The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the cause of action alleging the existence of a constructive trust to prevent unjust enrichment should not have been dismissed. Plaintiff and her deceased ex-husband entered a settlement agreement in which plaintiff would be entitled to certain payments until 2020 and 2023. Plaintiff’s ex-husband died in 2017 and the complaint alleged that all of the ex-husband’s assets had been removed from the estate by the husband’s children making it impossible for the terms of the settlement to be fulfilled:
The purpose of a constructive trust is to prevent unjust enrichment … . Accordingly, ” the constructive trust doctrine is given broad scope to respond to all human implications of a transaction in order to give expression to the conscience of equity and to satisfy the demands of justice'” … . ” A constructive trust is an equitable remedy, and may be imposed when property has been acquired in such circumstances that the holder of the legal title may not in good conscience retain the beneficial interest'” … .
Moreover, an agreement between spouses, such as the agreement and addendum here, involve a fiduciary relationship requiring the utmost good faith … . Since the agreement and addendum provide that, if necessary, the plaintiff could use the assets of Iannazzo’s [the ex-husband’s] estate to satisfy his obligations to her, and, thereafter, all of Iannazzo’s assets were transferred to the Trust before his death, his estate can provide no relief to the plaintiff and the obligations she is owed pursuant to the agreement and addendum will not be met. The plaintiff therefore adequately states a cause of action that the defendants would be unjustly enriched if the Trust is allowed to retain the portion of the assets now owned by the Trust that would satisfy the unmet obligations of Iannazzo and his estate pursuant to the agreement … . Derosa v Estate of Iannazzo, 2020 NY Slip Op 04917, Second Dept 9-16-20