Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the superior court entered in favor of Defendants in two consolidated medical malpractice cases, holding that the hearing justice did not err in finding that Defendants owed no duty to Plaintiffs.The plaintiffs in the first case were the parents of Yendee, who was ultimately confirmed to possess Hemoglobin Constant Spring trait and two gene deletion alpha thalassemia trait. Plaintiffs filed suit individually and on behalf of Yendee, alleging that Defendants were negligent in failing to properly diagnose, test, treat, and care for Plaintiffs. After the case was returned to the superior court Yendee, having reached the age of majority, filed an individual complaint against various defendants. The hearing justice granted summary judgment for Defendants in both cases. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there is no duty owed to a child born with physical defects who alleges that, because of negligence, his parents either decided to conceive him in ignorance of the risk of impairment or were deprived of information that would have caused them to terminate the pregnancy. View "Ho-Rath v. Corning Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants on all eight counts set forth in Plaintiffs' third amended complaint, holding that the hearing justice correctly granted summary judgment with respect to all counts except count eight.Plaintiffs filed a complaint containing counts sounding in, inter alia, breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and tortious interference with contractual relations. The hearing justice granted summary judgment against Plaintiffs on all counts, commenting that Plaintiffs' complaint was an attempt to circumvent the Statute of Frauds. The Supreme Court vacated in part, holding (1) the hearing justice erred in granting summary judgment on count eight since there were issues of material fact that precluded summary judgment; and (2) the judgment was otherwise without error. View "Loffredo v. Shapiro" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decree of the appellate division of the workers' compensation court denying and dismissing Petitioner's petition for surviving-spouse compensation benefits and funeral expenses, holding that the going-and-coming rule did not preclude Petitioner's recovery.At issue was whether the exception to the going-and-coming rule as it was articulated in Branco v. Leviton Manufacturing Company, Inc., 518 A.2d 621 (R.I. 1986) precluded recovery of workers' compensation dependency benefits for the fatal injuries Petitioner's husband sustained while traveling from his employer's facility to a separate parking lot that was leased but not owned by the employer. The trial judge found that Petitioner's claim was not barred by the going-and-coming rule because the Branco exception applied. The appellate division vacated the decision below, finding that the going-and-coming rule barred Petitioner's claim. The Supreme Court quashed the decree below, holding that the Branco exception was applicable to the instant case. View "Phillips v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. of Rhode Island" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court in favor of the Treasurer for the City of Providence (the City) and dismissing Plaintiff's personal injury claim, holding that the trial justice erred in entering judgment in favor of the City.Plaintiff fell into a manhole that was covered with a loose pallet. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff and awarded him $87,500 in damages. The City filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law, arguing that the City was immune from liability pursuant to the public duty doctrine. The trial justice granted the motion for judgment as a matter of law. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below, holding that the trial justice erred in determining that the egregious conduct exception to the public duty doctrine did not apply because the judge usurped the jury's fact-finding function. View "Battaglia v. Lombardi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant, Belltower Acquisitions, LLC, in this personal injury case, holding that the superior court did not err when it granted summary judgment to Defendant.Plaintiff claimed that she fell on a sidewalk adjacent to a Rite Aid Pharmacy in a commercial condominium complex. Rite Aid leased the store from Belltower Acquisitions. Plaintiff sued both Rite Aid, doing business as PJC of Rhode Island, and Belltower Acquisitions but did not name the Belltower Condominium Plaza Association in her lawsuit. The hearing justice granted summary judgment to Belltower Acquisitions based on Plaintiff's failure to comply with R.I. Gen. Laws 34-36.1-3.01. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the superior court did not err when it concluded that the certificate requirement in section 34-36.1-3.01 is directory and granting summary judgment to Belltower Acquisitions. View "Rosa v. PJC of Rhode Island, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants, in their capacities as the state's general treasurer and the executive director of the Employees' Retirement System of the State of Rhode Island (collectively, ERSRI), holding that the trial court did not err.Plaintiff brought this action asserting a declaratory judgment claim and filing an administrative appeal challenging ERSRI's decision to implement an offset against disability benefits any amount paid or payable under the workers' compensation law and claiming estoppel to prevent recovery of more than $24,000 in overpayments. The trial justice granted partial summary judgment for ERSRI. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in upholding ERSRI's decision to offset workers' compensation benefits paid pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 28-33-45 against disability retirement benefits payable to a member of the state retirement system. View "Tiernan v. Magaziner" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals, the Supreme Court held that Rhode Island's civil death statute, R.I. Gen. Laws 13-61-1, is unconstitutional and in clear contravention of the provisions of R.I. Const. art. I, 5.Plaintiffs, Cody-Allen Zab and Jose R. Rivera, were two inmates serving sentences of life imprisonment. Plaintiff brought this action against Defendants, the Rhode Island Department of Corrections and its director and Global Tel*Link Corporation, asserting that while they were imprisoned they incurred injuries due to Defendants' negligence. The hearing justice concluded that the civil death statute barred Plaintiffs' negligence claims and that Zab's 42 U.S.C. 1983 federal claim failed as a matter of law. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the civil death statute unconstitutionally denied Plaintiffs the right to gain access to the courts. View "Zab v. R.I. Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's entry of partial final judgment in accordance with Sup. Ct. R. Civ. P. 54(b) and the dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction of Plaintiff's action under Sup. Ct. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2) as to certain defendants, holding that the hearing justice did not err.At issue was the superior court's authority to exercise jurisdiction over claims brought against foreign corporate defendants based on a fatal injury to a Rhode Island resident following an accident that occurred outside of Rhode Island. The corporate defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, which the hearing justice granted. Partial final judgment pursuant to Rule 54(b) was entered in favor of the corporate defendants. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the hearing justice (1) did not err in dismissing the claims against the corporate defendants based on a lack of personal jurisdiction; and (2) did not err in denying Plaintiff's request to conduct jurisdictional discovery. View "Martins v. Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC" on Justia Law

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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