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Rhode Island Litigation Blog

R.I. Supreme Court Substantially Limits Scope of Expert Discovery

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has significantly limited the scope of expert discovery in Superior Court. Cashman Equipment Corp, Inc. v. Cardi Corp., Inc., No. 2014-284-M.P., slip op. (R.I. June 3, 2016). This case was a construction dispute in which the plaintiff moved to compel production of all materials and documents "developed or considered" by defendant's expert in formulating his opinions. The Superior Court denied the motion and plaintiff filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court.

R.I. Supreme Court Holds Defendant Forfeited Personal Jurisdiction Defense

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has held that a defendant forfeited his personal jurisdiction defense asserted in his answer by participating in extensive discovery and court-annexed arbitration before moving to dismiss on the eve of trial. Pullar v. Cappelli, No. 2015-303-Appeal, slip opinion (Nov. 17, 2016).

R.I. Superior Court denies tile supplier's summary judgment motion

Superior Court Presiding Justice Gibney, who manages Rhode Island's state court asbestos docket, has issued a decision denying a summary judgment motion filed by an alleged supplier of floor and ceiling tiles to which plaintiff's decedent was exposed. Pisano v. Alfa Laval, Inc., C.A. No. PC-13-5868, slip decision (R.I.Super. Nov. 2, 2016). 

Rhode Island Federal District Court Addresses Whether Documents Must Be Produced in Native Format

In a wide-ranging memorandum and order on several discovery motions, Magistrate Judge Sullivan addressed, inter alia, whether parties in a commercial dispute must produce documents in their "native" electronic format in addition to the PDF form in which they were originally produced. Wai Feng Trading Co. v. Quick Fitting, Inc., C.A. Nos. 13-33, 13-56, 2016 WL 4184014 (D.R.I. June 14, 2016). Strauss Factor represents the so-called "Wai Feng Parties" in this case.

Rhode Island Asbestos Litigation and Waiver or Forfeiture of a Personal Jurisdiction Defense

In a pair of recent decisions in two different cases, Presiding Justice Gibney of the Rhode Island Supreme Court has granted and denied motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction by the same asbestos defendant based on whether the defendant had forfeited its personal jurisdiction defense. Murray v. 3M Co., C.A. No. PC-16-0151, slip decision (R.I.Super. Oct. 13, 2016) ("Murray") (granting motion); Bazor v. Abex Corp., C.A. No. PC-10-3965, 2016 WL 25944665 (R.I.Super. May 2, 2016) ("Bazor") (denying motion).

First Circuit Holds in Products Liability Case that Plaintiff's Expert Need Not Test Alternative Design

The First Circuit Court of Appeal has held that Daubert does not require that an expert actually test an alternative design for a product before he can testify that it is safer than the defendant's design. Quilez-Velar v. Ox Bodies, Inc. 823 F.3d 712 (1st Cir. 2016).

First Circuit Clarifies Standards of Proof for Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Claims

The First Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a comprehensive opinion clarifying many legal issues in sex discrimination claims, including (1) whether a plaintiff can prove discrimination by circumstantial evidence alone; (2) whether a reduction of job responsibilities that does not involve a reduction in salary constitutes an adverse employment action; (3) whether a plaintiff can prove sex discrimination without evidence of sexist slurs; (4) whether a plaintiff can prove sexual harassment without evidence of sexual comments or actions; (5) whether a plaintiff can prove discrimination or harassment without showing that it was both severe and pervasive; and (6) whether a plaintiff can defeat summary judgment on a Faragher/Ellerth defense by showing that she feared retaliation if she complained about the discrimination . Burns v. Johnson, 829 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2016). The First Circuit answered all the questions in the affirmative.

Strauss Factor Obtains Summary Judgment for Gun Owner on Due Process Grounds

In a suit we brought as cooperating attorneys for the Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, Strauss Factor has obtained summary judgment for the owner of firearms seized by a local police department because the defendants failed to provide the owner with due process after the seizure. Richer v. Parmalee, C.A. No. 15-162-M-PAS, slip memorandum and order, (D.R.I. June 1, 2016).

Debtor May Not Discharge Fraudulent Conveyance Liability in Bankruptcy

Resolving a split among the lower courts, the United States Supreme Court has held that a provision of the Bankruptcy Code that prohibits debtors from discharging debts "obtained by...false pretenses, a false representation, or actual fraud," can include transactions by which a debtor tranfers its assets to a third-party for little or no consideration, i.e., so-called fraudulent conveyances. Husky International Electronics, Inc. v. Ritz, 136 S.Ct. 1581 (May 16, 2016). This decision addresses the frequent circumstance in which a debtor transfers its assets to related persons or entities for little money and then files bankruptcy to discharge all its debts to creditors.

City Council Re-Districting Cannot Include State Prison Population

The Rhode Island federal district court has held that the City of Cranston cannot include the population of the state's Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) when it draws its districts for city council. Davidson v. City of Cranston, C.A. 14-91L, slip op., (D.R.I. May 24, 2016). The court distinguished the United States Supreme Court's recent decision, Evenwell v. Abbott,136 S.Ct. 1120 (2016), in reaching its decision. The district court held that the current redistricting plan violates Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision is also significant as the state's legislative districts for the General Assembly also include the ACI's population and, presumably, will also have to be redrawn.