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.
The plaintiff tripped over a portion of the sidewalk on South Main Street in Providence. She sued both the City of Providence and the State of Rhode Island. The State did not assert a crossclaim against the City. The City moved for summary judgment arguing that it did not owe a duty to the plaintiff because the State, not the City, was responsible for the maintenance and repair of the sidewalk pursuant to state statutes designating that portion of South Main Street as a highway for which the State was responsible.
The State opposed the City’s motion arguing that there were material facts in dispute as to whether the State or City bore responsibility for the sidewalk, including an alleged agreement between the City and State as to maintenance of the sidewalk, prior repairs and maintenance of the sidewalk by the City and the fact that the City posted parking meters and collecting parking fees and fines along the street. The Superior Court granted the City’s motion and the State appealed.
The Supreme Court held that the State was not a party aggrieved by the Superior Court judgment because it had not asserted a crossclaim against the City. The Court said that a defendant that is liable to a plaintiff is not aggrieved by the exoneration of a codefendant against which it has not asserted crossclaims.
The Court rejected the State’s argument that because the summary judgment was granted before the significant discovery had occurred, Rule 11 would have prevented the State from asserting a crossclaim. The Court said Rule 13 permits the assertion of a crossclaim against a party that “may be liable” to the cross-claimant. Moreover, the State argued the existence of material facts to the Superior Court justice that granted the motion. The evidence that was argued would have easily met the requirements of Rule 11 that the crossclaim be “well grounded in fact…”
Lombardi v. City of Providence, 2013 WL 3337000 (R.I. July 2, 2013).