Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of eighteen counts of financial fraud crimes and sentencing him to a total of seven years to serve in prison, with the balance of the eighteen concurrent sentences suspended with probation, holding that the trial justice did not err or abuse her discretion. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the trial justice did not abuse her discretion in admitting evidence related to Defendant's character; (2) the trial justice did not err by permitted a Rhode Island State Police detective to provide expert opinion testimony as a lay witness; (3) the trial justice was not clearly wrong in allowing a waiver of the attorney-client privilege; (4) the trial justice did not err when she denied Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence he claimed was illegally obtained by state action; (5) the trial justice did not err by denying Defendant's motion for a new trial; and (6) Defendant waived his remaining allegations of error. View "State v. Doyle" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Gonsalves-Pastore Realty, LLC and dismissing Mauro Poletti's negligence complaint, holding that summary judgment was properly granted. Poletti entered into an agreement with Linda Glynn, a licensed real estate agent, to assist him in the purchase of real estate for investment purposes. Later, Glynn granted two mortgages on property purchased in furtherance of Poletti's investment plan and used the resulting funds in contravention of that plan. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Gonsalves-Pastore, as Glynn's employer or principal, breached its fiduciary duty to Poletti to oversee Glynn such that Glynn was acting in the best interests of Poletti and that no loss would ever occur to Poletti. The hearing justice granted summary judgment for Gonsalves-Pastore. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing justice did not err in (1) determining that no genuine issue of material fact remained as to whether or not a fiduciary relationship existed between Poletti and Gonsalves-Pastore; and (2) concluding that no genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether or not Defendant was liable for Glynn's alleged acts of malfeasance. View "Poletti v. Glynn" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiffs' petition alleging that the City of Providence violated the terms of two superior court consent judgments entered in 2004 and seeking to enforce those judgments and to hold the City in contempt, holding that the City violated separation-of-powers principles. Plaintiffs, a retired firefighter and two retired police officers, filed a petition to enforce the 2004 consent judgments and hold the City in contempt of those judgments. The trial justice granted summary judgment for the City, finding that a pension ordinance passed in 2012 modified Plaintiffs' rights under the consent judgments. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that a consent judgment cannot be overruled or otherwise modified by city ordinance. The City countered that the court would have violated separation of powers principles by finding it in contempt because courts cannot restrain municipal bodies from exercising their legislative powers. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) by enacting the pension ordinance, the City attempted to alter a superior court decision entered in the form of the consent judgment and thereby infringed on the exercise of judicial power; and (2) therefore, to the extent that the pension ordinance purported to nullify the consent judgment, it violated separation-of-powers principles embodied in the state constitution. View "Quattrucci v. Lombardi" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court terminating Respondents' parental rights to their daughter, holding that the findings of the family court justice were based on clear and convincing evidence and were not clearly wrong, nor did the justice overlook or misconceive material evidence. The family court justice concluded that it was in the best interest of the child that the parental rights of Respondents be terminated based on the finding of unfitness. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the family court justice did not err in (1) admitting into evidence a medical report prepared by Dr. Adebimpe Adewusi, the child's treating physician; (2) finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that Respondents were unfit parents "by reason of conduct or conditions seriously detrimental to the child," in that they committed, or allowed to be committed, conduct toward the child "of a cruel and abusive nature"; and (3) finding that it was in the best interest of the child that Respondents' parental rights be terminated. View "In re Rylee A." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Appellate Division of the Workers' Compensation Court affirming the decree of the trial judge that Petitioner had failed to prove that he sustained a neck injury arising out of and in the course of his employment, holding that legally competent evidence supported the Appellate Division's determination. Before the Supreme Court, Petitioner argued that the trial judge committed reversible error by stating that Dr. Thomas Rocco, M.D. was not qualified to opine on an orthopedic issue because he was a board certified general surgeon, not a board certified orthopedic surgeon, and finding Dr. Rocco's testimony to be inconsistent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Appellate Division did not err in upholding the trial judge's decision to discount Dr. Rocco's testimony; and (2) there was legally competent evidence to support the conclusion of the Appellate Division that Dr. Rocco's testimony was inconsistent. View "Thompson v. Millard Wire Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of first-degree robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon in a dwelling with intent to rob, holding that the trial justice did not abuse her discretion in excluding the complaining witness's prior criminal convictions and excluding photographs of bruises on Defendant's torso and supporting testimony from an investigator. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the trial justice did not abuse her discretion in excluding evidence of the complaining witness's prior convictions for resisting arrest and domestic disorderly conduct; and (2) the trial justice did not abuse her discretion in excluding the photographs and supporting testimony because, without further evidence connecting the injuries depicted in the photographs to the altercation with the complaining witness that occurred nearly two weeks earlier, the evidence was inadmissible. View "State v. Lamontagne" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this action challenging an ordinance passed in 2011 requiring retirees from the City's police and fire departments to enroll in the federal Medicare program upon reaching the age of eligibility instead of continuing to have the City pay for their private health insurance for life the Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the final judgment of the superior court in favor of the City, holding that the trial judge misconceived the evidence with respect to the health care benefits that Plaintiffs were receiving from the City. Most police or firefighter retirees filed suit challenging the ordinance, and many settled. Some retirees opted out of the settlement and pursued their claims through a bench trial. The trial justice found in favor of the City. The Supreme Court held (1) with respect to Plaintiffs' claims for breach of contract, violation of the Takings Clause, and promissory estoppel, the superior court's judgment was proper; and (2) as to Plaintiffs' Contract Clause claims, the trial justice overlooked or misconceived evidence in several crucial respects. The Court remanded the case with instructions to enter judgment consistent with the provisions pertaining to the Medicare Ordinance as set forth in the final and consent judgment in the lawsuit from which Plaintiffs opted out. View "Andrews v. Lombardi" on Justia Law

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In this case challenging the City of Providence's ordinance suspending annual cost-of-living-adjustments (COLAs) for retired members of its police and fire departments until the pension fund achieved a seventy percent funding level the Supreme Court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and reversed in part the trial court judgment in favor of the City, holding that the pension ordinance was unenforceable as to certain plaintiffs. After the City enacted its ordinance in retiree groups and union groups initiated litigation to bar enforcement of the ordinance. Most retirees entered into a settlement that ripened into a consent judgment. Several individuals who opted out of the settlement agreement brought this suit. The trial justice entered judgment for the City. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the superior court correctly entered summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims under the Takings Clause and for promissory estoppel; (2) with respect to the plaintiffs who were also a party in prior litigation regarding their COLA benefits and who were included in an earlier consent judgment or individual settlement agreement, the pension ordinance was unenforceable; and (3) with respect to Plaintiffs' challenge to the pension ordinance based upon the Contract Clause, the judgment is vacated. View "Andrews v. Lombardi" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant on two counts of first-degree child molestation sexual assault, holding that the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress statements made to the state police, denying Defendant's motion for a mistrial, and denying Defendant's motion to dismiss counts one and two of the indictment pursuant to Rule 29(b) of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant's waiver of his Miranda rights was made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily, and therefore, the trial justice properly denied Defendant's motion to suppress; (2) the trial justice did not err when she denied Defendant's motion for a mistrial based on an alleged discovery violation by the State; and (3) the trial justice did not err when she credited the complaining witness's testimony in denying Defendant's Rule 29(b) motion to dismiss the first two counts of the indictment relating to first-degree child molestation sexual assault. View "State v. Alvarado" on Justia Law

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In this negligence case, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court for Defendants on all counts in Plaintiffs' complaint, holding that Plaintiffs' claims were filed after the three-year statute of limitations had run and were not tolled by the discovery rule, the holding in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the exoneration rule, R.I. Gen. Law 9-1-20, or the doctrine of equitable tolling. Polanco was convicted of assaulting a bar patron with a pool cue. The responding police officer, Michael Camardo, filed no report. After Polanco was convicted, two witnesses swore in affidavits that Polanco was not the assailant. The trial justice granted a new trial, and the State dismissed the case against Polanco, who had been incarcerated for thirty-two months. Polanco and his wife later sued the City of Providence and Camardo, alleging negligence. Defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the complaint was time-barred. Plaintiffs objected, arguing that the discovery rule or equitable tolling should apply. The hearing justice granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the complaint was untimely and Plaintiffs' claims were not tolled. View "Polanco v. Lombardi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury