Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of first-degree murder. The court held (1) even though Defendant’s trial commenced after the 180 days required by the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act (IAD), Defendant’s federal sentence’s expiration nullified any rights he had under the IAD, and the delay in bringing the case to trial was a result of Defendant’s own pretrial motions; (2) the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant’s motions to suppress the seizure of his cell phone and the records of that cell phone, as well as other evidence retrieved from his apartment; (3) Defendant’s argument that the trial justice erred in allowing the admission of statements he made while he was in the hospital was waived; and (4) the sentence imposed on Defendant was not unduly harsh or unwarranted. View "State v. Tejeda" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Brown University and the City of Providence. In count one of their complaint Plaintiffs sought a declaration that the university’s construction of an artificial turf field hockey field with attendant bleachers, electronic scoreboard, press box, and public-address system was an unlawful use under the Providence zoning ordinance. The superior court granted summary judgment to Defendants as to count one. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that the hearing justice erred in finding that Plaintiffs had no standing with respect to count one because, as abutting property owners, Plaintiffs clearly established an articulable injury in fact. View "Key v. Brown University" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from litigation beginning in 2000 between feuding neighbors who disputed several issues, including the details of an easement that resulted from a court-mandated land petition. In 2005, the Ballards filed an answer to SVF Foundation’s fifth amended complaint and also counterclaimed, alleging, inter alia, that SVF Foundation was interfering with the Ballards’ easement that ran across SVF’s property. The superior court granted summary judgment to SVF. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that the hearing justice erred when he applied law-of-the-case in his ruling on SVF’s motion for summary judgment. View "Hamilton v. Ballard" on Justia Law

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In 2000, Husband retained Attorney to draft an antenuptial agreement in anticipation of his marriage to Wife. In 2005, Wife filed for divorce. The petition was dismissed in a settlement that required the parties to execute a postnuptial agreement. Attorney drafted the agreement. In 2010, Wife again filed for divorce. Husband and Wife settled. In 2012, Husband filed suit against Attorney and his Law Firm (collectively, Defendants), alleging that Attorney negligently drafted the antenuptial and postnuptial agreements and negligently advised him. At issue in this appeal was a discovery order compelling production of any antenuptial or postnuptial agreements drafted or prepared by Attorney while he was employed at Law Firm. Defendants argued before the Supreme Court that the documents exceeded the scope of permissible discovery and were protected by the attorney-client privilege. The Supreme Court affirmed the discovery order, holding (1) the documents at issue were discoverable; and (2) Defendants did not have standing to assert the attorney-client privilege on behalf of their clients in this case, and the superior court protected the confidential interests contained in the documents by requiring redaction. View "DeCurtis v. Visconti, Boren & Campbell, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a resident of Florida, was a resident of Rhode Island at the time of the contract in dispute. Defendant was a resident of New York. Plaintiff entered into a contract in New York regarding Plaintiff’s employment to serve as captain of Defendant’s sailboat. After Plaintiff was terminated, Plaintiff filed suit in a Rhode Island court, alleging breach of contract. Defendant answered, averring that Rhode Island did not have personal jurisdiction over him. The case proceeded to trial, and the trial justice concluded that Rhode Island could not exercise personal jurisdiction over Defendant. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that Defendant forfeited his jurisdictional defense of lack of personal jurisdiction through unjustified delay and active participation in litigation proceedings. View "Pullar v. Cappelli" on Justia Law

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Kathryn Manning (Plaintiff), individually and as administratrix of the estate of Michael Manning (Manning) and on behalf of her four minor children, brought this negligence and wrongful death action against Dr. Peter Bellafiore after Manning suffered a fatal stroke. After a lengthy discovery period, the case proceeded to trial. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendant. The trial justice subsequently granted Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial, and the Supreme Court affirmed. Thereafter, the trial justice granted Plaintiff’s motion to sanction both Defendant and the law firm that represented him at trial, White & Kelly, P.C. (WCK) under Rule 11 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure for their failure to make pretrial disclosures. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the trial justice did not abuse his discretion in finding that Dr. Bellafiore engaged in sanctionable misconduct; (2) the trial justice abused his discretion when he sanctioned WCK because the justice did not make a finding that the attorneys at WCK acted in “bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for oppressive reasons”; and (3) the amount of sanctions imposed was based on an erroneous assessment of the evidence. View "Manning v. Bellafiore" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff claims that on April 30, 2011 he sustained personal injuries during a “melee” at defendants’ Providence nightclub. On April 18, 2014, he filed a complaint that erroneously stated that the incident occurred on November 4, 2010. On April 20, 2015, defendants moved to dismiss, based on the three-year statute of limitations. Defendants’ counsel certified that he mailed the motion and a memorandum of law to plaintiff’s counsel, in addition to filing via the recently-installed electronic filing system now required by the Superior Court Rules. The motion’s hearing occurred as scheduled, on June 16. Plaintiff did not appear. On June 23, plaintiff moved to vacate the dismissal, indicating that his counsel did not receive notice. On June 25, 2015, final judgment entered dismissing plaintiff’s claim and plaintiff moved to amend his complaint to correct the date. Plaintiff’s counsel argued excusable neglect and that there was no issue of notice because the police report issued in connection with the incident, of which defendants had a copy, contained the correct date. The court denied the motion to vacate, but did not rule on plaintiff’s motion to amend. The Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed, discerning no extenuating circumstances to excuse plaintiff’s failure to object to or to attend the hearing on defendants’ motion. View "Santos v. D. Laikos, Inc." on Justia Law

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Cashman sued, alleging Cardi provided defective cofferdams for construction of the Sakonnet River Bridge. Cofferdams are temporary watertight enclosures that are pumped dry to expose the bottom of a body of water so that construction can occur. During discovery, Cashman sought, and Cardi refused to produce, computer models and draft reports that had been “considered by” its testifying engineering expert to determine “certain stress and loads that are going to be placed on certain points on this cofferdam,” including models “that [the expert] created which [he] may not have relied on but certainly would’ve considered” and draft reports. Cardi argued that Rule 26(b)(4)(A) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure does not allow discovery of materials “considered by” an expert in forming an expert opinion. The hearing justice concluded that he did not have the authority to compel production of the material. The Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed, after considering interpretations of the corresponding Federal Rule. The state rule is “clear and unambiguous” and is confined to discovery through interrogatories or deposition. It does not provide for the disclosure of documents. View "Cashman Equip. Corp., Inc. v. Cardi Corp., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants alleging breach of fiduciary duty resulting from oppressive conduct, breach of fiduciary duty resulting from self-dealing, fraud in the inducement, and negligent misrepresentation. During trial, Plaintiff produced 155 pages of documents that had not been produced to Defendants during discovery. Defendants argued that they were denied a fair trial because the information contained in the documents would have permitted them to properly cross-examine Plaintiff. The district court dismissed the case with prejudice pursuant to Sup. Ct. R. Civ. P. 37(b) as a sanction for the mid-trial production of documents. The court subsequently denied Plaintiff’s motion to vacate the order of dismissal under Sup. Ct. R. Civ. P. 60(b). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not err in dismissing Plaintiff’s claim with prejudice pursuant to Rule 37; and (2) the trial justice did not abuse his discretion in denying Rule 60(b) relief. View "Joachim v. Straight Line Prods., LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with one count of possession of cocaine. Defendant moved to suppress physical evidence seized and statements made to the police, arguing that he was arrested without probable cause and that the subsequent search of his jacket was unconstitutional. The trial justice denied the motion, determining that police had probable cause to arrest Defendant. After a trial, the jury convicted Defendant of the charged offense. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of conviction, holding that Defendant’s arrest was not supported by probable cause, and therefore, his motion to suppress should have been granted. View "State v. Ray" on Justia Law