Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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In this property dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendant, holding that the trial justice did not misconceive or misconstrue the evidence at trial or err as a matter of law in concluding that Plaintiffs had not satisfied the elements for claiming the disputed property by adverse possession. In 2009, when Plaintiffs purchased their property in Buttonwoods, the believed they had also purchased the waterfront lot across the street from their home. Two years later, Plaintiffs commissioned a property survey showing that part of the land described in their deed was also included in an eighty-foot-wide public way owned by the Buttonwoods Beach Association (BBA). Plaintiffs brought this lawsuit alleging that they owned the property by adverse possession and acquiescence. The superior court entered judgment for the BBA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not err in concluding that Plaintiffs had not demonstrated ownership of the entire waterfront lot by adverse possession. View "Clark v. Buttonwoods Beach Ass'n" on Justia Law

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In this property dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the superior court granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment based on the ground of prosecutorial immunity, holding that the hearing justice erred in applying prosecutorial immunity to the Building and Zoning Official for the Town of Cumberland (Building Official Hall) and the Town of Cumberland (Town). Plaintiffs sued the Solicitor for the Town of Cumberland (Solicitor Hefner), Building Official Hall, and the Town, claiming negligence, private nuisance, trespass, intentional infliction of emotional distress and seeking declaratory judgment and injunctive relief after Plaintiffs' neighbor prevailed on an action against the Town regarding its agreement with the Town regarding a retaining wall abutting Plaintiffs' property. The hearing justice granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court vacated the decision in part, holding (1) Solicitor Hefner was entitled to prosecutorial immunity; (2) Building Official Hall failed to meet his burden of proof as to prosecutorial immunity; and (3) because this Court is vacating the superior court's decision with respect to Building Official Hall, the summary judgment decision with respect to the Town is also vacated. View "Diorio v. Hines Road, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Defendants seeking a declaratory judgment concerning the propriety of the foreclosure of Plaintiff's property, holding that the superior court did not err. Plaintiff named as defendants Residential Credit Solutions, Inc.; FV REO I, LLC; Franklin Venture, LLC; and DLJ Mortgage Capital, Inc. As part of her complaint, Plaintiff sought to quiet title concerning the property at issue and an award of punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and costs. The hearing justice dismissed Plaintiff's complaint for failure to serve all indispensable parties. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's failure to meaningfully discuss the issues raised on appeal was fatal to Plaintiff's appeal. View "Osifodurin v. Residential Credit Solutions, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the superior court foreclosing Crown Realty LLC's right of redemption to real property that was the subject of a 2017 tax sale, holding that that the superior court justice properly entered a decree forever barring Crown Realty's right of redemption. Crown Realty was the owner of real property that was sold to Plaintiff at a tax sale conducted by the Town of North Providence. Plaintiff failed a petition to foreclose the right of redemption, citing a failure to any interested party to redeem the property. The justice determined that Crown Realty's right of redemption was barred. One week later, a final decree was entered foreclosing the right of Crown Realty to redeem the property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Crown Realty's request that an exception to Conley v. Fontaine, 138 A.3d 756 (R.I. 2016), be applied in this case was misplaced; and (2) no implied-in-fact contract existed between the parties. View "Conley v. Crown Realty, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's action claiming violation of restrictive covenants and breach of the duty of quiet enjoyment arising out of Defendants' alleged wrongful construction of a multi-story structure on their property, holding that summary judgment was properly granted. Defendants failed to get approval prior to building, as required under the plain language of the restrictive covenant at issue. However, Defendants ultimately received the required approval. The requirements were not building requirements but, rather, the requirement to submit plans for approval prior to building. The Supreme Court held that because the requested relief for Defendants' breach of the restrictive covenants would lead to a futile result, the hearing justice did not err in granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment. View "Pollak v. 217 Indian Avenue, LLC" on Justia Law

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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 order of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff as to Plaintiff's claim seeking injunctive relief for Defendants' alleged trespass and permanently enjoining Defendant and its officers, customers, and employees from parking in parking spaces owned by Plaintiff, holding that the hearing justice did not err in granting summary judgment on this claim. This case centered around a dispute over parking spaces in the Watch Hill section of Westerly. In an earlier case, Defendants sued Plaintiff regarding the parking spaces. Plaintiff later brought this action. After a hearing justice granted summary judgment on its injunctive relief claim, Defendants appealed, arguing that the trial justice erred by failing to order that the dispute be arbitrated and granting Plaintiff injunctive relief based on res judicata and collateral estoppel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendants waived their right to arbitration of the injunctive relief claim; and (2) there existed identity of issues between the first action and the current dispute. View "JHRW, LLC v. Seaport Studios, Inc." on Justia Law

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In these actions challenging the assessment of alleged illegal real estate taxes on several properties and property owners, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants in the declaratory judgment action and denied and dismissed the appeal in the tax appeal action, holding that the Plaintiff did not have standing in either action. Defendants were various officials of the Town of Barrington, Rhode Island; Sweetbriar, LP; and East Bay Community Development Corporation. Plaintiff was the owner of property located in Barrington. Plaintiff filed a complaint appealing the assessment of his property (tax appeal action) and filed a separate declaratory judgment action. In essence, Plaintiff argued that he was forced to pay a higher amount on his taxes because of Sweetbriar's favorable tax treatment under R.I. Gen. Laws 44-5-12 and 44-5-13.11. The hearing justice ruled that Plaintiff lacked standing to bring either action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff lacked standing to bring the declaratory judgment action; and (2) the hearing justice did not err in determining that Plaintiff lacked standing to challenge Barrington's application of section 44-5-12 and 44-5-13.11 to the Sweetbriar development, along with another project. View "Morse v. Minardi" on Justia Law

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In this foreclosure action, the Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court granting partial summary judgment in favor of Note Capital Group, Inc. and against Michele Perretta and Anna Perretta, holding that the Perrettas raised a genuine issue of material fact that precluded the grant of summary judgment. Specifically, the Court held (1) this appeal from the superior court’s interlocutory order was appropriate because the grant of partial summary judgment had an element of finality allowing Note Capital to foreclose on the Perrettas’ property; (2) the Perrettas lacked standing to challenge the validity of the assignment of the note and mortgage from American Residential Equities to GMAC Mortgage, LLC; but (3) the Perrettas raised a genuine issue of material fact regarding the validity of the note. View "Note Capital Group, Inc. v. Perretta" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss this action challenging the assessment of alleged illegal taxes, holding that the hearing justice did not err in granting Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Superior court Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff, Bluedog Capital Partners, LLC, filed this action against the tax collector, the tax assessor, and the finance director for the City of Providence, alleging that Defendants had illegal assessed a parcel of property in Providence and seeking injunctive relief against the sale of the parcel pursuant to a tax sale. The hearing justice granted Defendants' motion to dismiss, concluding that the suit would need to sound in equity and was therefore time-barred and that there was nothing to enjoin because the property had already been sold. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Plaintiff failed to comply with the taxing statutes, its complaint failed as a matter of law, and even assuming for purposes of Defendants' motion to dismiss that Plaintiff had alleged an illegal tax, Plaintiff's complaint was untimely under the statute of limitations in R.I. Gen. Laws 44-5-27. View "Bluedog Capital Partners, LLC v. Murphy" on Justia Law