Category Archives: SCORI

Supreme Court decides Whistleblower Case in Rhode Island

In a ruling issued this week, in Peter W. Russo v. State of Rhode Island, Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals et al., No. 11-360 (March 24, 2014), the Rhode Island Supreme Court held that placing an employee on paid administrative leave with the requirement that he undergo an IME did not constitute an action which “discharge[d], threaten[ed], or otherwise discriminate[d]” against the employee in violation of the Rhode Island Whistleblowers’ Protection Act (WPA), G.L. 1956 chapter 50 of title 28.

In so holding, the Court vacated the decision of the Superior Court and held that the defendant did not violate the WPA.

In 2010, the Superior Court had held that the defendant had violated WPA when it placed the plaintiff on administrative leave with pay and required that he undergo an independent medical examination (IME). The defendant contended on appeal that the trial justice erred in finding: (1) that paid administrative leave and the requirement to undergo an IME constituted a “discharge, threat[], or * * * discriminat[ion]” under the WPA; (2) that the plaintiff had reported violations of a “law or regulation or rule promulgated under the law of [Rhode Island]” (which is one of the preconditions for obtaining relief under the WPA); (3) that there was a causal connection between the plaintiff’s reports at issue in the case and his placement on paid administrative leave; and (4) that the defendant did not have “legitimate nonretaliatory” grounds to place the plaintiff on paid administrative leave and require that he undergo an IME.

The Supreme Court agreed, stating that, “Since the MHRH did not “discharge, threaten, or otherwise discriminate” against Mr. Russo , it cannot be found to have violated the WPA and the trial justice’s decision must be reversed.”

Read the full opinion here.

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RI Supreme Court Denies Block Island Slip and Fall Case

In the case of Peter Wyso v. Full Moon Tide, LLC, et al., the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that a man who fell and was injured due to a deteriorated public sidewalk at 104 Water St. on Block Island could not bring a suit against the tenants and owners of property abutting the sidewalk.

Typically, an injury like this would warrant a lawsuit against the city or town.  In this case, however, the issue was whether the injured plaintiff could sue the abutting property owners.  While the plaintiff argued that the Court could find a duty of care pursuant to Banks v. Bowen’s Landing Corp., 522 A.2d 1222 (R.I. 1987), the Court ultimately found no merit in that argument because the defendants did not possess or control the sidewalk.  The Court also pointed to a significant amount of jurisprudence “providing that a property owner owes no duty to individuals for the condition of public sidewalks when the property owner has taken no action to create the dangerous condition.”

You can read the whole opinion here.

RI Supreme Court Affirms Family Court Order Requiring Husband to pay Health Insurance

The Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Family Court today in O’Donnell v. O’Donnell (No. 2012-52-Appeal), ruling that a stenographic record of an oral agreement reached in open court is sufficient to form a non-modifiable marital settlement agreement.

The plaintiff husband in this case made the argument that because the agreement was neither drafted nor signed by the parties, it is nothing more than stenographic notes and not a binding agreement.  The Court found no merit in this argument in an opinion written by Justice Goldberg:

…the Family Court justice found that the parties intended and agreed that plaintiff was to provide health insurance coverage to defendant, with only limited exceptions concerning employer – provided health insurance. The Family Court justice reached this conclusion after reviewing the transcript from the November 12, 2002 hearing, where plaintiff’s counsel — without objection — read this provision into the re cord. The Family Court justice noted that , after plaintiff’s attorney submitted that transcript as a joint exhibit at the December 6, 2002 hearing, both plaintiff and defendant testified under oath and confirmed their assent to its terms. At no time did either party object or voice any disagreement with the health insurance coverage provisions. Accordingly, the parties are bound by the agreement which they affirmed in open court.

You can read the entire opinion here.

SCORI issues two administrative orders

Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, Paul A. Suttell has recently appointed Superior Court Associate Justice Judith Colenback Savage as a member of the Permanent Advisory Committee on Women and Minorities in the Courts for a term expiring on February 2, 2015.

Chief Justice Suttell also ordered Melissa E. Darigan, Esq., Carly B. Iafrate, Esq., and Mortimer C. Newton, Esq. as members of the Committee on Character and Fitness for three (3) year terms commencing on January 21, 2013 and expiring on January 20, 2016 and designated Gerard Coyne, Esq. as Chair and Debra A. Saunders, Esq. as Vice Chair of the Committee.

SCORI Oral Argument Calendar for January and February

The Supreme Court of Rhode Island has posted their calendar for oral arguments for January 23rd and 24th as well as February 5-7, 2013.  Click here to read the calendar.