Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants in this case involving an allegedly defamatory report that was broadcast on the evening news, holding that the hearing justice did not err in granting Defendants' motions for summary judgment on all counts in the complaint.Captain Russell Henry of the Cranston Police Department filed this action against Media General Operations, Inc. and several individuals alleging that NBC 10 WJAR, which was owned and operated by Media General, published reports that were false and defamatory as to Captain Henry. The hearing justice concluded that Captain Henry was a public official and that he could not prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that Defendants acted with actual malice in disseminating the allegedly defamatory information at issue. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Captain Henry was a public official at the time of the broadcast; and (2) there was insufficient evidence to allow a reasonable juror to conclude that broadcast was made with actual malice. View "Henry v. Media General Operations, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant in this personal injury case, holding that, contrary to precedent, the hearing justice passed upon an issue that is ordinarily inappropriate for summary judgment.In her complaint, Plaintiff alleged that she slipped and fell on the cement steps leading to the front entrance of Defendant's house and that the absence of handrails was a contributing factor to Plaintiff's fall. The hearing justice, with little explanation, granted summary judgment for Defendant on the grounds that Plaintiff could not indicate the cause of her fall or show that there was proximate cause from the act of Defendant to cause the fall. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment because the hearing justice chose to predicate his grant of summary judgment on his determination that there was no showing of proximate cause, and proximate cause is a question of fact that should not be decided by summary judgment. View "Belmore v. Petterutti" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Defendant's motions for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial and from the judgment in favor of Plaintiffs in this case arising from an assault by one student on another in a high school's hallway, holding that there was no error.Plaintiffs, the assaulted student and his parents, filed an amended complaint alleging that Foster-Glocester Regional School District owed a duty to the student to provide him with a safe learning environment and that the school district failed to do so. A jury found that the school district was negligent and that such negligence was a proximate cause of all three of Plaintiffs' injuries. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that this Court will not disturb the trial justice's decisions denying the school district's motion for judgment as a matter of law and motion for a new trial. View "Dextraze v. Bernard" 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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In this negligence action arising from a slip and fall on an icy sidewalk the Supreme Court affirmed the final judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that the grant of summary judgment was proper.Plaintiff had a reservation at The Old Canteen restaurant. As she approached the restaurant on the public sidewalk she fell and sustained injuries due to the icy condition of the sidewalk in that area. Plaintiff brought this complaint alleging that Defendants - The Old Canteen, Inc. and Canteen Realty, LLC - had a duty to maintain the sidewalk area and its adjacent curbing in a safe and proper condition. Defendants moved for summary judgment arguing that they did not owe Plaintiff a duty with respect to the city sidewalk upon which she fell. The trial justice granted the motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was correctly granted in favor of Defendants. View "Lowney v. Canteen Realty, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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In this negligence action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendant, the Narragansett Electric Company, holding that a public utility generally owes no common law duty to individual third parties who are allegedly injured, at least in part, as a result of inoperable streetlights.George Lapriocina was walking across a street at an intersection when he was struck by a motor vehicle operated and owned by Defendants. Plaintiff commenced a negligence action alleging that the area where the accident occurred was not properly illuminated at the time of the incident, creating a dangerous condition to pedestrians. The trial justice ultimately concluded that Defendant did not owe a duty of care to George. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Narragansett did not owe a legal duty to George, a pedestrian, to maintain the streetlight at issue. View "Laprocina v. Lourie" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of the City of Warwick and the State and dismissing this negligence action for personal injuries, holding that the public duty doctrine precluded Plaintiff's claim against the State.Plaintiff was injured when his vehicle struck a pothole. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that summary judgment was improperly granted for the State because his claim was not barred by the public doctrine doctrine. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice properly found that Plaintiff's reliance on R.I. Gen. Laws 24-8-35 to establish liability was without merit; and (2) the State's failure to repair the pothole in this case was the type of discretionary governmental activity shielded from tort liability under the public duty doctrine. View "Georges v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court confirming an arbitration award in favor of Petitioner, holding that there was no error by the hearing justice in granting the motion to confirm and denying the motion to vacate the award.Respondent filed a negligence action against Petitioner after their automobiles collided. The parties submitted the matter to nonbinding arbitration, and the arbitrator concluded that Respondent failed to satisfy his burden of showing that Petitioner acted negligently. Respondent filed a motion to vacate the arbitration award, and Petitioner filed a separate petition to confirm the arbitration award. The hearing justice confirmed the award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Respondent failed to overcome his burden of defeated the presumption of validity to which an arbitration award was entitled. View "Wiggins v. Pianka" 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 in favor of Defendant in this defamation case, holding that the trial justice did not err by granting summary judgment as a matter of law.The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff on her slander claim. After the jury verdict was rendered, the trial justice granted Defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law and, in the alternative, granted Defendant's motions for a new trial and a remittitur. The trial court granted Defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to rule 50 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure, concluding that Plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence that Defendant made defamatory statements. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to prove that Defendant's statements were false or were made with actual malice. View "Fuoco v. Polisena" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury