Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants in this case involving an allegedly defamatory report that was broadcast on the evening news, holding that the hearing justice did not err in granting Defendants' motions for summary judgment on all counts in the complaint.Captain Russell Henry of the Cranston Police Department filed this action against Media General Operations, Inc. and several individuals alleging that NBC 10 WJAR, which was owned and operated by Media General, published reports that were false and defamatory as to Captain Henry. The hearing justice concluded that Captain Henry was a public official and that he could not prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that Defendants acted with actual malice in disseminating the allegedly defamatory information at issue. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Captain Henry was a public official at the time of the broadcast; and (2) there was insufficient evidence to allow a reasonable juror to conclude that broadcast was made with actual malice. View "Henry v. Media General Operations, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of first-degree murder, assault with intent to commit a felony, and two counts of discharging a firearm while committing a crime of violence, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the trial court did not err in (1) denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from Defendant's cell phone, which police seized following his warrantless arrest; (2) denying Defendant's motion to discharge the jury impaneled on October 12, 2017 in violation of the Sixth Amendment; and (3) denying Defendant's motion to pass the case and for a mistrial. View "State v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court finding Defendant guilty of possession of child pornography and sentencing him to a suspended term of incarceration, with probation, and ordering him to meet special conditions of probation and to register as a sex offender, holding that there was no substantial basis for determining that probable cause existed in this case.On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that the superior court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence that was seized from his home on the grounds that there was no probable cause to support the issuance of a search warrant. The Supreme Court agreed and vacated Defendant's convictions, holding that there was no substantial basis for determining that probable cause existed in this case based upon the language of the affidavit. View "State v. Resiner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and order of the superior court reversing a decision and order of the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline (the Board) that required Plaintiff to complete a competence assessment program and fitness for duty evaluation before returning to the practice of medicine, holding that the trial justice did not err.The DOH and the Director of the DOH sought review of the superior court's decision reversing the Board's order requiring Plaintiff, who sought to reenter practice after signing an agreement to cease practice, to complete a competence assessment program and fitness for duty evaluation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice (1) did not err in finding that the Board's decision was arbitrary, capricious, and not supported by sufficient evidence; and (2) did not err in declining to remand the case to the Board for further proceedings. View "Kyros v. R.I. Department of Health" on Justia Law

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In this case involving complex and protracted litigation regarding multiple high-interest loans between commercial borrowers and lenders the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting partial summary judgment in favor of the partnership plaintiffs and the Cambio plaintiffs, holding that there was no error.The superior court's grant of partial summary judgment primarily determined that a series of loans made by the RFP defendants was usurious and null and void. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the accrual of interest at rates in excess of twenty-one percent per annum is deemed usurious under the usury law; (2) the release and waiver of claims provision contained in a forbearance agreement did not fall within the category of cases in which the Supreme Court will permit a debtor's release of a usury claim; and (3) the remaining allegations of error were unavailing. View "Commerce Park Realty, LLC,v. HR2-A Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
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In this case involving complex litigation surrounding usurious loans between commercial borrowers and letters the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, holding that there was no error.In the first appeal, the RFP defendants appealed from the grant of partial summary judgment in favor of the receivership plaintiffs and the Cambio plaintiffs. The summary judgment declared that a series of loans made by the RFP defendants were usurious and null and void. The Supreme Court affirmed. In the second appeal, addressed in this opinion, the Cambio plaintiffs cross-appealed seeking review of secondary determinations made by the superior court. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice correctly granted summary judgment in favor of the RFP defendants on the Cambio plaintiffs' disgorgement claims; (2) the trial justice correctly ruled that the Cambio plaintiffs were not entitled to seek punitive damages against the RFP defendants under the usury statute; (3) the trial justice made correct rulings on certain stayed counts; and (4) the Cambio plaintiffs' claims under R.I. Gen. Laws 9-1-2 were barred by the ten-year statute of limitations set forth in R.I. Gen. Laws 9-1-13(a). View "Commerce Park Realty, LLC v. HR2-A Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
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In this litigation between the beneficiaries and trustees of two trusts the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting the trustees' petition for their services and expenses, including attorneys' fees incurred on behalf of the trusts and interest owed on those fees, holding that there was no error.The trial justice determined that the trustees were entitled to be indemnified for their attorneys' fees after considering the beneficiaries' arguments against payment of attorneys' fees. The court then entered judgment stating that reasonable attorneys fees were to be indemnified by the trust, that an unpaid balance remained, and that interest on the attorneys' fees would accrue through the conclusion of any appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the beneficiaries' argument that the trustees should not be awarded fees for pursuing their own fees was waived; and (2) the trial justice properly awarded interest as an expense reasonably incurred in the administration of the trust. View "Kumble v. Voccola" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Plaintiff's claim for specific performance of a purchase and sale agreement (PSA) in favor of Defendants - Irene M. O'Malley Revocable Trust and John Brady, Katherine Brady Walker, and Mary Brad, as trustees of the Irene M. O'Malley Revocable Trust (collectively, the Trust) - holding that there was no error.Plaintiff filed an amended complaint seeking specific performance of the PSA and alleging that the Trust breached the PSA and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. After a bench trial, the trial justice denied Plaintiff's request for specific performance and granted the Trust's request to terminate the PSA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the trial justice misapplied the law, misconceived or overlooked material evidence or made factual findings that were clearly wrong. View "Terrapin Development, LLC v. Irene M. O'Malley Revocable Trust" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant in this personal injury case, holding that, contrary to precedent, the hearing justice passed upon an issue that is ordinarily inappropriate for summary judgment.In her complaint, Plaintiff alleged that she slipped and fell on the cement steps leading to the front entrance of Defendant's house and that the absence of handrails was a contributing factor to Plaintiff's fall. The hearing justice, with little explanation, granted summary judgment for Defendant on the grounds that Plaintiff could not indicate the cause of her fall or show that there was proximate cause from the act of Defendant to cause the fall. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment because the hearing justice chose to predicate his grant of summary judgment on his determination that there was no showing of proximate cause, and proximate cause is a question of fact that should not be decided by summary judgment. View "Belmore v. Petterutti" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court quashed the order of the district court that denied Appellant's request for attorneys' fees pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 28-44-57(c) after Appellant successfully appealed a denial of unemployment benefits, holding that "appeal" within section 28-44-57(c) encompasses lower court proceedings on the claimant's path to receiving benefits.Appellant in this case successfully challenged the denial of unemployment benefits by the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. Appellant filed a petition for counsel fees pursuant to section 28-44-57 for work performed in the appeal to the district court from the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT). The district court denied the petition, concluding that Appellant was not entitled to attorneys' fees for work performed by his attorney in the district court. The Supreme Court quashed the district court's order and remanded the case, holding that when an attorney represents an unemployment benefits claimant in an unsuccessful appeal to the district court but subsequently prevails in the Supreme Court, section 28-44-57(c)(2)(iii) entitles the attorney to fees and costs for the proceedings in the district court. View "Beagan v. Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training, Board of Review" on Justia Law