Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court
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In this slip-and-fall case, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants, holding that the trial justice properly granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. Plaintiff sustained injuries when she tripped over a speed bump in the parking lot of a Walgreens Pharmacy. Plaintiff sued Walgreens and the landlords of the property, alleging negligence, premises liability, and vicarious liability. The trial justice granted judgment judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to produce competent evidence to establish that the speed bump presented an unreasonable danger or that it was negligently constructed and maintained. View "Yanku v. Walgreen Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and quashed in part the final decree of the Workers' Compensation Court (WCC) upholding an award of accidental disability benefits for occupational cancer to Petitioner, holding that the WCC had jurisdiction to hear Petitioner's appeal but erred in finding that R.I. Gen. Laws 45-19.1-1 contains a conclusive presumption that all cancer in firefighters is occupational cancer. Petitioner served as a firefighter for the City of Cranston until he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Petitioner applied for accidental disability benefit based upon his cancer diagnosis. The Retirement Board of the Municipal Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island denied the application, finding that Petitioner did not prove that his cancer arose out of and in the course of his employment as a firefighter. The WCC then filed his petition arguing that, pursuant to chapter 19.1 of title 45, all cancers contracted by firefighters are presumed to be work-related. The trial judge agreed and reversed the board. The Supreme Court quashed the decree in part, holding that chapter 19.1 of title 45 does not contain any presumption that all cancers in firefighters are occupational cancers. View "Lang v. Municipal Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against Child and Family Services of Newport County (CFS) alleging defamation, constructive termination, discrimination, and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, holding that the hearing justice properly dismissed Plaintiff's claims. Specifically, the Court held (1) where the complaint did not allege that CFS made any false statements about Defendant, Plaintiff did not sufficiently allege a claim for defamation; (2) Plaintiff did not properly plead a claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; (3) the complaint did not include sufficient facts to allege a prima facie case of either employment discrimination or a civil rights violation; and (4) the hearing justice did not err in dismissing the amended complaint with prejudice. View "Ferreira v. Child and Family Services of Rhode Island" on Justia Law

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In this case stemming from an incident that allegedly took place while Plaintiff was held in pretrial detention at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants following entry of an order that denied Plaintiff's motion to file a second amended complaint, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error. In his complaint, Plaintiff, who was serving consecutive sentences of life imprisonment, alleged that he was attacked by a fellow inmate and that the attack was made possible by a correctional officer. Plaintiff sued ACI, the state, and various John Does, alleging negligence for failing properly to protect him. The trial justice granted Defendants' motion to dismiss based on Rhode Island's civil death statute, R.I. Gen. Laws 13-6-1. Thereafter, the trial justice denied Plaintiff's motion to file a second amended complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice properly denied Plaintiff's motion to amend; and (2) Plaintiff's arguments that the civil death statute is unconstitutional on various grounds were barred by the "raise-or-waive" rule and procedural law. View "Gallop v. Adult Correctional Institutions" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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