Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court

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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 vacated the September 20, 2016 judgment of the superior court entering judgment against Family Dollar Stores of Rhode Island, Inc. and affirmed the November 9, 2016 order of the superior court granting Family Dollar's emergency motion for a thirty-day extension of time within which to file its notice of appeal, holding that the hearing justice erred in dismissing Family Dollar's declaratory judgment action. Family Dollar filed this action against Justin B. Araujo seeking a declaratory judgment that the parties had entered into an enforceable settlement agreement releasing Family Dollar from claims that Araujo asserted against it in his charge before the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights and also alleging breach of contract. The Commission was added as an additional party to the case. The hearing justice granted Defendants' motions to dismiss on the basis that the proper forum for this action was before the Commission. Family Dollar later filed an emergency motion for a thirty-day time extension, which the hearing justice granted. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the hearing justice did not abuse his discretion in finding excusable neglect in this case; and (2) Family Dollar's declaratory judgment action may proceed in superior court on remand. View "Family Dollar Stores of Rhode Island, Inc. v. Araujo" on Justia Law

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the superior court granting the City of Pawtucket’s motion to dismiss Appellant’s motion to vacate an arbitration award issued in connection with the termination of Appellant’s employment as a firefighter with the City and denying Appellant’s motion to substitute a union as the proper plaintiff, holding that the superior court committed no error. After the City terminated Appellant’s employment, the Union filed a grievance against the City challenging the termination. The matter proceeded to arbitration, and the arbitrator rendered a decision finding in favor of the City. Appellant timely filed a motion in the superior court seeking to vacate the arbitration award and moved to amend his pleading to substitute the Union as a proper party. The hearing justice denied Appellant’s motion to substitute and granted the City’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant had no individual standing to bring a motion to vacate the arbitrator’s award; and (2) the hearing justice acted within her discretion in denying Appellant’s motion to amend. View "Gannon v. City of Pawtucket" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court entering judgment in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff’s claim that Defendant terminated her employment in violation of the Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA), holding that Plaintiff complied with the statutory requirements for commencing a FEPA violation action in superior court. Defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint on the basis that, as to the FEPA claim, Plaintiff had not properly and timely requested a right-to-sue letter from the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights as required by R.I. Gen. Laws 28-5-24.1. The Commission intervened. The hearing justice granted Defendant’s and the Commission’s motions to dismiss, concluding that Plaintiff had not timely requested a right-to-sue letter. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below, holding that, based on the circumstances of this case, Plaintiff complied with the requirements of section 28-5-24.1 for bringing this FEPA action. View "Mokwenyei v. Rhode Island Hospital" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff’s complaint alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, loss of consortium, and invasion of privacy. Plaintiff’s claims stemmed from an incident in which one of the defendants allegedly berated Plaintiff, a Providence Fire Department employee, for allowing one of his dispatchers to be sprawled in his chair while on duty. Plaintiff was later transferred and demoted. Plaintiff filed two grievances against the City, alleging breach of the applicable collective bargaining agreement. The grievances were settled at arbitration for a monetary payment. After Plaintiff retired, he filed this complaint against the City and some of its officers. The hearing justice granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on all counts of Plaintiff’s complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to allege any conduct by the City that was extreme or outrageous. View "Gross v. Pare" on Justia Law

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The arbitrator in this case did not manifestly disregard the law or the provisions of the employment agreement at issue when he awarded Defendant extended severance payments based on his finding that Defendant had been the subject of a “de facto termination.” Defendant, the former vice president and chief financial officer of CharterCAREHealth Partners (Plaintiff), invoked the “de facto termination” provision of the parties' employment agreement and requested extended severance, contending that he had suffered a material reduction in his duties and authorities as a result of change in “effective control.” Defendant’s request was denied based on the assessment that he had suffered no material reduction in duties. Defendant filed a demand for arbitration seeking to be awarded extended severance benefits pursuant to the de facto termination provision of the employment agreement. The arbitrator determined that Defendant was entitled to the eighteen-month severance proscribed in the agreement’s de facto termination clause. Plaintiff filed a petition to vacate the arbitration award. The superior court denied the motion to vacate and granted Defendant’ motion to confirm the arbitration award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was nothing in the record to support Plaintiff’s contention that the arbitrator exceeded his powers or manifestly disregarded the law or the contract. View "Prospect CharterCARE, LLC v. Conklin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the superior court granting a motion to dismiss brought by Defendants in this case alleging that Defendants, including ESS Group, Inc., violated the Rhode Island Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, R.I. Gen. Laws chapter 50 of title 28 (WPA), and the Rhode Island Business Corporation Act (BCA), R.I. Gen. Laws chapter 7-1.2. The hearing justice determined that Plaintiff’s complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and dismissed the action. Specifically, the hearing justice found (1) Defendants’ conduct did not violate the BCA because Rhode Island has no authority to regulate the internal affairs of a foreign corporation, such as ESS, and the provisions that Defendants allegedly violated did not apply because the provisions use the term “corporation,” not “foreign corporation”; and (2) Plaintiff failed to assert a WPA claim premised on Defendants’ alleged BCA violations because ESS was not subject to the BCA. The Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiff was not entitled to relief under the BCA count; but (2) Plaintiff’s complaint sufficiently pled a WPA claim. View "Rein v. ESS Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court granting a motion brought by Defendant, the State Public Defender’s Office, for judgment on the pleadings regarding Plaintiff’s employment discrimination claims. Plaintiff in this case filed two complaints. In Nugent I, Plaintiff appealed an arbitration decision concluding that the Public Defender’s Office acted wth just cause when it terminated Plaintiff’s employment. Judgment entered in favor of Defendant on the basis that Plaintiff lacked standing to challenge the arbitration decision in court. In Nugent II, Plaintiff alleged unlawful employment discrimination. Defendant moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that res judicata barred Plaintiff’s discrimination claims. The hearing justice granted the motion, and final judgment entered in favor of Defendant on all claims. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment in Nugent II, holding that Nugent I was not a final judgment for purposes of res judicata because the consideration of Nugent’s standing did not reach the merits of Nugent I, and therefore, Plaintiff was not barred from seeking redress for her discrimination claims raised in Nugent II. View "Nugent v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court vacating an arbitration award that reinstated Michael Crenshaw to his position as a campus police officer for the Community College of Rhode Island. Crenshaw was allowed to continue in his employment for almost a year without completing the statutorily required police training academy or receiving a waiver from having to do so. When, eventually, Crenshaw’s application for a waiver was not approved, the college terminated his employment. CCRI Educational Support Professional Association/NEARI (the union) brought this grievance. The college denied the grievance, and arbitration ensued. The arbitrator ordered that Crenshaw be reinstated to his position and compensated for lost time. The superior court granted the college’s petition to vacate the arbitration award on the grounds that it was irrational and manifestly disregarded a statutory requirement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the arbitrator exceeded his powers by arbitrating a dispute that was nonarbitrable from the start because Crenshaw’s conditional offer of employment was conditioned on his satisfaction of the statutorily mandated academy requirement. View "Community College of Rhode Island v. CCRI Educational Support Professional Ass’n" on Justia Law