach of contract.” Further, defendant argues that attorney's fees are only to be awarded in actions “where there is a complete absence [of] justiciable issue[s] of fact or law,” whereas plaintiff's claim “raises justiciable issues regarding the construction of the [w]ill.” Furthermore, defendant contends that the trial justice's decision to award attorney's fees was fatally flawed because the trial justice “did not even purport to make the findings that are a statutory prerequisite to an award of attorney's fees * * *.”The plaintiff, conversely, contends that the trial justice did not err in awarding attorney's fees because “there was a complete absence of a justiciable issue of either law or fact raised by the losing party.” Specifically, plaintiff claims that the action arises “out of the * * * agreement executed in 1993,” which was a “full and final adjudication.”General Laws 1956 § 9-1-45(1) permits a court to award reasonable attorney's fees to a prevailing party “in any civil action arising from a breach of contract” when the court finds “that there was a complete absence of a justiciable issue of either law or fact raised by the losing party.”“A trial justice's award of attorney's fees is subject to review for abuse of discretion.” Cantore, 814 A.2d at 334. The record of this case shall be returned to the Superior Court. The codicil was executed per an order of the Family Court requiring that certain language be stricken from the March 20, 1998, will in order for it to comply with the terms of the agreement.2.After his death, the will was properly admitted to probate in the City of Newport. As such, the award was testamentary and not pecuniary. “In conducting such a review, the discretion exercised by the trial justice must be reviewed ‘in light of reason as applied to all the facts and with a view to the rights of all the parties to the action while having regard for what is right and equitable under the circumstances and the law.’ ” Id. According to counsel representing testator at that time, “the parties agreed to request the Supreme Court to remand the case back to the Family Court for further proceedings so that the parties could * * * resolve the pending litigation * * *.”3. 1998-33-Appeal indicates that the appeal was withdrawn per the entering of the stipulation on August 20, 1998.4.On October 16, 1997, a hearing was held in Family Court to determine whether the 1993 will was in compliance with the agreement.