A woman who sued her brother and sister, claiming they helped in looting what once was a $111 million estate that is now insolvent, won a partial victory from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which vacated a lower court ruling that had dismissed her Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act claims.
The case of Virginia D’Addario versus her brother David D’Addario and their sister Mary Lou D’Addario Kennedy and several others has been a family feud playing out in the court for decades. Still unresolved, it is headed back to U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.
At issue is the estate left by Francis D’Addario, who died in a 1986 plane crash at age 63. D’Addario, whose net worth exceeded $111 million, was a successful Connecticut businessman and the principal owner of D’Addario Industries. His will provided that one-half of the estate’s assets be placed in a marital trust for his wife, and that the other half divided equally among his five children.
In court papers, Virginia D’Addario says her brother “systematically looted the assets of the estate” with the active assistance of Mary Lou D’Addario Kennedy and two of David D’Addario friends, who are also defendants. Those friends, Nicholas Vitti and Gregory Garvey, also formed two corporate entities that are part of the litigation.
In her complaint, the plaintiff maintains that the estate, which has remained open for more than 30 years in Connecticut Probate Court, is now insolvent and that she will not be able to receive portions of her multimillion-dollar inheritance.
The Second Circuit issued a 42-page ruling Tuesday, finding that Virginia D’Addario’s claim for distribution of her inheritance and that of her mother’s estate were not ripe, because the estate is not yet closed and the amount of the lost inheritance “is too speculative.” But the court ruled her claim for legal expenses in excess of $200,000 for pursuing her grievances against her brother and others was ripe. It also ruled that “she has plausibly alleged that her legal expenses were proximately caused” by the defendant’s RICO violation. In addition, the Second Circuit ruled that Virginia D’Addario had adequately pleaded that all the defendants violated the RICO act. While the Second Circuit did not make a definitive ruling on the merits of the suit, it remanded the case for further proceedings to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.
“The complaint alleged that David plundered, pillaged and looted the assets of the estate,” the Second Circuit wrote.
The issue of whether there was an “enterprise,” or pattern of racketeering, plays a big part in the RICO statutes. For their part, the defendants claim that, even accepting the allegations, they “were not associated with an ‘enterprise’ within the meaning of the statute and, thus, Virginia has not adequately pleaded that they violated” that section of the statute.
The 3-0 ruling was written by Second Circuit Judge Susan Carney. Also sitting on the panel were Judges Gerard Lynch and Alvin Hellerstein.
The plaintiff was represented by Edward Taiman Jr. and Sabia Taiman, both of Hartford’s Sabia Taiman.
Taiman told the Connecticut Law Tribune Thursday, “You have a probate system that is not working properly. They [defendants] have managed to take advantage of the system. There is a defect in the system, in that this case has gone on for decades.”
With regard to the ruling handed down this week, Taiman said, “We thought it was a welcome decision. We have been waiting for this for some time. We felt the judges really listened to us during oral arguments and took them to heart. We fully believe we will vindicate the rights of my client.”
Also assisting the plaintiff was F. Dean Armstrong of Armstrong Law Firm in Frankfort, Illinois.
The defendants had four attorneys: Alfred Pavlis and Tony Miodonka of Finn Dixon & Herling in Stamford; and Nathan Buchok and Brian Spears, both Fairfield-based Spears Manning. Pavlis and Spears declined to comment Thursday, while Miodonka and Buchok did not respond to a request for comment.