Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

by
This case stemmed from litigation beginning in 2000 between feuding neighbors who disputed several issues, including the details of an easement that resulted from a court-mandated land petition. In 2005, the Ballards filed an answer to SVF Foundation’s fifth amended complaint and also counterclaimed, alleging, inter alia, that SVF Foundation was interfering with the Ballards’ easement that ran across SVF’s property. The superior court granted summary judgment to SVF. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that the hearing justice erred when he applied law-of-the-case in his ruling on SVF’s motion for summary judgment. View "Hamilton v. Ballard" on Justia Law

by
In 2000, Husband retained Attorney to draft an antenuptial agreement in anticipation of his marriage to Wife. In 2005, Wife filed for divorce. The petition was dismissed in a settlement that required the parties to execute a postnuptial agreement. Attorney drafted the agreement. In 2010, Wife again filed for divorce. Husband and Wife settled. In 2012, Husband filed suit against Attorney and his Law Firm (collectively, Defendants), alleging that Attorney negligently drafted the antenuptial and postnuptial agreements and negligently advised him. At issue in this appeal was a discovery order compelling production of any antenuptial or postnuptial agreements drafted or prepared by Attorney while he was employed at Law Firm. Defendants argued before the Supreme Court that the documents exceeded the scope of permissible discovery and were protected by the attorney-client privilege. The Supreme Court affirmed the discovery order, holding (1) the documents at issue were discoverable; and (2) Defendants did not have standing to assert the attorney-client privilege on behalf of their clients in this case, and the superior court protected the confidential interests contained in the documents by requiring redaction. View "DeCurtis v. Visconti, Boren & Campbell, Ltd." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, a resident of Florida, was a resident of Rhode Island at the time of the contract in dispute. Defendant was a resident of New York. Plaintiff entered into a contract in New York regarding Plaintiff’s employment to serve as captain of Defendant’s sailboat. After Plaintiff was terminated, Plaintiff filed suit in a Rhode Island court, alleging breach of contract. Defendant answered, averring that Rhode Island did not have personal jurisdiction over him. The case proceeded to trial, and the trial justice concluded that Rhode Island could not exercise personal jurisdiction over Defendant. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that Defendant forfeited his jurisdictional defense of lack of personal jurisdiction through unjustified delay and active participation in litigation proceedings. View "Pullar v. Cappelli" on Justia Law

by
Kathryn Manning (Plaintiff), individually and as administratrix of the estate of Michael Manning (Manning) and on behalf of her four minor children, brought this negligence and wrongful death action against Dr. Peter Bellafiore after Manning suffered a fatal stroke. After a lengthy discovery period, the case proceeded to trial. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendant. The trial justice subsequently granted Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial, and the Supreme Court affirmed. Thereafter, the trial justice granted Plaintiff’s motion to sanction both Defendant and the law firm that represented him at trial, White & Kelly, P.C. (WCK) under Rule 11 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure for their failure to make pretrial disclosures. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the trial justice did not abuse his discretion in finding that Dr. Bellafiore engaged in sanctionable misconduct; (2) the trial justice abused his discretion when he sanctioned WCK because the justice did not make a finding that the attorneys at WCK acted in “bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for oppressive reasons”; and (3) the amount of sanctions imposed was based on an erroneous assessment of the evidence. View "Manning v. Bellafiore" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff claims that on April 30, 2011 he sustained personal injuries during a “melee” at defendants’ Providence nightclub. On April 18, 2014, he filed a complaint that erroneously stated that the incident occurred on November 4, 2010. On April 20, 2015, defendants moved to dismiss, based on the three-year statute of limitations. Defendants’ counsel certified that he mailed the motion and a memorandum of law to plaintiff’s counsel, in addition to filing via the recently-installed electronic filing system now required by the Superior Court Rules. The motion’s hearing occurred as scheduled, on June 16. Plaintiff did not appear. On June 23, plaintiff moved to vacate the dismissal, indicating that his counsel did not receive notice. On June 25, 2015, final judgment entered dismissing plaintiff’s claim and plaintiff moved to amend his complaint to correct the date. Plaintiff’s counsel argued excusable neglect and that there was no issue of notice because the police report issued in connection with the incident, of which defendants had a copy, contained the correct date. The court denied the motion to vacate, but did not rule on plaintiff’s motion to amend. The Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed, discerning no extenuating circumstances to excuse plaintiff’s failure to object to or to attend the hearing on defendants’ motion. View "Santos v. D. Laikos, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Cashman sued, alleging Cardi provided defective cofferdams for construction of the Sakonnet River Bridge. Cofferdams are temporary watertight enclosures that are pumped dry to expose the bottom of a body of water so that construction can occur. During discovery, Cashman sought, and Cardi refused to produce, computer models and draft reports that had been “considered by” its testifying engineering expert to determine “certain stress and loads that are going to be placed on certain points on this cofferdam,” including models “that [the expert] created which [he] may not have relied on but certainly would’ve considered” and draft reports. Cardi argued that Rule 26(b)(4)(A) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure does not allow discovery of materials “considered by” an expert in forming an expert opinion. The hearing justice concluded that he did not have the authority to compel production of the material. The Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed, after considering interpretations of the corresponding Federal Rule. The state rule is “clear and unambiguous” and is confined to discovery through interrogatories or deposition. It does not provide for the disclosure of documents. View "Cashman Equip. Corp., Inc. v. Cardi Corp., Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants alleging breach of fiduciary duty resulting from oppressive conduct, breach of fiduciary duty resulting from self-dealing, fraud in the inducement, and negligent misrepresentation. During trial, Plaintiff produced 155 pages of documents that had not been produced to Defendants during discovery. Defendants argued that they were denied a fair trial because the information contained in the documents would have permitted them to properly cross-examine Plaintiff. The district court dismissed the case with prejudice pursuant to Sup. Ct. R. Civ. P. 37(b) as a sanction for the mid-trial production of documents. The court subsequently denied Plaintiff’s motion to vacate the order of dismissal under Sup. Ct. R. Civ. P. 60(b). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not err in dismissing Plaintiff’s claim with prejudice pursuant to Rule 37; and (2) the trial justice did not abuse his discretion in denying Rule 60(b) relief. View "Joachim v. Straight Line Prods., LLC" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was charged with one count of possession of cocaine. Defendant moved to suppress physical evidence seized and statements made to the police, arguing that he was arrested without probable cause and that the subsequent search of his jacket was unconstitutional. The trial justice denied the motion, determining that police had probable cause to arrest Defendant. After a trial, the jury convicted Defendant of the charged offense. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of conviction, holding that Defendant’s arrest was not supported by probable cause, and therefore, his motion to suppress should have been granted. View "State v. Ray" on Justia Law

by
After Strine Printing Company terminated Richard Bisbano’s employment, Bisbano filed an eight count complaint against Strine Printing and its president, alleging, inter alia, wrongful termination. During the pendency of that lawsuit, the parties disagreed about the exact amount of commissions that Strine owed Bisbano. The federal district court granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on all counts. Bisbano subsequently filed another lawsuit against Strine Printing and Menasha Packaging Company, LLC in superior court, alleging unpaid commissions. The trial justice ruled in favor of Defendants, concluding that the three-year statute of limitations contained in Rhode Island’s Payment of Wages Act barred the claim and that res judicata barred Bisbano’s contract claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) this action was barred by the statute of limitations contained in the Payment of Wages Act; and (2) because the statute of limitations issue is dispositive, the Court shall not address the issue of res judicata. View "Bisbano v. Strine Printing Co., Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that she was shopping at a Walgreens store when she was hit and injured by a ball that an employee of Walgreens had thrown. The trial justice eventually dismissed the case with prejudice “for failure to proceed at trial” after first denying Plaintiff’s motion for a continuance. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that, in light of the unusual circumstances of this case, the trial justice abused her discretion in dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint for lack of prosecution and in denying Plaintiff’s motion for a continuance and/or mistrial. View "Cotter v. Dias" on Justia Law