Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Landlord - Tenant
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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 judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendant on the ground that Plaintiff was not legally entitled to recover rent monies which he had paid to Defendant over the period of time during which he was renting a waterfront condominium from her while she was in violation of R.I. Gen. Laws 34-18-22.3, holding that the hearing justice properly granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff sought retroactive recovery of rent paid to Defendant because Defendant had not complied with section 34-18-22.3, which requires a landlord who is not a resident of the state to designate an in-state agent for service of process. The superior court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff was not allowed to recover from Defendant for her alleged violation of section 34-18-22.3 because he failed to show that he suffered harm as a result of Defendant's violation; (2) because Plaintiff did not incur any damages as a result of Defendant's alleged offense, there was no basis for recovery under R.I. Gen. Laws 9-1-2; and (3) the trial justice did not err when he determined that the elements of unjust enrichment were not satisfied based on the facts of this case. View "Olsen v. DeMayo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Landlord - Tenant
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In this commercial property dispute between a landlord, Roadepot, LLC and Keyserton, LLC (collectively, Roadepot), and a tenant, Home Depot, U.S.A., Inc., regarding sewer assessment charges, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part judgments of the superior court. The Supreme Court held that the superior court (1) properly granted partial summary judgment in favor of Home Depot obligating Roadepot to pay the disputed sewer assessment charges; (2) the superior court erred in requiring Roadepot to reimburse Home Depot for sewer assessment charges paid by Home Depot before September 17, 2009; and (3) did not err in limiting Home Depot’s request for prejudgment interest and denying its claim for late fees on the sewer assessment charges. View "Roadepot, LLC et al. v. Home Depot, U.S.A., Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2012, Bayal Restaurant Inc. entered into a lease agreement with the predecessor in interest to plaintiff to rent certain commercial property. Aly Diene (Defendant), in consideration of the lease, executed a personal guaranty. In 2013, title to the premises was conveyed to OSJ of Providence, LLC (Plaintiff). In conjunction with the conveyance, all rights of the seller were transferred to Plaintiff. After Bayal defaulted on the terms of the lease, Plaintiff demanded overdue rent, interest, and fees. When Plaintiff did not receive the full amount requested, Plaintiff filed a complaint for eviction for nonpayment of rent. The parties entered into a stipulated judgment, but Bayal failed to make any payments pursuant to the stipulated judgment. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant for default on the guaranty. Summary judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiff as to Defendant’s liability under the guaranty. After a hearing, judgment was entered for Plaintiff in the amount of $37,760.04. The Supreme Court denied Defendant’s appeal, holding (1) Plaintiff’s claim was not time-barred; and (2) the hearing justice properly granted Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. View "OSJ of Providence, LLC v. Diene" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, tenants on property owned by Baird Properties, were required to vacate the premises they leased and to remove their belongings when the property was condemned due to a lack of electricity, heating and water. Plaintiffs brought an action under the Residential Landlord and Tenants Act alleging that Baird Properties and Michael Baird purposely sabotaged utility services to the property in order to set events in motion that would force Plaintiffs to vacate the premises. After a trial, the superior court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice correctly found that a landlord-tenant relationship existed between Plaintiffs and Baird Properties; (2) the trial justice did not err in determining that Baird tampered with essential services to the property; and (3) the award of attorney’s fees was reasonable. View "Gregoire v. Baird Props., LLC" on Justia Law

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Landlords filed an eviction action against Tenant. Eventually, the parties settled the eviction action by a stipulation that was signed by the district court judge. Thereafter, Tenant filed a negligence action alleging that Landlords failed to maintain the house free from toxic mold and fungus and that the mold ruined Tenant’s personal property. Landlords filed a motion in limine to prevent Tenant from entering the parties’ stipulation into evidence to prove causation in the negligence action and moved for summary judgment. The hearing justice granted Landlords’ motion in limine, barring the admission of the district court stipulation. The court then granted summary judgment for Defendants, ruling that Tenant could offer no other evidence of causation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the hearing justice correctly granted the motion in limine, as nothing in the stipulation established that Landlords caused mold to accumulate on Tenant’s personal property; and (2) because Tenant conceded that there was no other evidence on the element of causation, the hearing justice correctly granted Landlords’ motion for summary judgment. View "Curreri v. Saint" on Justia Law

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Decedent established a Trust that required, upon Decedent’s death, the trustee to distribute a parcel of land to the trustee and to distribute the remainder of the land to Decedent’s children. The Trust filed a complaint for eviction for unlawfully holding over after the termination of tenancy against Defendants, Decedent’s children. The district court entered judgment in favor of the Trust. Defendants appealed, arguing that the Trust was not a landlord and Defendants were not tenants, but rather, tenants in common with the trustee. Therefore, Defendants argued, an action for eviction could not lie. The superior court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and that the Trust lacked standing. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that the superior court did have jurisdiction over trespass and ejectment matters, and therefore, the motion justice erred in dismissing the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Remanded for an evidentiary hearing with respect to the issue of standing. View "Joseph P. Notarianni Revocable Trust v. Notarianni" on Justia Law

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Trustee sought an order allowing him to remove the life tenant (Defendant) from property owned by the trust. The probate court issued an order in conformity with Trustee's petition after Defendant was defaulted for failing to appear. Defendant filed a complaint in superior court purportedly appealing from the decision of the probate court. The trial justice concluded that Defendant had failed to comply with the requirements for filing a claim of appeal from the probate court and granted Trustee's motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the superior court lacked jurisdiction to entertain Defendant's appeal for failure to comply with every relevant provision of the statute governing appeals from the probate court, and therefore, the superior court did not err in its judgment. View "Ims v. Audette" on Justia Law