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January 2014 Archives

R.I. Federal Court Denies Motion To Remand Finding Settlement Demand in Personal Injury Claim Does Not Determine Jurisdiction Amount

The Rhode Island federal district court has accepted a report and recommendation that a motion to remand a personal injury claim case be denied because the probable value of the claim exceeds the jurisdiction amount. The Court rejected plaintiff's argument that a settlement demand of $74,500 established that the case was below the jurisdictional amount. The court said it could rely on judicial experience and common sense in determining that the claim had the potential for significant damages exceeding $75,000.

Asbestos-R.I. Superior Court Reconsiders Decision, Allows Discovery of Bankruptcy Claims Forms

In a fiercely contested asbestos case, the Rhode Island Superior Court has issued its third decision on the question of whether the sole remaining defendant can discover claims forms that plaintiff submitted to various bankruptcy trusts. After an in camera review of the forms, the court has reconsidered its original decision that the forms were not discoverable and permitted discovery of them. However, the Court specifically reserved a decision as to whether the forms were admissible at trial.

First Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment In Products Liability Case Where Plaintiff Failed To Show "Heightened Risk" Of Danger

The First Circuit has affirmed the dismissal of products liability claims against a shoe manufacturer because plaintiff failed to show defendant's shoes presented a "heightened risk" of entrapment on escalators. The Court said various facts did not substantiate that shoes presented a greater risk than other shoes, including: a dozen complaints of shoe entrapments over a three year period, a Japanese report that "resin sandals" have "a tendency to become entrapped in escalators," an internal email from an employee in Japan stating that government officials had asked that the company sell "new products" because of an "escalator issue," and a hangtag that the defendant placed on its shoes after the accident about safe escalator riding practices.

Asbestos-R.I. Superior Court Holds Major Hospital May Be Liable To Contractor's Employee For Presence Of Asbestos

The Rhode Island Superior Court has held that the state's largest hospital may be liable to the widow of a deceased HVAC worker who was allegedly exposed to asbestos while performing ductwork at the hospital in the 1960s and 1970s. The court said if the hospital knew or should have known of the presence of the asbestos and the worker did not know of its presence, the hospital would have a duty to warn the employee. The court denied without prejudice the hospital's motion for summary judgment subject to discovery of the hospital's records.

Asbestos-R.I. Superior Court Denies Motion To Preclude Plaintiff's "Naval" Expert Identified Shortly Before Trial

In an asbestos case, the Rhode Island Superior Court has denied a defendant's motion to preclude plaintiff's replacement "naval" expert identified shortly before the trial. The court said that since the trial date was postponed and defendant did not attempt to to depose the expert before filing its motion it was not prejudiced.

R.I. Superior Court Allows Expedited Discovery On Shareholders' Claims Respecting Proposed Merger

The Rhode Island Superior Court has held it will allow a putative class of shareholders to conduct "limited and targeted" expedited discovery in advance of a shareholders' meeting to vote on the proposed acquisition of the defendant corporation's stock by another company. The Court relied on Delaware law in rendering its decision.

U.S. Supreme Court Narrows The Scope of General Personal Jurisdiction

The United States Supreme Court has clarified its jurisprudence on general personal jurisdiction and held that a German manufacturer of luxury automobiles cannot be sued in California based on either its contacts with California or its American subsidiary's contacts for torts allegedly committed in Argentina against Argentinian citizens. The Court elaborated upon its opinion in Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 131 S.Ct. 2846 (2011), with respect to when a defendant is sufficiently "at home" in a jurisdiction that it may be subject to general personal jurisdiction. The Court rejected an argument that the Alien Tort Statute provided personal jurisdiction over the manufacturer.

R.I. Supreme Court Holds Bankruptcy Court Orders Granting Relief From Stay Are Res Judicata Respecting Superior Court Action Challenging Foreclosure

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has held that orders entered in two bankruptcy  proceedings granting relief from stay to permit a foreclosure sale to proceed and then finding that the sale was valid were res judicata with respect to a subsequent action the mortgagor filed in Superior Court seeking a declaration that the sale was void and that he owned the property.

Rhode Island Supreme Court Holds Indian Tribe Has Standing To Challenge Constitutionality of State Casino Acts

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has held that the Narragansett Indian Tribe ("the Tribe") has standing under a state statute to challenge the constitutionality of state legislation allowing the state's two casinos to add table games. The Tribe alleges it will lose revenue because one casino will be reducing the number of its slot machines to add table games. The statute provides that the Tribe is entitled to a certain percentage of the revenue from the slot machines at the casino.

Federal District Court Holds One Adequately Pled Actionable Misstatement Sustains Shareholders' Class Action Securities Claim

The Rhode Island federal district court has held that one adequately pled actionable misstatement combined with an adequate pleading of scienter with respect to that misstatement is sufficient to defeat defendants' motion to dismiss a shareholders' class action securities fraud claim. The court said that "further narrowing of the plaintiffs' claims [will] await a later stage of the litigation."

Federal District Court Holds Workers Comp Carrier Not Entitled To Third-Party Recovery Paid For Pain And Suffering

In a case of first impression in Rhode Island, the federal district court has held that a workers compensation carrier is not subrogated to the worker's third-party recovery to the extent it was paid for pain and suffering. The court held the carrier was entitled to reimbursement for the amounts paid for medicals bills and lost earnings. It said it must hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the apportionment.

Federal District Court Holds Plaintiff Has Pled Substantive Due Process Claim Against City For Demolishing His Building

The Rhode Island federal district court has held that a property owner has adequately pled a substantive due process violation where, in response to the City's "Order to Make Safe through Demolition," plaintiff provided the City with an engineer's report that the building did not have major structural damage but the City demolished it anyway and put a lien on plaintiff's property for the $6300 cost of demolition. The court denied the City's motion to dismiss the complaint.

First Circuit Holds Homeowner Not Third-Party Beneficiary of Federal Mortgage Modification Program

The First Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a homeowner is not a third-party beneficiary of the federal Home Affordable Modification Program ("HAMP") and that the mortgagee had no contractual or other legal duty to the homeowner to negotiate a modified mortgage. The Court affirmed a district court judgment dismissing the homeowner's complaint seeking to stop a foreclosure.