Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and order of the superior court reversing a decision and order of the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline (the Board) that required Plaintiff to complete a competence assessment program and fitness for duty evaluation before returning to the practice of medicine, holding that the trial justice did not err.The DOH and the Director of the DOH sought review of the superior court's decision reversing the Board's order requiring Plaintiff, who sought to reenter practice after signing an agreement to cease practice, to complete a competence assessment program and fitness for duty evaluation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice (1) did not err in finding that the Board's decision was arbitrary, capricious, and not supported by sufficient evidence; and (2) did not err in declining to remand the case to the Board for further proceedings. View "Kyros v. R.I. Department of Health" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the order of the district court that denied Appellant's request for attorneys' fees pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 28-44-57(c) after Appellant successfully appealed a denial of unemployment benefits, holding that "appeal" within section 28-44-57(c) encompasses lower court proceedings on the claimant's path to receiving benefits.Appellant in this case successfully challenged the denial of unemployment benefits by the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. Appellant filed a petition for counsel fees pursuant to section 28-44-57 for work performed in the appeal to the district court from the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT). The district court denied the petition, concluding that Appellant was not entitled to attorneys' fees for work performed by his attorney in the district court. The Supreme Court quashed the district court's order and remanded the case, holding that when an attorney represents an unemployment benefits claimant in an unsuccessful appeal to the district court but subsequently prevails in the Supreme Court, section 28-44-57(c)(2)(iii) entitles the attorney to fees and costs for the proceedings in the district court. View "Beagan v. Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training, Board of Review" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decree of the Appellate Division of the Workers' Compensation Court (WCC) awarding attorneys' fees and costs to Petitioner, holding that the WCC's Appellate Division acted in excess of its statutory authority in concluding that R.I. Gen. Laws 45-21.2-9 conferred authority to award attorneys' fees in this case.Petitioner, a firefighter with the City of Woonsocket, sustained a work-related injury and applied for accidental disability retirement (ADR) benefits with Respondent, Municipal Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island. Respondent denied Petitioner's ADR application, finding that Petitioner had failed to prove that is injury arose out of and in the course of his duties as a firefighter. On appeal, the trial judge granted Petitioner's petition seeking ADR benefits and awarded a counsel fee to Petitioner's counsel. The Appellate Division upheld the fee award and imposed an additional fee for counsel's work before the Appellate Division. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the General Assembly has not conveyed specific statutory authority upon the WCC to award attorneys' fees and costs in successful ADR appeal claims. View "Koback v. Municipal Employees' Retirement System of R.I." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and quashed in part the judgment of the superior court affirming a decision of the Town of Charlestown Zoning Board of Review denying a special-use permit and a dimensional variance, holding that there was insufficient evidence to support the denial of the special-use permit.New Castle Realty Company applied to the zoning board for a special-use permit and a dimensional variance to build a house and install a septic system on a preexisting nonconforming lot. The zoning board denied both requests. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and quashed in part the superior court's judgment, holding (1) substantial evidence did not exist in the record to support either the zoning board's decision to deny the special-use permit or the trial justice's ruling affirming the denial of the special-use permit; and (2) the trial justice correctly concluded that certain testimony was fatal to New Castle's request for a dimensional variance. View "New Castle Realty Co. v. Dreczko" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Retirement Board of the Employees' Retirement System of the City of Providence denying Petitioner's application for an accidental disability retirement, holding that the Board relied on legally competent evidence.Petitioner, a firefighter, injured his right shoulder while lifting a patient. After he had recovered, he sustained a second work-related injury to his right shoulder. When a doctor evaluation concluded that he could not return to working full duty Petitioner submitted an application for an accidental disability retirement. The Board denied the application. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the Board ignored the legally competent evidence before it when it denied his application for an accidental disability retirement. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that some evidence supported the Board's decision. View "Starnino v. Employees' Retirement System of City of Providence" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Appellant's administrative appeal from a decision of the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) in favor of the DOH director, Board of Examiners in Dentistry of the DOH, and the DOH, holding that the trial justice did not err.The Board imposed sanctions upon Appellant John F. Begg, D.D.S. for violations of R.I. Gen. Laws 5-31.1-10(19), (23), and (24) and sections 25.1.1, 27.1(s), 27.1(x), and 27.1(w) of DOH's rules and regulations pertaining to dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants. The trial justice affirmed the Board's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the DOH had subject matter jurisdiction over the administrative proceedings; (2) the Board did not utilize the subpoena power provided to it by R.I. Gen. Laws 5-31.1-4 and 5-31.1-14 in its request for patient healthcare information, nor was it required to do so; and (3) legally competent evidence existed to support the sanctions imposed by the Board. View "Begg v. Alexander-Scott" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court denying the motion filed by a teachers' union and Jennifer Leyden (collectively, the Union) to vacate an arbitration award and granting the City of Providence's motion to confirm the award, holding that the trial justice erred in holding that the decision of the Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island (the Retirement Board) granting Leyden's application for an ordinary disability retirement retired Leyden as a matter of law.Leyden, a school teacher, was awarded workers' compensation benefits after she was assaulted by students. The Retirement Board later approved Leyden's application for an ordinary disability retirement. While she was receiving workers' compensation benefits, Leyden sought reinstatement to her former teaching position. However, the School Department considered her to be retired. The Union filed a grievance, and the matter proceeded to arbitration. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the School Department, concluding that the Retirement Board had retired Leyden when it granted her request for an ordinary disability pension, and therefore, the Union had no standing to represent her. The superior court confirmed the award. The Supreme Court vacated the superior court's order, holding that Leyden's grievance that she was denied an appointment for the upcoming academic year was substantively arbitrable. View "Providence Teachers' Union Local 958, AFT, AFL-CIO v. Hemond" on Justia Law

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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 affirmed an order and judgment of the superior court granting the Rhode Island Department of Health's (Department) motion to dismiss Physicians' complaint, quashed a later judgment of the superior court granting the physicians' motion to enter default judgment against the Department, and remanded this case for further proceedings, holding that a default judgment against an agency in this case was inappropriate.The Department made a finding of unprofessional conduct against Physicians. Physicians move to dismiss the charges filed against them. The hearing officer denied the motion. Physicians then filed a complaint appealing the order. A hearing justice granted the Department's motion to dismiss the complaint without prejudice to them seeking review after they had exhausted their administrative remedies. The Supreme Court then granted Physicians' petition for writ of certiorari, and a second hearing justice granted Physicians' motion to enter default judgment because the Department did not submit the certified administrative record of the appeal. The Supreme Court held (1) the first hearing justice correctly found that the case was interlocutory and therefore premature; and (2) the second hearing justice exceeded his discretion when he entered default judgment in favor of Physicians. View "Banki v. Fine" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and quashed in part the final decree of the Workers' Compensation Court (WCC) upholding an award of accidental disability benefits for occupational cancer to Petitioner, holding that the WCC had jurisdiction to hear Petitioner's appeal but erred in finding that R.I. Gen. Laws 45-19.1-1 contains a conclusive presumption that all cancer in firefighters is occupational cancer.Petitioner served as a firefighter for the City of Cranston until he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Petitioner applied for accidental disability benefit based upon his cancer diagnosis. The Retirement Board of the Municipal Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island denied the application, finding that Petitioner did not prove that his cancer arose out of and in the course of his employment as a firefighter. The WCC then filed his petition arguing that, pursuant to chapter 19.1 of title 45, all cancers contracted by firefighters are presumed to be work-related. The trial judge agreed and reversed the board. The Supreme Court quashed the decree in part, holding that chapter 19.1 of title 45 does not contain any presumption that all cancers in firefighters are occupational cancers. View "Lang v. Municipal Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island" on Justia Law