Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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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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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff, Midland Funding, LLC, in these consolidated credit card debt collection appeals, holding that Defendant failed to set forth facts that established a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the credit card accounts were in fact her accounts. The complaints in this case sought to recover the unpaid balance due on two credit card accounts. The district court granted summary judgment for Plaintiff in both cases. On appeal, Defendant argued that there existed an issue of fact as to the ownership of the accounts. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence was insufficient to give rise to a genuine issue of material fact. View "Midland Funding LLC v. Raposo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law, Contracts
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In this breach of contract action the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendant, holding that the trial justice did not err in finding that no oral contract existed between the parties. Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging breach of contract, breach of implied contract, and that Defendant was liable under the theories of quasi-contract and promissory estoppel. The trial justice entered judgment in favor of Defendant, finding that no oral or implied-in-fact contract existed between the parties and that Defendant was not liable under the theories of quasi-contract or promissory estoppel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not misconceive or overlook material evidence, did not make factual findings that were clearly wrong, or misapply the law when finding that no oral contract existed between the parties. View "E.W. Burman, Inc. v. Bradford Dyeing Ass'n, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the superior court dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Defendants, USAA Federal Savings Bank and Charles Baird, for lack of personal jurisdiction, holding that the trial justice was correct in finding that the superior court did not have personal jurisdiction over Defendants. This case stemmed from an alleged oral agreement between Plaintiff and Baird. Plaintiff was a resident of Rhode Island, and Baird was a resident of Florida. Plaintiff filed a complaint against both Baird and USAA, a bank incorporated and based in Texas with whom Baird maintained a personal checking account, seeking to recover certain funds plus consequential damages.The superior court dismissed the case against both defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the superior court was correct in finding that it did not have either general personal jurisdiction or specific jurisdiction over USAA; and (2) the trial justice was correct in finding that the superior court did not have specific personal jurisdiction over Baird. View "Edward F. St. Onge v. USAA Federal Savings Bank" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court that granted a preliminary injunction in favor of Plaintiffs restraining the City of Woonsocket from changing the terms of Plaintiffs' retiree health insurance, holding that the City had the statutory authority to make changes to Plaintiffs' health care benefits. Plaintiffs, several retried Woonsocket police officers, brought this action against the City and the Woonsocket Budget Commission (the WBC). The superior court granted a preliminary injunction for Plaintiffs and reinstated Plaintiffs' previous postretirement health care benefits. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that the trial justice (1) did not err when he found that Plaintiffs had a vested contractual right to free lifetime health care benefits; (2) erred when he found that the WBC lacked statutory authority when it adopted the Retiree Resolutions that required Plaintiffs to contribute to their health care expenses; and (3) erred in finding that the WBC violated the Contract Clause of the Rhode Island Constitution when it required Plaintiffs to pay for their health insurance under a new uniform health care plan applicable to all retirees and employees. The Court remanded the case to the trial justice for additional findings. View "Hebert v. City of Woonsocket" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the superior court's denial of Defendants' motion for a new trial after a jury found in favor of Plaintiff on his complaint alleging conversion and breach of contract, holding that Defendants waived their economic loss doctrine argument and that the trial justice erred in awarding attorneys' fees to Plaintiff. Plaintiffs entered into a lease with Defendants to rent commercial property owned by Defendants. Plaintiff was unable to occupy the commercial premises before the lease period could begin, but Defendants refused to return the security deposit. Plaintiff filed this action, alleging and breach of contract and that the refusal to return the security deposit constituted a conversion of his property. A jury found that Defendants had converted Plaintiff's security deposit to their own use. Judgment entered awarding Plaintiff compensatory damages plus attorneys' fees. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the economic loss doctrine barred recovery under the conversion claim and that the trial justice erred in awarding attorneys' fees pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 9-1-45. The Supreme Court held (1) Defendants waived the economic loss doctrine argument and may not now revive the argument on appeal; and (2) section 9-1-45 cannot be the basis for an attorneys' fees award in this case. View "Heneault v. Lantini" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff as to Plaintiff's claim seeking injunctive relief for Defendants' alleged trespass and permanently enjoining Defendant and its officers, customers, and employees from parking in parking spaces owned by Plaintiff, holding that the hearing justice did not err in granting summary judgment on this claim. This case centered around a dispute over parking spaces in the Watch Hill section of Westerly. In an earlier case, Defendants sued Plaintiff regarding the parking spaces. Plaintiff later brought this action. After a hearing justice granted summary judgment on its injunctive relief claim, Defendants appealed, arguing that the trial justice erred by failing to order that the dispute be arbitrated and granting Plaintiff injunctive relief based on res judicata and collateral estoppel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendants waived their right to arbitration of the injunctive relief claim; and (2) there existed identity of issues between the first action and the current dispute. View "JHRW, LLC v. Seaport Studios, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's judgment ruling in favor of Plaintiff, Management Capital, LLC, on its complaint filed after Defendant, F.A.F., Inc., maintained that a common stock warrant held by Management had no value, holding that the superior court did not err in its judgment. Specifically, the Court held that trial justice did not err when he (1) reformed certain dates in a stock warrant that he found were a result of mutual mistake; (2) determined that “funded debt” was an unambiguous term meaning “long-term debt”; (3) found that FAF repudiated its obligations under the stock warrant; (4) found that Management properly preserved its post-repudiation rights; (5) determined that Management proved its damages with reasonable certainty; and (6) determined that prejudgment interest accrued beginning on October 13, 2008. View "Management Capital, LLC v. F.A.F., Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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The Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant and the third-party defendant (collectively, Defendants) on Plaintiff's complaint alleging negligence for her injuries and the third-party complaint seeking to defend, indemnify, and hold the third-party defendant harmless for claims arising out of the third-party defendant's duty under Defendants' snow services agreement, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed precluding summary judgment. Specifically at issue before the trial justice was whether there were genuine issues of material fact as to the dangerous condition that caused Plaintiff's fall that would preclude summary judgment. The trial justice weighed the evidence before her at least twice during the summary judgment hearing. The Supreme Court vacated the superior court's judgments, holding that the trial justice improperly weighed the evidence before her at the summary judgment hearing. View "Voccola v. Stop & Shop Supermarket Co." on Justia Law

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In this appeal concerned two City of Cranston ordinances that promulgated a ten-year suspension of the cost-of-living adjustment benefit for retirees of the Cranston Police Department and Cranston Fire Department who were enrolled in the City's pension plan the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court finding in favor of Defendants, holding that the superior court did not err in its judgment. The Cranston Police Retirees Action Committee (Plaintiff) brought this action against the City, Mayor Allan Fung, and members of the Cranston City Council (collectively, Defendants) alleging claims ranging from constitutional violations to statutory infringements. A superior court justice found in favor of Defendants on all counts. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the superior court justice did not err by (1) finding that the ordinances did not violate the Contract Clauses of the United States and Rhode Island Constitutions; (2) applying the burden of proof in the Contract Clause analysis; (3) applying expert testimony; (4) granting summary judgment for the City as to Takings Clause, res judicata, and Rhode Island Open Meetings Act claims; and (5) ruling on an assortment of motions and in her findings of fact and conclusions of law. View "Cranston Police Retirees Action Committee v. City of Cranston" on Justia Law