Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court
Voccola v. Stop & Shop Supermarket Co.
The Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant and the third-party defendant (collectively, Defendants) on Plaintiff's complaint alleging negligence for her injuries and the third-party complaint seeking to defend, indemnify, and hold the third-party defendant harmless for claims arising out of the third-party defendant's duty under Defendants' snow services agreement, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed precluding summary judgment. Specifically at issue before the trial justice was whether there were genuine issues of material fact as to the dangerous condition that caused Plaintiff's fall that would preclude summary judgment. The trial justice weighed the evidence before her at least twice during the summary judgment hearing. The Supreme Court vacated the superior court's judgments, holding that the trial justice improperly weighed the evidence before her at the summary judgment hearing. View "Voccola v. Stop & Shop Supermarket Co." on Justia Law
Estate of Brian Chen v. Ye
The Supreme Court quashed the order of the superior court that quashed the oral deposition of M.Y., the minor daughter of Defendants, holding that the hearing justice erred when he quashed M.Y.'s oral deposition and required Plaintiffs to depose M.Y. via written questions "in accord with the rules of civil procedure." In this tort action, the hearing justice prohibited M.Y.'s oral deposition in order to limit any potential harm to M.Y., a minor child who suffered from generalized anxiety. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the hearing justice should have allowed the oral deposition to continue under reasonable restrictions while still preserving Plaintiffs' right to relevant discovery. The Supreme Court held that where the evidence of potential harm to M.Y. was speculative and conclusory, Defendants failed to overcome their burden to demonstrate good cause as required by Rule 26(c) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court remanded the case so that Plaintiffs may conduct an oral deposition of M.Y. and noted that the hearing justice may impose reasonable restrictions on the oral deposition. View "Estate of Brian Chen v. Ye" on Justia Law
Bacon Construction Co. v. Arbella Protection Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Insurer and Plaintiff's claims alleging that Insurer was contractually obligated to provide insurance coverage to Plaintiff, which was listed as an additional issued on the relevant insurance policy, holding that Insurer had no duty to defend Plaintiff. Plaintiff, the general contractor for a construction project, subcontracted with Insured for structural work on the project. Insured purchased a commercial general liability insurance policy from Insurer, which named Plaintiff as an additional insured. The policy provided for defense and indemnification costs to Insured for its work on the project. Insured's employee (Employee), who sustained injuries while working on the construction project site, filed a complaint against Plaintiff, alleging that Plaintiff's negligent acts were the proximate cause of his injuries. Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that Insurer was contractually obligated to indemnify and defend Plaintiff as an additional insured relative to the Employee action. The superior court justice granted summary judgment for Insurer. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Employee's complaint was devoid of any allegations that brought the underlying case within the coverage of the policy, and therefore, Insurer had no duty to defend Plaintiff. View "Bacon Construction Co. v. Arbella Protection Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Puerini v. LaPierre
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court ruling that federal law preempted state statutes authorizing vicarious liability of a car owner for the negligent acts of the driver, holding that the federal Graves Amendment, 49 U.S.C. 30106, preempts this state's laws allowing a party injured in a motor vehicle accident to recover from the title owner of a vehicle through the owner's vicarious liability for the negligence of the driver. Plaintiff was operating his motorcycle when an automobile turned in front of him, resulting in a collision and multiple serious injuries to Plaintiff. Plaintiff named as a defendant the owner of the car - the corporate entity to which the car lease had been assigned - alleging vicarious liability for the negligent acts of the driver. The hearing justice granted summary judgment for the owner. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Grave Amendment preempts any state statute imposing vicarious liability on the title owner of the vehicle the driver in question was driving when the collision occurred. View "Puerini v. LaPierre" on Justia Law
Trinidad v. Employees’ Retirement System of Providence
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Retirement Board of the Employee Retirement System of Providence (the Board) denying Petitioner's application for accidental disability retirement benefits and instead awarding her ordinary disability benefits, holding that there was legally competent evidence supporting the Board's decision to deny Petitioner accidental disability retirement benefits. Petitioner, who served as a bus monitor for the City of Providence, submitted an application for accidental-disability retirement benefits to Respondent, the Employees' Retirement System of Providence, alleging that she had suffered a work-related injury. The Board denied Petitioner's application and instead granted Petitioner ordinary disability benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Board based its decision on legally competent evidence that Petitioner's employment was not the natural and proximate cause of her disability. View "Trinidad v. Employees' Retirement System of Providence" on Justia Law
Posted in: Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law, Personal Injury, Rhode Island Supreme Court
Mello v. Killeavy
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant in this negligence action, holding that summary judgment was appropriately granted in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff's negligence claim. Plaintiff and Defendant were fellow employees. Defendant injured Plaintiff when he ignited gasoline in a bathroom Plaintiff was occupying and the gasoline burst into flames. Plaintiff filed a negligence complaint against Defendant. The superior court granted summary judgment for Defendant based on the exclusivity provision of the Workers' Compensation Act, R.I. Gen. Laws 28-29-20. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) R.I. Gen. Laws 28-35-58 did not enable Plaintiff to maintain a suit against Defendant even though Plaintiff accepted and received workers' compensation benefits from his employer; and (2) absent disputed issues of material fact in this case, summary judgment was properly granted in favor of Defendant. View "Mello v. Killeavy" on Justia Law
Oliver v. Narragansett Bay Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant, NAMCO, LLC, the company that sold the swimming pool in which a four-year-old child drowned to the child's grandmother, holding that there existed issues of material fact precluding summary judgment. Plaintiffs filed negligence claims alleging that Defendants negligently installed or allowed the safety ladder and pool to be installed without proper permitting and in violation of applicable ordinances, building codes and health regulations. NAMCO filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that because NAMCO did not install the pool or ladder and because the entity that did the installation was not its agent, NAMCO had no duty to Plaintiffs regarding the installation of the pool. Further, NAMCO argued that Plaintiffs could not prove that its actions were the proximate cause of the child's death. The hearing justice granted summary judgment for NAMCO. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a factual issue remained in dispute as to whether the installer acted as NAMCO's agent; and (2) the issue of whether NAMCO had a duty to vet the installers it recommended could not be resolved on summary judgment. View "Oliver v. Narragansett Bay Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Powers v. Warwick Public Schools
The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the appellate division of the Workers' Compensation Court (WCC) dismissing Petitioner's appeal from the decision of the trial judge finding that work-sharing benefits were properly not included in Petitioner's average weekly wage for workers' compensation benefits, holding that work-sharing benefits received pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 28-44-69 may not be taken into account when determining the average weekly wage to be used in calculating workers' compensation benefits pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 28-33-20. Petitioner was injured during the course of his employment and was unable to work for two months. At the time of the injury, Petitioner received work-sharing benefits from the state under an approved work-sharing program pursuant to section 28-44-69, in addition to receiving remuneration. Petitioner applied for workers' compensation benefits, but Petitioner's "average weekly wage" calculation did not take into account the work-sharing benefits Petitioner had been receiving. Petitioner filed a "claim for a trial" to challenge the calculation of his average weekly wage. The trial judge concluded that Petitioner's work-sharing benefits were properly not included in his average weekly wage. The appellate division of the WCC affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that work-sharing benefits are not included as part of the term "wages" in section 28-33-20. View "Powers v. Warwick Public Schools" on Justia Law
Christy’s Auto Rentals, Inc. v. Massachusetts Homeland Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the determination of the hearing justice that Plaintiff, Christy's Auto Rentals, Inc., lacked standing to bring this declaratory judgment action against Christian Lanoie and his insurer, Massachusetts Homeland Insurance Company (Homeland), holding that the hearing justice correctly ruled that Homeland did not waive the standing defense and that Christy's lacked standing to pursue this declaratory judgment action. In this action against Homeland, Christy's sought a ruling that the damages Lanoie caused to its rental vehicle and a trailer owned by a third party were covered under Lanoie's policy with Homeland. The hearing justice granted summary judgment for Homeland because Christy's had not secured a judgment against Lanoie. The hearing justice went on to opine that Lanoie's insurance policy with Homeland did not provide coverage for the collision giving rise to the underlying dispute and that such coverage was not statutorily mandated. The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling with respect to Christy's lack of standing, holding that Christy's asserted injury was conjectural and hypothetical unless and until there was and unsatisfied final judgment in Christy's tort action against Lanoie. View "Christy's Auto Rentals, Inc. v. Massachusetts Homeland Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Letizio v. Ritacco
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court denying Plaintiffs' motion for a new trial after a jury found in favor of Defendants in this negligence action, holding that the motion was properly denied. Plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging negligence against Defendants seeking damages for injuries Plaintiff sustained when she slipped on some ice on pavement on Defendants' property. Plaintiffs also sought punitive damages, alleging that Defendants' conduct was reckless and willful. The punitive damages claim was dismissed after Plaintiffs rested their case. After deliberating, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of Defendants. Plaintiffs moved for a new trial, arguing that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence and failed to do substantial justice between the parties. The trial justice denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not overlook or misconceive material and relevant evidence and was not otherwise clearly wrong in denying Plaintiffs' motion for a new trial. View "Letizio v. Ritacco" on Justia Law