Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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In this real property dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court for Defendants following the court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that the trial justice did not err in ruling that the disputed land was a paper street and in finding that Plaintiff had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.Plaintiff filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment that certain property was a public road that ran to the boundary of Plaintiff's property and that Plaintiff had the right to use the full length of the property and the right of access to his property. The superior court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. View "Davis v. Town of Exeter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision and judgment of the superior court affirming the decisions of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) denying the application of Champlin's Realty Associates to expand its marina on the Great Salt Pond in the Town of New Shoreham, holding that there was no error.The trial justice found there was sufficient evidence to support the CRMC's denial of Champlin's application to expand its marina and held that the CRMC had acted within its authority in denying the application. Champlin's and the CRMC later filed a motion seeking to incorporate and merge a joint memorandum of understanding (the MOU) purporting to serve as the CRMC's decision relative to this matter into a consent order of the Court. Certain entities (intervenors) and the attorney general contested the propriety of the purported settlement and the validity of the MOU. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed and denied the request by Champlin's and the CRMC to incorporate and merge the MOU into a consent order of the Supreme Court, holding that the remand justice erred in determining that the CRMC and Champlin's had authority to meditate. View "Champlin's Realty Associates v. Coastal Resources Management Council" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the superior court in favor of Plaintiffs, Johnston Equities Associates, LP and Stay Away From the Cans, LLC on their trespass claim against Defendants, the Town of Johnston and its officials, for allowing sewage from the Town's sewer pipelines to be discharged into JEA's private sewer pipeline, holding that the trial justice erred in part.The jury awarded Plaintiffs $1.2 million in their favor, but the trial justice ruled that the statutory cap of $100,000 under R.I. Gen. Laws 9-31-3 was applicable because Plaintiffs' claim constituted a governmental function. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the trial justice (1) properly denied the Town's motions for judgment as a matter of law; (2) did not err in not applying the public duty doctrine; but (3) erred in applying the statutory cap on damages and in denying prejudgment interest. View "Johnston Equities Associates, LP v. Town of Johnston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting declaratory and injunctive relief in favor of Plaintiffs and denying declaratory and injunctive relief requested in a counterclaim filed by Defendants, holding that Defendants were not entitled to relief on their claims of error.On appeal, Defendants challenged the trial justice's ruling that a two-member condominium board consisting of the owners of the condominium's two units were not inconsistent with the R.I. Condominium Act, holding them in contempt, and awarding Plaintiffs attorneys' fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the superior court correctly denied Defendants' counterclaims; (2) the trial justice did not abuse its discretion in findings Defendants in civil contempt of a temporary restraining order; and (3) there was no abuse of discretion with respect to the trial justice's award of attorneys' fees. View "Anton v. Houze" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendant-union and denying Plaintiff's motion to vacate an arbitration award, granting Defendant's motion to confirm the award, and awarding attorneys' fees to Defendant as the prevailing party, holding that there was no error.Defendant represented certain municipal employees employed by Plaintiff, West Warwick Housing Authority. After Plaintiff suspended the employment of the grievant, Defendant grieved her termination pursuant to the parties' collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The arbitrator decided in the grievance's favor. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a complaint seeking to vacate the arbitration award, arguing that the grievance was not substantively arbitrable because the CBA was invalid and that the arbitrator's decision was irrational. The superior court entered judgment in favor of Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice correctly denied Defendant's motion to vacate because the dispute was arbitrable. View "West Warwick Housing Authority v. R.I. Council 94" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the final judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants - Jordan Realty and Smart Homes, LLC - and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint alleging that his due process rights were violated when Jordan Realty failed to include a "language assistance notice" with its petition to foreclose right of redemption to a specific parcel of real estate in Central Falls, holding that there was no error.In his complaint, Plaintiff argued that the "purported service" made upon him was defective because Jordan Realty had not caused to be served upon him the language assistance notice that he argued was required. The hearing justice granted summary judgment for Defendants, holding that Defendants had clearly complied with the notice requirements set forth in the tax sale statute. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing justice did not err in granting summary judgment for Defendants. View "Suncar v. Jordan Realty" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendant, the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 13 (the Union), in which the Court denied the Town of North Providence's petition to vacate an arbitration award and granted the Union's motion to confirm the award, holding that the arbitrator so imperfectly executed his authority that he did not provide a mutual, final, and definite award upon the subject matter, as required under R.I. Gen. Laws 28-9-18(a)(2).This action arose from a dispute between the Union and the Town regarding the effect of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) governing the employment relationship between the Town and the Town's police officers. The arbitrator found in favor of the Union, and the superior court granted the Union's motion to confirm the award. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the arbitrator's award failed to draw its essence from the contract, manifestly disregarded relevant portions of the CBA, and produced completely irrational results. View "Town of North Providence v. Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 13" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting and committing Defendant for one count of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree child abuse, holding that there was no prejudicial error in this case.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the trial justice (1) did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress the statement he made while at the police station after concluding that Defendant was not seized without probable cause prior to giving his statement; (2) did not err in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss all counts of the indictment as unconstitutionally vague; and (3) did not overlook or misconceive material evidence in denying Defendant's motion for new trial. View "State v. Jimenez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying and dismissing all claims in Plaintiffs' complaint challenging a contested amendment to the City of Providence Zoning Ordinance that would allow the construction of a new high-rise building in Providence's Knowledge District, holding that there was no error.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) henceforth, when the superior court reviews a case pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 45-24-71, review of that judgment must be sought in the Supreme Court through a petition for a writ of certiorari; (2) the hearing justice did not err in determining that Plaintiffs' evidence was insufficient to rebut the presumption of validity of the amendment; and (3) Plaintiffs were not entitled to relief on their remaining allegations of error. View "Peter Scotti & Associates, Inc. v. Yurdin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court entering final judgment in favor of Defendants - Forsons Realty, LLC, Ferrara Mechanical Services Inc., and Daniel Ferrara - and dismissing the complaint brought by the Town of Coventry stemming from the activities of an industrial enterprise conducting business on certain property, holding that there was no error.At issue on appeal was the trial justice's decision to allow heavy duty vehicle inspections to be performed on the property provided that certain conditions were adhered to and the justice's ruling that there had not been an impermissible expansion of a pre-existing legal nonconforming use, holding that the trial justice was neither clearly wrong nor did she overlook or misconceive material evidence in her judgment. View "Town of Coventry v. Forsons Realty LLC" on Justia Law