Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
Heneault v. Lantini
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
JHRW, LLC v. Seaport Studios, Inc.
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
Morse v. Minardi
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
Note Capital Group, Inc. v. Perretta
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
Bluedog Capital Partners, LLC v. Murphy
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
In re 25 Burnside Avenue, Narragansett, R.I.
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the order of the superior court authorizing a permanent receiver to distribute the proceeds from the sale of 25 Burnside Avenue in Narragansett in accordance with the receiver's recommendations, holding that the order is vacated to the extent that it deducted the entire balance of an outstanding mortgage from Kevin Hunt's share of the proceeds. The property in this case was owned by Kevin and Alice Hunt as tenants by the entirety. After the family court dissolved the Hunts' marriage, Bank scheduled a sale of the property to foreclose upon the mortgage. Alice filed a petition for receivership to protect her equity interests in the property, and the property was placed into temporary judicial receivership. The receiver eventually sold the property and filed a final report and a recommendation on allowance of claims. The superior court entered an order adopting the receiver's recommendations. The Supreme Court held that the superior court justice (1) did not err when he concluded that the net proceeds were to be distributed equally between Kevin and Alice; (2) erred when he attributed the mortgage wholly to Kevin; and (3) did not err by ordering Kevin to pay rent retroactively. View "In re 25 Burnside Avenue, Narragansett, R.I." on Justia Law
Silva v. Laverty
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants on Plaintiffs’ negligence and nuisance claims, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. In their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that an underground pipe emptied water from Defendants’ property onto a portion of Plaintiffs’ property in such a way that the flow of water from the pipe was actionable as a matter of both negligence and nuisance law. The trial justice entered a decision favorable to Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no clear error in the trial justice’s conclusion that Plaintiffs failed to prove that they suffered any harm. View "Silva v. Laverty" on Justia Law
Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC v. Providence Business Loan Fund, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff, holding that summary judgment was appropriate because the mortgage granted to Defendant was discharged by operation of the ancient mortgages statute, Mass. Gen. Laws 34-26-7, well before the commencement of foreclosure proceedings in 2017. On appeal, Defendant argued that it held a valid mortgage on the property on which Defendant commenced foreclosure proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court, holding that the hearing justice did not err in granting Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment because Defendant’s mortgage on the property was discharged by operation of the ancient mortgages statute before the foreclosure proceedings commenced. View "Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC v. Providence Business Loan Fund, Inc." on Justia Law
Sandy Point Farms, Inc. v. Sandy Point Village, LLC
The Supreme Court quashed the order of the superior court denying Plaintiff’s motion for a protective order concerning the deposition of Lawrence Rainey, holding that, pursuant to rule 26(b)(4)(B) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure, Defendants failed to demonstrate “exceptional circumstances” to depose Rainey, a nontestifying expert. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that Rainey was a nontestifying expert and therefore may not be deposed absent a showing of exceptional circumstances in accordance with Rule 26(b)(4)(B). The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) Rule 26(b)(4)(B) is applicable to the discovery issue here; (2) the hearing justice erred in failing properly to apply the Rule 26(b)(4)(B) standard in this case; and (3) Defendants failed to demonstrate “exceptional circumstances” as to why they wished to depose Rainey. View "Sandy Point Farms, Inc. v. Sandy Point Village, LLC" on Justia Law
Arnold v. Arnold
In this property dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Plaintiffs’ claims in whole and denying Defendants’ request for attorneys’ fees. When Defendants fenced the confines of an easement that was created by a settlement agreement and consent order entered by the superior court, Plaintiffs filed suit claiming that Defendants’ actions frustrated what they contended was the intended purpose of the consent order. The trial justice denied relief as to all of Plaintiffs’ claims. At a subsequent hearing, the trial justice denied Defendants an award of attorneys’ fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no abuse of discretion in the trial justice’s rulings. View "Arnold v. Arnold" on Justia Law