JAMES R. FULTZ, SR., Defendant-Below/Appellant,
GLORIA A. FULTZ, Plaintiff-Below/ Appellee.
Submitted: January 11, 2017
T. Eveland, Esquire The Eveland Law Firm Attorney for
A. Fultz Self-Represented Appellee
DECISION AFTER TRIAL
J. SMALLS, CHIEF JUDGE
an appeal from the Justice of the Peace Court pursuant to
10 Del. C. § 9571. The facts of this case
involve an alleged oral contract between two parents
concerning the funeral expenses of their deceased son.
Plaintiff-Below/Appellee Gloria A. Fultz ("Plaintiff)
brings a breach of contract claim against
Defendant-Below/Appellant James R. Fultz, Sr.
("Defendant") seeking $5, 000.00 based upon a
verbal agreement regarding the use of insurance proceeds to
pay for their son's funeral.
January 11, 2017, the Court held a trial on the matter. The
evidence consists of testimony from Plaintiff, Defendant,
Ernest Dubois, Joseph Bethard, Sharon Houston, and Catherine
Fultz. Plaintiff also submitted documentary evidence for the
Court to consider. At the conclusion of trial, the Court
reserved decision. This is the Court's decision after
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
the trial, the Court sat as the sole trier of fact.
Therefore, it is the Court's responsibility to assess the
credibility of the testifying witnesses and, where there is a
conflict in the testimony, to reconcile these conflicts,
"if reasonably possible[, ] so as to make one harmonious
story." In doing so, the Court takes into
consideration the demeanor of the witnesses, their apparent
fairness in giving their testimony, their opportunities in
hearing and knowing the facts about which they testified, and
any bias or interest they may have concerning the nature of
the case. Accordingly, the Court finds the following
facts by a preponderance of the evidence.
and Defendant are former spouses who divorced in 2005. During
the course of their marriage, the parties had three children.
On August 18, 2014, one of their children, James Jr., died in
an automobile accident. The funeral expenses for James Jr.
amounted to approximately $15, 000.00. On August 20,
2014, Plaintiff transferred $15, 000.00 from her retirement
account and placed it into a separate bank account to pay the
funeral expenses.Plaintiff intended to recoup this money
from two insurance policies the parties had on James Jr. The
first policy was a $10, 000.00 Met Life Insurance Policy, the
proceeds of which Plaintiff received on September 13,
2014. The second policy, and the one that is the
center of this dispute, is a $5, 000.00 Auto-Insurance Policy
with Liberty Mutual Insurance ("Auto-Policy").
Jr.'s automobile was insured by Liberty Mutual under an
auto-insurance policy purchased by Defendant. The
auto-insurance policy includes a provision for "No-Fault
Benefits, " which pays a maximum of $5, 000.00 for an
insured's funeral expenses if the death occurs during the
operation of the vehicle. In the days leading up to their
son's funeral, Plaintiff and Defendant had several
discussions regarding the Auto-Policy. The parties came to an
agreement where Plaintiff would file a claim for
"No-Fault Benefits" on Defendant's behalf, and
such funds received from the policy would go towards payment
for James Jr.'s funeral expenses.
September 4, 2014, Plaintiff completed the "No-Fault
Benefits" application and submitted it to Liberty
Mutual. Liberty Mutual approved the parties'
request for "No-Fault Benefits, " and issued a
check for $5, 000.00 payable to both Plaintiff and Defendant.
Plaintiff demanded the entire check pursuant to their verbal
agreement. Defendant refused to tender the entire check.
Eventually, the check expired and was returned to Liberty
Mutual due to the parties' inaction. Liberty Mutual then
reissued the check payable solely to Defendant.
27, 2015, Plaintiff brought an action in the Justice of the
Peace Court seeking $5, 000.00, representing the Auto-Policy
proceeds Defendant promised to pay for funeral expenses.
Defendant filed a counterclaim seeking the recoupment of cash
payments allegedly made to Plaintiff that exceeded his
"fair share" of the funeral expenses. On October 9,
2015, the Justice of the Peace Court issued a decision
finding in favor of Plaintiff in the amount of $5, 000.00,
and denied Defendant's counterclaim. On October 21, 2015,
Defendant filed a timely appeal to this Court, and initiated
the instant action.
contends that in the days following James Jr.'s death,
the parties had several discussions concerning the proceeds
of the Auto-Policy. Plaintiff testified the parties entered
into a verbal agreement where Plaintiff was to complete the
Liberty Mutual application for "No-Fault Benefits,
" and Defendant was to give the proceeds to her to pay
for James Jr.'s funeral expenses. Plaintiff testified
that after Defendant received the proceeds from the
Auto-Policy, he refused to pay pursuant to their verbal
agreement. Plaintiff testified that since James Jr.'s
death, she has not ...