Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Defendants seeking a declaratory judgment concerning the propriety of the foreclosure of Plaintiff's property, holding that the superior court did not err. Plaintiff named as defendants Residential Credit Solutions, Inc.; FV REO I, LLC; Franklin Venture, LLC; and DLJ Mortgage Capital, Inc. As part of her complaint, Plaintiff sought to quiet title concerning the property at issue and an award of punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and costs. The hearing justice dismissed Plaintiff's complaint for failure to serve all indispensable parties. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's failure to meaningfully discuss the issues raised on appeal was fatal to Plaintiff's appeal. View "Osifodurin v. Residential Credit Solutions, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied and dismissed Defendant's appeal from an order of the family court denying what Father characterized as a motion to receive a child support credit for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits that were paid directly to Mother for the care of the parties' child, holding that this appeal was not properly before the Court. The Supreme Court noted that, even though Father's motion was styled as a motion for credit, it was, in fact, a motion to modify the amount of child support Father was obligated to pay. Because matters relating to the modification of child support are not appealable, the Supreme Court declined to reach the merits of the appeal because it was not properly before the Court. View "Evans v. Evans" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Defendant's motion to vacate an illegal sentence and judgment, holding that the hearing justice did not act arbitrarily or capriciously when he found that Defendant violated the conditions of his probation to which he was sentenced after his 2009 conviction. In 2009, Defendant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment plus a suspended sentence, with probation. In 2018, Defendant pled nolo contendere to other offenses. Because Defendant was on probation at the time of the 2018, the hearing justice found Defendant to have violated the conditions of his 2009 probation and sentenced him on the same sentence previously imposed. Defendant filed a motion to vacate an illegal sentence, which the hearing justice denied. Before the Supreme Court, Defendant asserted that there were no conditions of probation prior to the enactment of R.I. Gen. Laws 12-19-8.1 in 2017. Therefore, Defendant argued that because he was sentenced to probation before 2017, he could not have violated any probation condition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 12-19-8.1 codified what had long been recognized as conditions of probation in Rhode Island. View "State v. Chandler" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of three counts of first-degree child molestation sexual assault, holding that Defendant's argument alleging an instructional error was waived and that the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial. On appeal, Defendant asserted that the trial justice erred in failing to grant a mistrial or to strike the complaining witness's testimony and exacerbated the error by instructing the jury to disregard a portion of the complaining witness's testimony and that the trial justice erred in denying his motion for a new trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant waived his argument as to the denial of the motion for a mistrial and motion to strike and further waived his contention that the trial justice compounded the alleged error; and (2) the trial justice did not overlook or misconceive material evidence and was not otherwise clearly wrong when he denied Defendant's motion for a new trial. View "State v. Franco" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court concluding that the superior court is not vested with the inherent supervisory authority to order the public disclosure of grand jury materials that could potentially be reopened and that dealt with events for which the potentially relevant statute of limitations has not yet run, holding that the superior court does not have the authority to disclose grand jury material outside of Rule 6(e)(3) of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. A statewide grand jury convened to investigate the possibility of potential criminality in connection with a government deal gone bad (the 38 Studios deal). The investigation concluded with an announcement that there were no provable criminal violations in connection with the deal. In a separate action, the State initiated civil litigation against individuals and entities involved in the 38 Studios deal, and settlements followed. Thereafter, the Governor filed a miscellaneous petition seeking release of the 38 Studios grand jury records, arguing that the superior court has the discretion to release grand jury materials. The superior court denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the superior court does not have inherent authority to disclose grand jury materials beyond the parameters of the permitted disclosures set forth in Rule 6(e). View "In re 38 Studios Grand Jury" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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In this dispute between a general contractor, Bacon Construction Co., Inc., and a subcontractor, NESC, Inc., regarding an agreement to install flooring in a college dormitory the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor NESC and awarding NESC $125,733.67 in damages, holding the trial justice did not clearly err in denying Bacon's motion for a new trial, appropriately denied Bacon's request for a remittitur and properly denied NESC's cross appeal. NESC brought this suit alleging, inter alia, breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Bacon filed a counterclaim against NESC alleging breach of contract and negligence. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of NESC. On appeal, Bacon challenged the trial justice's decision denying Bacon's motion for a new trial and its alternative request for a remittitur. NESC cross appealed from the denial of its motion to amend and its motion to reconsider its motion to amend. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and orders of the superior court, holding that the court did not err. View "NESC, Inc. v. Bacon Construction Co." on Justia Law

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In this slip-and-fall case, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants, holding that the trial justice properly granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. Plaintiff sustained injuries when she tripped over a speed bump in the parking lot of a Walgreens Pharmacy. Plaintiff sued Walgreens and the landlords of the property, alleging negligence, premises liability, and vicarious liability. The trial justice granted judgment judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to produce competent evidence to establish that the speed bump presented an unreasonable danger or that it was negligently constructed and maintained. View "Yanku v. Walgreen Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting Plaintiffs' request for declaratory and injunctive relief and ruling that the Town of Barrington lacked authority under its Home Rule Charter to enact an ordinance banning the sale of flavored tobacco products and prohibiting the providing of any tobacco products to persons under the age of twenty-one (the Tobacco Ordinance), holding that the Town lacked the authority to enact the Tobacco Ordinance. Specifically, the Court held that, while the Tobacco Ordinance was enacted to protect public health and safety, the ordinance constituted legislation concerning a matter of statewide concern, and therefore, it fringed upon the power of the state. Further, because the Town lacked the authority under its Home Rule Charter to enact the ordinance, the hearing justice did not err in declining to decide whether the ordinance was preempted by state law. View "K&W Automotive, LLC v. Town of Barrington" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the order of the district court denying Appellant's motion to seal his records under R.I. Gen. Laws 12-1-12 on the grounds that because Defendant was charged with a civil violation rather than a criminal violation, he was not entitled to relief under the statute, holding that a person charged with a first violation of driving with a suspended license is entitled to have his records sealed under the provisions of section 12-1-12. In denying Defendant's motion to seal his records, the trial judge looked to the language of the statute, noting that it speaks only to criminal cases and is silent with respect to civil violations, and concluded that the Legislature had provided no mechanism to seal or expunge civil violations. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that where Defendant was detained by police but not arrested or charged with an offense, he was entitled to the benefits of section 12-1-12(a) with respect to the destruction and sealing of his records. View "State ex rel. Coventry Police Department v. Charlwood" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the family court terminating Plaintiff's marriage to Defendant on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, holding that the trial justice neither erred nor abused her discretion in her assignment of specific martial assets or in determining the amount of Plaintiff's child support obligation. On appeal, Plaintiff challenged several of the specific asset allocations as well as the amount of child support Plaintiff was ordered to pay Defendant, arguing that there was either error or abuse of discretion in the part of the trial justice. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in its allocation and distribution of Defendant's investment accounts, in offsetting spending from marital assets, in allocating assets from individual bank accounts, and in ordering Plaintiff to pay a certain amount of child support. View "Boschetto v. Boschetto" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law