Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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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 the decree entered in the family court terminating Father's parental rights to his daughter, holding that there sufficient evidence to support the trial justice's finding that Father was unfit and that termination of his parental rights was in his daughter's best interest.After a hearing, the trial justice found that Father was unfit because his daughter had been in the legal custody or care of the Department of Children, Youth and Families for twelve months and Father failed to pursue the services offered him to correct the issues that led to the child's removal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court's findings were supported by the record and that there was no abuse of discretion in the proceedings below. View "In re Rachelle L-B." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting Defendant's motion to suppress the statements he made to police at the scene of an automobile collision, holding that the superior court did not abuse its discretion in granting the suppression motion.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the trial justice correctly determined that Defendant was in custody when he made incriminating statements to the law enforcement officer at the scene of the arrest and therefore correctly suppressed the statements Defendant made to the officers at the time; and (2) the state's second contention on appeal was not properly before the Court. View "State v. Corcoran" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the superior court granting declaratory judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, holding that the trial justice abused his discretion by granting Plaintiffs' request for declaratory judgment.These consolidated appeals arose from two civil actions in which the trial court granted summary judgment against the Town of Johnston and its finance director. The trial justice determined that certain accounts bearing the names of the respective plaintiffs constituted deferred compensation, declared the accounts to be Plaintiffs' property, and ordered that the associated funds be remitted to Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to establish as a factual matter that they had an agreement with the Town to defer compensation. View "Faella v. Town of Johnston" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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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 affirmed the judgment of the superior court reversing a decision of the Town of Richmond Zoning Board of Review that denied Plaintiff's application for a special-use permit to construct a solar energy system, holding that there was no error.On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the zoning board's decision was clearly erroneous arbitrary and capricious, and contrary to the law and the evidence. The superior court issued a decision in favor of Plaintiff, concluding that the zoning board decision was affected by an error of law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in finding that the zoning board decision was affected by error of law. View "Freepoint Solar LLC v. Richmond Zoning Board of Review" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court awarding Plaintiffs final judgment in the amount of $498,309, holding that the superior court erred in denying Plaintiffs' petition to compel purchase in fee.The Providence Public Buildings Authority acquired the development rights of sixty-seven acres of land owned by Plaintiffs. The trial justice denied Plaintiffs' petition for a petition to compel purchase, and the issue of damages proceeded to a jury-waived trial. After the court entered its judgment Plaintiffs appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the trial court erred in denying their petition to compel purchase in fee. The Supreme Court vacated the decision below, holding (1) Plaintiffs' petition to compel purchase in fee was timely filed and, therefore, the doctrine of laches did not apply; and (2) this case is remanded to the superior court with directions to enter an order compelling the taking in fee and for the valuation of a fee-simple interest in the land. View "Mitola v. Providence Public Buildings Authority" 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 Defendants' motion to dismiss all electronic, wire, or oral communications obtained through the use of wiretaps and any subsequently-obtained evidence in these consolidated cases, holding that the trial justice did not err.In granting Defendants' motion to suppress, the trial justice found that an associate justice of the superior court had no authority to issue the wiretap orders. The State appealed this ruling and argued, alternatively, that the trial justice erred in concluding that suppression of the evidence derived from the wiretap orders was warranted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court correctly concluded that the associate justice was not vested with the statutory authority to administer and sign the wiretap orders and, therefore, that those orders were in violation of R.I. Gen. Laws 12-5.1, the Interception of Wire and Oral Communications Act. View "State v. McGuire" on Justia Law