Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court

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In this property dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Plaintiffs’ claims in whole and denying Defendants’ request for attorneys’ fees. When Defendants fenced the confines of an easement that was created by a settlement agreement and consent order entered by the superior court, Plaintiffs filed suit claiming that Defendants’ actions frustrated what they contended was the intended purpose of the consent order. The trial justice denied relief as to all of Plaintiffs’ claims. At a subsequent hearing, the trial justice denied Defendants an award of attorneys’ fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no abuse of discretion in the trial justice’s rulings. View "Arnold v. Arnold" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying the motion brought by Plaintiff, SMS Financial XXV, LLC, for summary judgment and granting the cross-motion for summary judgment brought by Defendants, David Corsetti and 385 South Main Street, LLC, on Plaintiff’s suit alleging that Defendants breached the terms of a promissory note. In the cross-motion for summary judgment, Defendants asserted that Plaintiff was unable to enforce or collect upon the note because the note had been lost. The hearing justice granted Defendants’ cross-motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under the plain language of R.I. Gen. Laws 6A-3-309(a) Plaintiff was not entitled to enforce the note because the note was in the possession of the original holder of the note when it was lost, not Plaintiff, to whom the original holder assigned its interest; and (2) pursuant to the statute, Plaintiff was not entitled to enforce the note’s provision mandating that Defendants issue a replacement note. View "SMS Financial XXV, LLC v. Corsetti" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over a strip of real property in the Town of Coventry the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the hearing justice issuing declaratory judgment in Plaintiffs’ favor after having granted Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, holding that the hearing justice did not err in the proceedings below. The Town argued that the real property had been dedicated to the Town as a public street in 1946. The hearing justice determined that, even assuming for the sake of deciding that there had been a dedication, there was nothing to support the Town’s position that the dedication was accepted either by public use or by official action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because the Town explicitly conceded that there had been no acceptance of the purported offer of dedication of the strip of land, the hearing justice did not err in granting summary judgment for Plaintiffs on that basis; and (2) there was no completed dedication of the strip of property because the Town failed to accept the purported offer of dedication within a reasonable period of time and thereby forfeited its right to accept that purported offer. View "Ucci v. Town of Coventry" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs on count one of Plaintiffs’ complaint sounding in adverse possession, holding that granting summary judgment in light of obvious disputed material facts was erroneous. Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint requesting that they be adjudged the rightful owners of certain property by virtue of adverse possession and seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. Defendants filed a counterclaim seeking to quiet title with respect to the disputed areas. A hearing justice granted Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment solely as to the adverse possession count. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that there were genuine issues of material fact as to the boundaries of the disputed areas that were not capable of resolution under Rule 56 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure. View "Coscina v. DiPetrillo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs in this declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that an amendment to a declaration creating a condominium complex adopted by Defendant was invalid. Defendant owned nine of the thirteen condominium units in the condominium complex and was therefore the majority owner. Plaintiffs owned the remaining four units. The original declaration expressly prohibited a restaurant use. Defendant, however, unilaterally adopted and recorded a “second amendment” to the declaration that expressly included “restaurant use” as a new permitted use relative to the units owned by Defendant. Plaintiffs brought this action arguing that, to be valid, the adoption of the second amendment required unanimous consent of all the owners pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 34-36.1-2.17(d). The hearing justice agreed and granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that for the amendment to be valid, unanimous approval of all unit owners was required pursuant to section 34-36.1-2.17(d). View "Epic Enterprises LLC v. Bard Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether Plaintiff was entitled to relief under Rule 60(b)(6) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure from an order directing him to remove a garage from his property. In 2014, the superior court ordered Plaintiff to remove a garage he built on his property that violated the setback requirements set forth in the Town of Tiverton’s zoning ordinance. Thereafter, the Town removed the garage from Plaintiff’s property and placed a lien on the property for $69,300 in fines imposed by a 2015 contempt order. In 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion to vacate the 2014 order. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because the superior court possessed subject matter jurisdiction to order Plaintiff to remove his garage, and because the granting of the 2014 order did not violate due process, the order was not void; but (2) the unique circumstances of this case and its procedural flaws presented a manifest injustice justifying relief from the operation of the order under Rule 60(b)(6). View "McLaughlin v. Zoning Board of Review of the Town of Tiverton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal brought by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the State, holding that an appeal from a final judgment of the superior court brought under R.I. Gen. Laws 42-17-.1-2(21) must proceed by way of a petition for a writ of certiorari. The DEM commenced this action against Defendants seeking injunctive relief to enforce a compliance order that Defendants remediate certain property. The DEM also sought enforcement of is administrative penalty, arguing that its authority to do so arose from section 42-17-.1-2(21). DEM subsequently released Defendants from the remediation requirement but continued to seek enforcement of the administrative penalty. The trial justice concluded that DEM could not enforce an administrative penalty in the context of an action for injunctive relief. The DEM filed a notice of appeal. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the appeal was not properly before the Court. View "Coit v. Coccoli" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Santander Bank, N.A. in this complaint challenging Santander’s foreclosure of Plaintiff’s property. In her complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Santander had failed to comply with the statutory notice requirements before it conducted the foreclosure sale. A justice of the superior court granted Santander’s motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was appropriate because there was no genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether Santander complied with the notice requirements of R.I. Gen. Laws 34-27-4(a) and 34-27-4)b. View "Adams v. Santander Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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At issue was whether Plaintiffs, a group of taxpayers in the Town of Portsmouth, were required to base their tax appeals on the fair market value of their properties as of December 31 in the year of the last update or revaluation. The value of Plaintiffs’ properties decreased in 2008 and 2009. The trial justice found that Plaintiffs could challenge the Portsmouth tax assessor’s (Defendant) tax assessments for tax years 2009 and 2010 using the fair market values of their properties as of December 31, 2008 and December 31, 2009, respectively, thus concluding that Plaintiffs were not confined to December 31, 2007 valuations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs were authorized under chapter 5 of title 44 of the Rhode Island General Laws to challenge Defendant’s assessments for tax years 2009 and 2010 by employing the fair market values of their properties as of December 31, 2008 and December 31, 2009, respectively. View "Balmuth v. Dolce" on Justia Law

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In this protracted litigation between Carol and A.L. Ballard and SVF Foundation and the Foundation’s predecessor owner regarding certain property, the Supreme Court affirmed summary judgments and an order of dismissal entered by the superior court on the eve of trial. The Court held that, contrary to the Ballards’ contentions on appeal, the superior court properly entered judgments on claims concerning the property sewer system and a driveway easement, properly dismissed an accounting claim based on an in-court conference, and did not err in denying the Ballards’ motion for sanctions pursuant to Rule 11 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure against the attorney for the Foundation. View "Ballard v. SVF Foundation" on Justia Law