Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Vermont Supreme Court
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Plaintiff Bradley Newton, who was injured when his brother’s truck broke apart while on a lift in plaintiff’s garage, appealed the civil division’s decision granting summary judgment to defendants associated with the state-designated inspection station where the truck had been inspected several months earlier. In the early autumn of 2014, defendant Ron Preseau performed an annual state inspection of a 1994 GMC pickup truck owned by defendant Douglas Newton, who is plaintiff Bradley Newton’s brother. In late January 2015, the truck broke down while being operated on a public highway. Shortly thereafter, Douglas put the inoperable pickup on a flatbed truck and took it to plaintiff’s detached garage. In 2010, plaintiff had purchased and installed a lift in his garage. After the plow was removed from the front of the pickup, Douglas put the pickup, which had at least 300 pounds of sand in its bed, on the lift. After diagnosing the problem, Douglas asked plaintiff to assess the damage. While plaintiff was under the truck, it collapsed into two pieces, and plaintiff was injured when one of the pieces pinned him to the floor of the garage. In July 2017, plaintiff filed a personal injury action, alleging in relevant part that defendant Preseau and others had acted negligently in connection with the inspection of the truck. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that any legal duty owed by motor vehicle inspectors to third persons did not extend to plaintiff under the circumstances of this case, which did not involve operation of the subject vehicle or any other vehicle at the time of the incident in question. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the civil division’s decision. View "Newton v. Preseau" on Justia Law

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Bernard Boudreau appealed the environmental division’s dismissal of his appeal of a Manchester Development Review Board (MDRB) decision for lack of jurisdiction. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that Boudreau’s appeal was a collateral attack on a zoning decision barred by the exclusivity-of-remedy provision in 24 V.S.A. 4472, and therefore affirmed. View "In re Hopkins Certificate of Compliance (Boudreau, Appellant)" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Fortieth Burlington, LLC filed suit to challenge the City of Burlington’s decision that there was a reasonable need to lay out a portion of roadway for part of a project known as the Champlain Parkway. The superior court granted the City summary judgment, concluding that Fortieth lacked standing under the relevant statute and general standing principles because Fortieth did not have a legal interest in any of the properties from which legal rights would be taken. On appeal, Fortieth argued it had standing to challenge the City’s necessity decision, that it did not receive proper notice of the necessity hearing, and that the City did not properly assess the necessity of the project. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Fortieth Burlington, LLC v. City of Burlington" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the Friends of Pine Street d/b/a Pine Street Coalition (Coalition), filed suit attempting to challenge the City of Burlington’s necessity order relating to the construction of the Champlain Parkway project. The superior court granted the City summary judgment on the basis that the Coalition lacked standing under both the relevant statute and general standing principles. On appeal, the Coalition argued it had standing to appeal the City’s necessity determination to the superior court, and that the City failed to satisfy the procedural and substantive requirements of the statute. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Friends of Pine Street d/b/a Pine Street Coalition v. City of Burlington" on Justia Law

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Subcontractor Construction Drilling, Inc. (CDI) appealed a trial court’s judgment on the merits in its breach-of-contract claim against Engineers Construction, Inc. (ECI). CDI contended the trial court erred in: (1) holding that the terms of the parties’ subcontract required CDI to request a change order before it billed ECI for “drilling in obstructions” in excess of CDI’s bid price; (2) denying CDI’s motions to reopen the evidence and for a new trial; and (3) awarding ECI $234,320 in attorneys’ fees under the Prompt Payment Act. ECI cross-appealed, arguing the trial court improperly allowed CDI’s owner to offer opinion testimony absent a finding of reliability under Vermont Rule of Evidence 702 and maintaining that his testimony could not have met this standard in any event. Therefore, should the Vermont Supreme Court reverse the trial court’s denial of CDI’s breach-of-contract claim, ECI asserted the matter had to be remanded for a new trial without such testimony. The Court affirmed the trial court, and therefore did not reach the issue raised in ECI’s cross-appeal. View "Construction Drilling, Inc. v. Engineers Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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Daughter A.W. was born in October 2013 and son A.W. was born in June 2017. In February 2019, father was charged with domestic assault for attempting to strangle daughter, who was five years old at the time. As a result, the Department for Children and Families (DCF) filed petitions alleging that daughter and son were children in need of care or supervision (CHINS). DCF had accepted five previous reports asserting both physical abuse of daughter and mother by father and concerns that son was not gaining weight or receiving medical care. The court granted emergency- and temporary-care orders transferring custody to DCF. Children were placed with their paternal grandparents. In March 2019, both parents stipulated that daughter and son were CHINS due to father’s physical abuse of daughter and statements indicating a risk of harm to son. In May 2019, the court entered a disposition order and adopted a case plan calling for reunification with one or both parents by November 2019. The Children appealed the ultimate decision to terminate their parents rights to them following voluntary relinquishments. The Children argued the family division court lacked the power to modify the disposition order terminating the parental rights because they did not consent to the termination, and the court did not hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether termination was in their best interests. To this, the Vermont Supreme Court concurred, reversed, and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re A.W. & A.W." on Justia Law

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Defendants Michael Touchette and Centurion Healthcare brought an interlocutory appeal of a trial court's certification of a class of plaintiffs in a Vermont Rule 75 action. The certified class was comprised of people in the custody of the Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC), each of whom suffered from opioid-use disorder, and alleged defendants’ medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program did not meet prevailing medical standards of care as required by Vermont law. Defendants, the former Commissioner of the DOC and its contract healthcare provider, argued the trial court erred both in finding that plaintiff Patrick Mullinnex exhausted his administrative remedies before filing suit, and in adopting the vicarious-exhaustion doctrine favored by several federal circuits in order to conclude that Mullinnex’s grievances satisfied the exhaustion requirement on behalf of the entire class. Defendants also contended the trial court’s decision to certify the class was made in error because plaintiffs did not meet Rule 23’s numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy-of- representation requirements. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court reversed, concluding that - even if the vicarious-exhaustion doctrine was appropriately applied in Vermont - it could not apply in this case because, on the record before the trial court, no member of the putative class succeeded in exhausting his administrative remedies. Because plaintiffs’ failure to exhaust left the courts without subject-matter jurisdiction, the Supreme Court did not reach defendants’ challenges to the merits of the class-certification decision. View "Mullinnex et al . v. Menard et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued for quiet title to prevent defendants from using a road that passed through her property to access defendants' adjacent property. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants, because the route at issue was a public highway established by the town in 1800 that was never discontinued. Finding no reversible error in the superior court's order, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Bartlett v. Roberts" on Justia Law

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The parties in this case disputed access to a segment of road that extended across defendant's property and onto plaintiff's property. The superior court determined plaintiffs had the right to use the road because it was a town highway that was never discontinued. Defendants argued the highway was discontinued by operation of Vermont's ancient-road law, went eh town did not include it on the town highway map by the time litigation had commenced. The Vermont Supreme Court found no reversible error in the superior court's order, and affirmed it. View "Doncaster v. Hane" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case before the Vermont Supreme Court was the meaning of “date of loss” for the purpose of an insurance policy’s condition that any action be commenced within one year after the “date of loss.” The trial court concluded that the insurance provision requiring that an action be brought “within one year after the date of loss” was ambiguous and had to be interpreted against insurer to mean that the one-year period began to run when insurer breached its obligations (i.e., at the time homeowner received final, allegedly insufficient, payment from insurer). The court accordingly denied insurer summary judgment and granted partial summary judgment to homeowner. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded the provision was unambiguous in requiring suit to be brought within one year of the date of the occurrence giving rise to coverage and reversed the partial summary judgment for homeowner. View "Brillman v. New England Guaranty Insurance Company, Inc." on Justia Law