Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Insurance Law
Romeo v. Allstate Property & Casualty Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court entered favor of Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company in this breach of contract action, holding that, under the circumstances, the court erred in granting Allstate's motion for summary judgment.Plaintiff made a claim for loss under its homeowners policy with Allstate after a water loss Plaintiff's property suffered. While Plaintiff sought to invoke a provision in the policy that either party could seek appraisal in the event of a dispute as to the amount of the loss Allstate refused to proceed to appraisal. Plaintiff filed suit for breach of contract in his first action. Allstate counterclaimed seeking a declaration that the parties were required to submit the matter to appraisal. The trial justice granted summary judgment for Allstate without prejudice. Thereafter, Plaintiff demanded that Allstate move forward with the appraisal process. Allstate refused, asserting that Plaintiff's demand was untimely under the policy. Plaintiff then commenced the instant action seeking relief in the form of a judgment ordering Allstate to designate an appraiser and to complete the appraisal process. Final judgment entered for Allstate. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below, holding that Plaintiff's initial demand for appraisal was not time-barred, and therefore, the trial court erroneously granted summary judgment for Allstate. View "Romeo v. Allstate Property & Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Apex Development Co., LLC v. State of R.I. Dep’t of Transportation
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the superior court granting summary judgment and final judgment in favor of third-party defendants, Western Surety Company and the Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania (collectively, the Sureties) in this case concerning the scope of the sureties' liability under a performance and payment bond issued in conjunction with a public works project, holding that there was no error.The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) was sued by Apex Development Company in this action alleging that RIDOT and its contractors trespassed and damaged Apex's private property. RIDOT filed a third-party complaint against the Sureties and others, seeking full indemnity and contribution. A hearing justice granted summary judgment for the Sureties, and a final judgment was entered. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that RIDOT was not entitled to relief on its allegations of error on appeal. View "Apex Development Co., LLC v. State of R.I. Dep't of Transportation" on Justia Law
Regan Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. v. Arbella Protection Insurance Co., Inc.
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court granting Insurer's motion for summary judgment in this insurance dispute, holding that Insured was entitled to judgment as to counts one, four, and five of its complaint.Insured, a company that sold and serviced residential heating and air-conditioning systems, was sued by a former customer who alleged negligence and demanded remediation from property damaged by 170 gallons of home heating oil that leaked into his basement. Insured demanded that Insurer defend and indemnify against the claim. The hearing justice granted summary judgment in favor of Insurer. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below, holding (1) the relevant insurance policy's definition of "pollution" was ambiguous as applied to Insured's claims; and (2) the hearing justice erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Insurer and in denying Insured's motion for summary judgment as to certain counts of the complaint. View "Regan Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. v. Arbella Protection Insurance Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Faella v. Town of Johnston
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the superior court granting declaratory judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, holding that the trial justice abused his discretion by granting Plaintiffs' request for declaratory judgment.These consolidated appeals arose from two civil actions in which the trial court granted summary judgment against the Town of Johnston and its finance director. The trial justice determined that certain accounts bearing the names of the respective plaintiffs constituted deferred compensation, declared the accounts to be Plaintiffs' property, and ordered that the associated funds be remitted to Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to establish as a factual matter that they had an agreement with the Town to defer compensation. View "Faella v. Town of Johnston" on Justia Law
Dulong v. Merrimack Mutual Fire Insurance Co.
In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendant following the denial of Plaintiff's request for declaratory judgment and the grant of Defendant's motion for summary judgment, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.Plaintiff filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that Defendant was required to provide him with full insurance coverage and indemnification for his claims in his underlying personal injury lawsuit. The hearing justice granted summary judgment for Defendant as to all of Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on his claims of error. View "Dulong v. Merrimack Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Houle v. Liberty Insurance Corp.
The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court granting the motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by Defendant in this insurance dispute, holding that the grant of judgment on the pleadings for Defendant was erroneous.The roof at Plaintiffs' home collapsed due to accumulating ice and snow. The property was insured through a policy issued by Defendant. Plaintiffs invoked the appraisal provision of the policy and later brought a second amended complaint alleging that Defendant had breached the terms of the policy by not performing a complete investigation and had acted in bad faith in the handling of their claim. The motion justice granted Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, concluding that Plaintiffs could not maintain an action for breach of contract against Defendant. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below, holding that the allegations, as pled, could support a claim for breach of contract or breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. View "Houle v. Liberty Insurance Corp." on Justia Law
Shannahan v. Rhode Interlocal Risk Management Trust
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendant, Rhode Island Interlocal Risk Management Trust, following the grant of Defendant's motion for summary judgment, holding that there was no error.A few months after the Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment with respect to the underlying claims in Shannahan v. Moreau, 202 A.3d 217 (R.I. 2019) (Shannahan I) Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment in Plaintiffs' action in which Plaintiffs asserted that Defendant wrongfully and in bad faith denied their underlying third-party insurance claims. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden for a bad faith action. View "Shannahan v. Rhode Interlocal Risk Management Trust" on Justia Law
Mowry v. Allstate Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court entered in favor of Plaintiff that granted Plaintiff's motion for additur, holding that there was no error.In 2013, Plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident. Because she believed she was not fully compensated for the injuries she sustained from the accident, Plaintiff brought this complaint against Allstate Insurance Company, her insurer, seeking underinsured motorist benefits. The jury reached a verdict in favor of Plaintiff, awarding damages in the amount of $22,890. Plaintiff filed a motion for an additur, which the trial justice granted in the amount of $6,000. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not abuse his discretion in granting an additur of $6,000. View "Mowry v. Allstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Boisse v. Miller
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting Plaintiffs' claims against Joseph and Lynne Miller and also in favor of the third-party defendant, Assurance Company of America, denying Joseph's third-party claim for indemnification, holding that there was no error.Judgment entered in favor of Plaintiffs and against Joseph and Lynne in the amount of $178,891 and in favor of Assurance on Joseph's third-party claim. Joseph and Lynne appealed, raising three allegations of error. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the first three allegations of error raised on appeal were waived; and (2) the fourth issue was not properly before the Court. View "Boisse v. Miller" on Justia Law
Johnson v. Johnson
The Supreme Court held that the term "civil action" in Mass. Gen. Laws 27-7-2.2 refers to a judicial proceeding that is commenced by the filing in court of a complaint and all other required documents together with fees.This case involved an accident in which Horace Johnson and Carlton Johnson were seriously injured when Horace was driving. Before any party filed suit, Carlton's counsel sent a letter to Arbella Mutual Insurance Company, which had issued an automobile insurance policy to Horace, demanding a settlement in the amount of the $100,000 policy limit. After Arbella indicated its acceptance of the settlement offer Carlton and his mother (together, Plaintiffs) filed suit. The case was removed to federal district court, which granted summary judgment to Defendants, rejecting Carlton's argument that section 27-7-2.2 applied to the case and rendered Arbella's acceptance of the settlement offer ineffective. On appeal, the First Circuit Court of Appeals certified the instant question to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered that "civil action" in section 27-7-2.2 refers to a judicial proceeding which is commenced by the filing of a complaint and all other required documents together with the fees prescribed by law. View "Johnson v. Johnson" on Justia Law