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July 2013 Archives

Bankruptcy Court Denies Debtor's Post-Confirmation Motion To Exclude PI Settlements From Chapter 13 Plan

The bankruptcy court has denied debtors' post-confirmation motion to exclude from a Chapter 13 plan the proceeds of their personal injury claims where they had not objected to an order confirming the plan that included those proceeds within the plan. 

Bankruptcy Court Holds Failure To Disclose PI Claims Is Grounds To Revoke Discharges

Until 2012, Rhode Island's bankruptcy court had had just one judge and for 44 years that was the Honorable Arthur Votolato who was initially appointed as a bankruptcy referee.  He retired last year and Diane Finkle was appointed to replace him after 30 years in private practice, primarily as a creditor's attorney in federal and Superior Court.  There have already been some changes in procedures in bankruptcy court.  Local practitioners are evaluating whether there will be other, substantive changes in the adjudication of bankruptcy cases.

Superior Court Holds DBR Has Jurisdiction to Hear Appeals of Fines by Local Licensing Boards

In what it called a case of first impression, the Rhode Island Superior Court has held that the Department of Business Regulation ("DBR") has jurisdiction to hear appeals of fines imposed by local licensing boards.  However, DBR is not required to hold a de novo hearing of those appeals. 

Superior Court Issues Five Decisions On Pre-Trial Motions in Asbestos Case

On July 18, 2013, the Superior Court issued five decisions on defendant's pre-trial motions in an asbestos case that might become the first such case to go to trial in Rhode Island in over 20 years.  The decisions provide some guidance on how the Court may rule on similar motions in other cases.

Superior Court Holds Bankrupt Entities Are Not Joint Tortfeasors

The Superior Court has held in an asbestos case that bankrupt entities are not joint tortfeasors so that non-settling defendants cannot place the entities' names on the jury verdict form for an apportionment of responsibility.  The Court also said that defendants cannot discover the claims forms that plaintiffs submit to the bankrupt entities' trusts to obtain compensation. 

Superior Court Rules On Several Claims Under R.I. Drug Testing Statute

The Rhode Island Superior Court has issued a decision addressing several claims by employees against their employer and other employees pursuant to the Rhode Island Drug Testing Statutue, R.I.G.L. 28-6.5.1, et seq.  The court held that individual employees of a corporation could not be held civilly liable under the Statute, that they may not be held liable for violations of the Statute pursuant to a separate statute creating civil liability of for crimes, R.I.G.L. 9-1-2, that plaintiffs' invasion of privacy claims against their employer were barred by the exclusive remedy of workers compensation, and, plaintiffs could recover for their emotional distress under the Statute. 

Client Cannot Sue Attorney For Deceptive Trade Practices In Advertising

The Superior Court has held that two former clients cannot sue their attorney for violations of the Rhode Island Deceptive Trade Practices Act ("the Act") based on attorney advertising because such advertising is regulated by the Rhode Island Supreme Court. 

Massachusetts Federal Court Finds Exchange of Emails An Enforceable Settlement Agreement

The Massachusetts federal district court has held under Massachusetts law that an exchange of emails between the parties' counsel can constitute an enforceable settlement agreement.  In doing so, the court contrasted Massachusetts law with that of Rhode Island which requires that a settlement agreement be in writing or presented to the court on the record.

RISC Upholds Finding of Tortious Interference With Contract

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has upheld a Superior Court finding that defendant tortiously interfered with a contract plaintiff had with a codefendant to purchase marina slips.  The Court also held that although the Superior Court improperly relied on evidence not in the record, there was abundant evidence in the record to sustain the finding. 

RISC Hold That Phrase "Smoking Gun" Is Not Slander Per Se

In a long-running dispute arising from the dissolution of a law firm, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has held that the phrase "smoking gun" is not slander per se, that a claim for tortious interference with contract requires a quantification of damages and that the trial court can grant a new trial under Rule 59 based on errors of law committed when ruling on a Rule 50 motion.

RISC Holds That Defendant That Has Not Asserted A Crossclaim Has No Standing To Appeal Dismissal Of Plaintiff's Claims Against Codefendant

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has held that a defendant that has not asserted a crossclaim against a codefendant has no standing to appeal the dismissal of plaintiff's claims against the codefendant.

Real Estate Attorneys Can Bring Third-Party Claims Against Real Estate Agents

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has held that real estate attorneys sued in negligence by their clients with respect to a real estate transaction can bring third-party claims for contribution and indemnity against real estate agents involved in the transaction.