In a successful appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court, Trammell-Piazza recently scored a major victory for insurance policyholders. Allianz Insurance Company ignored the wishes of its policyholder and owner of a life insurance policy and refused to award the proceeds of his life insurance policy, in accordance with his unequivocal wishes, to his adult children. Allianz flouted clear Arkansas law and forced his adult children into years of litigation in order to obtain what was rightfully their property in accordance with their deceased father’s wishes. In an outrageous move, upon Dr. Rocconi’s death, the Allianz Insurance Company instead announced its intentions to award the proceeds to the estranged and divorced spouse of Dr. James R. Rocconi, a woman who to Dr. Rocconi’s shock and disdain left him for another man.
This historic legal victory for the Estate of Dr. Rocconi was announced by the Arkansas Supreme Court on March 16, 2023. Dr. James Rocconi, a beloved and long-time Camden, Arkansas veterinarian, died November 24, 2017, leaving behind ex-wife Teresa James and his three adult children, Mary Mounts, Richard Rocconi and James P. Rocconi. Upon his ex-wife’s stunning announcement in 2016 that she was leaving Dr. Rocconi, he took immediate steps to change his will and remove the ex-wife’s name from all his accounts, including his life insurance policies, and specifically his policy with Allianz. Although Dr. Rocconi complied with Arkansas law, Allianz ignored the wishes of its policyholder who had dutifully paid his premiums for many years, forcing his children to seek legal counsel. Trammell-Piazza fearlessly took on the case and filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Ouachita County on April 4, 2018.
The Honorable David F. Guthrie, Circuit Judge issued an opinion on December 22, 2020, finding the children of Dr. Rocconi were the intended beneficiaries of the life insurance proceeds. In a stunning departure from Arkansas law, the Arkansas Court of Appeals disregarded the intentions of Dr. Rocconi and reversed Judge Guthrie, awarding the life insurance proceeds to his ex-wife.
Despite the overwhelming odds against obtaining a reversal of the Court of Appeals ruling, Trammell-Piazza refused to stop fighting for Dr. Rocconi’s wishes that his children receive the proceeds of his life insurance policy and appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court. In a major victory for policyholders, the Arkansas Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the Arkansas Court of Appeals in Teresa James v. Mary Cynthia Mounts, James Phillip Rocconi and Richard Anthony Rocconi, CV-21-198, and ruled in favor of Dr. Rocconi’s Estate ensuring his wishes were fulfilled.
Trammell-Piazza never stops fighting for the rights of insurance policyholders. Attorney Chad Trammell said the following: “Dr. Rocconi was devastated, heartbroken and absolutely stunned when his wife walked in Labor Day Weekend of 2016 and announced she was leaving him and filing for divorce. He immediately told his lawyer and children that he needed their help to make sure his estranged spouse got nothing more from him, including his several life insurance policies. His will was changed, every account was changed, and every life insurance policy was changed. Had Allianz Insurance Company taken the time to understand and follow well established Arkansas law, this litigation would have been unnecessary.
At the conclusion of five years of litigation and a hotly contested trial, Judge Guthrie carefully considered the evidence and made the right decision awarding the life insurance proceeds to the rightful beneficiaries in accordance with Dr. Rocconi’s wishes. The Court of Appeal’s decision to reverse Judge Guthrie was not in accord with well-settled Arkansas law or the evidence in the case. The odds of securing this reversal were slim with the Supreme Court granting petitions for review in only about 11% of the cases. We were undeterred and determined to fight for right and our clients until the very end. This is a big victory not only for our clients but all Arkansas policyholders.”