Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court vacating an arbitration award that reinstated Michael Crenshaw to his position as a campus police officer for the Community College of Rhode Island. Crenshaw was allowed to continue in his employment for almost a year without completing the statutorily required police training academy or receiving a waiver from having to do so. When, eventually, Crenshaw’s application for a waiver was not approved, the college terminated his employment. CCRI Educational Support Professional Association/NEARI (the union) brought this grievance. The college denied the grievance, and arbitration ensued. The arbitrator ordered that Crenshaw be reinstated to his position and compensated for lost time. The superior court granted the college’s petition to vacate the arbitration award on the grounds that it was irrational and manifestly disregarded a statutory requirement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the arbitrator exceeded his powers by arbitrating a dispute that was nonarbitrable from the start because Crenshaw’s conditional offer of employment was conditioned on his satisfaction of the statutorily mandated academy requirement. View "Community College of Rhode Island v. CCRI Educational Support Professional Ass’n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court in favor of the Town of Cumberland granting its motion to vacate an arbitration award in favor of Defendants, the Cumberland Town Employees Union and Norman Tremblay (collectively, the Union). The Town terminated Tremblay’s employment more than one year after Tremblay was injured at work. The Union filed an arbitration demand on Tremblay’s behalf pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement (the CBA) between the Town and the Union. The arbitrator concluded that Tremblay’s grievance was arbitrable and directed the Town to reinstate Tremblay. A superior court hearing justice vacated the award, explaining that the Workers’ Compensation Court had exclusive jurisdiction over reinstatement disputes. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the Union did not seek Tremblay’s reinstatement under the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA) but, rather, sought reinstatement based on the rights that the Union asserted the CBA afforded Tremblay beyond those delineated in the WCA; and (2) the Union’s contention that the CBA granted Tremblay greater rights than the WCA was one that the arbitrator could properly decide. View "Town of Cumberland v. Cumberland Town Employees Union" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court that confirmed an arbitration award in favor of Plaintiff and a corresponding judgment of the superior court in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendant in the amount of $72,415, plus statutory interest in the amount of $7,086.24. The parties in this case entered into a contract for the construction of a restaurant. When a dispute arose, the parties proceeded to arbitration. The arbitrator awarded $72,415 to Plaintiff, plus $7,086.24 in interest. The superior court confirmed the arbitration award and entered judgment accordingly. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that none of the conditions pursuant to which an arbitration award must be vacated were present in this case. View "ABC Building Corp. v. Ropolo Family, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court denying Plaintiff’s petition to vacate an arbitration award, granting Defendant’s petition to confirm the arbitration award, and granting Defendant’s motion to quash the deposition subpoena of the dissenting arbitrator, holding that the hearing justice’s rulings were proper. Plaintiff, an employee of the Providence Water Supply Board (PWSB), was operating a PWSB-owned vehicle when he was injured in an accident. Plaintiff sought underinsured motorist coverage through an insurance policy issued by Defendant-insurer to PWSB. The policy contained an arbitration provision. A majority of a panel of three arbitrators issued a decision finding in favor of Defendant, and one arbitrator dissented from the decision. A hearing justice found that majority’s decision to be “rational and logical” and deemed Plaintiff’s subpoena seeking to depose the dissenting arbitrator to be unnecessary. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the hearing justice appropriately denied Plaintiff’s petition to vacate the arbitration award; and (2) the issue of whether the hearing justice properly quashed the deposition subpoena of the dissenting arbitrator was waived. View "DiSano v. Argonaut Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court denying Plaintiff’s petition to vacate an arbitration award, granting Defendant’s petition to confirm the arbitration award, and granting Defendant’s motion to quash the deposition subpoena of the dissenting arbitrator, holding that the hearing justice’s rulings were proper. Plaintiff, an employee of the Providence Water Supply Board (PWSB), was operating a PWSB-owned vehicle when he was injured in an accident. Plaintiff sought underinsured motorist coverage through an insurance policy issued by Defendant-insurer to PWSB. The policy contained an arbitration provision. A majority of a panel of three arbitrators issued a decision finding in favor of Defendant, and one arbitrator dissented from the decision. A hearing justice found that majority’s decision to be “rational and logical” and deemed Plaintiff’s subpoena seeking to depose the dissenting arbitrator to be unnecessary. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the hearing justice appropriately denied Plaintiff’s petition to vacate the arbitration award; and (2) the issue of whether the hearing justice properly quashed the deposition subpoena of the dissenting arbitrator was waived. View "DiSano v. Argonaut Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the superior court denying the motion filed by the Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education and the University of Rhode Island (collectively URI) seeking to vacate an arbitration award and confirming the award. After the American Association of University Professors, Part-Time Faculty United (the union) filed a grievance on behalf of a part-time faculty member at URI based on the rescission of the faculty member’s “special programs contract” the union filed a demand for arbitration. The arbitrator determined that URI’s rescission of the faculty member’s contract violated the collective bargaining agreement and issued an award. The superior court denied URI’s motion to vacate the arbitration award and entered final judgment confirming the award. On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) the grievance was arbitrable; (2) the rescission of the faculty member’s special programs contract was in violation of the CBA and required URI to pay the faculty member a $6,500 salary; but (3) the arbitrator exceeded his authority in ordering URI to cease and desist from unilaterally imposing a two course per semester limit on bargaining unit employees. View "Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education v. American Association of University Professors, Part-Time Faculty United" on Justia Law

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Defendant was in debt under a credit card account that he opened and maintained with Bank of America, N.A. Bank of America assigned the right to collect the debt to CACH, LLC, and CACH filed a complaint seeking to recover $10,288.04 from Defendant. After CACH filed a motion for summary judgment, Defendant filed a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the arbitration provision of the Cardholder Agreement entered into between Defendant and Bank of America. The hearing justice denied Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration because he had failed to raise a right to arbitrate as an affirmative defense in his answer. The justice then granted summary judgment in favor of CACH. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the hearing justice did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration; and (2) the superior court did not err in granting CACH’s motion for summary judgment. View "CACH, LLC v. Potter" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Nappa Construction Management, LLC (Nappa) and Caroline and Vincent Flynn (the Flynns) entered into a contract for a commercial construction project. Service Insurance Company, Inc. (Service Insurance) furnished a performance bond on the contract. In 2013, the Flynns directed Nappa to stop work on the project. Nappa subsequently submitted an application for payment, which the Flynns declined to pay. Nappa then terminated the contract due to nonpayment. The Flynns filed an action alleging that Nappa had wrongfully terminated the contract. Nappa filed a demand for arbitration in accordance with an arbitration provision in the contract and also named Service Insurance as a party to the arbitration. The arbitrator found that Nappa was not justified in terminating the contract but concluded that, under the termination-for-convenience clause in the contract, neither Nappa nor the Flynns were in breach of the contract. The arbitrator awarded Nappa $37,980. The superior court granted Nappa’s petition to confirm the arbitration award, concluding that the arbitrator did not exceed his powers in holding that the contract was terminated for convenience. The Supreme Court vacated the superior court’s judgment, holding that the arbitrator exceeded his authority in interpreting the contract. View "Nappa Construction Management, LLC v. Flynn" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a pedestrian in a crosswalk when he was struck by a vehicle operated by an uninsured motorist. Plaintiff, who was an insured under his mother’s automobile insurance policy, filed suit against The Commerce Insurance Company seeking uninsured motorist coverage for his injuries. The parties stayed the action pending arbitration pursuant to the terms of the policy. The arbitrator awarded Plaintiff a total of $197,550. Plaintiff filed a motion to confirm the arbitration award. Defendant, in turn, filed a motion to modify/correct the arbitration award to conform with the insurance policy, which provided uninsured-motorist coverage up to a limit of $100,000. The superior court granted Defendant’s motion and entered an order for Plaintiff in the amount of $100,000. The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court, holding that the trial justice erred when he (1) reviewed the arbitrator’s award under a de novo review and supplemented the record with the admission of the insurance policy and the testimony of the arbitrator; and (2) modified the arbitration award because there were no grounds to do so under Rhode Island’s Arbitration Act. Remanded with instructions to issue an order confirming the arbitration award. View "Lemerise v. Commerce Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a pedestrian in a crosswalk when he was struck by a vehicle operated by an uninsured motorist. Plaintiff, who was an insured under his mother’s automobile insurance policy, filed suit against The Commerce Insurance Company seeking uninsured motorist coverage for his injuries. The parties stayed the action pending arbitration pursuant to the terms of the policy. The arbitrator awarded Plaintiff a total of $197,550. Plaintiff filed a motion to confirm the arbitration award. Defendant, in turn, filed a motion to modify/correct the arbitration award to conform with the insurance policy, which provided uninsured-motorist coverage up to a limit of $100,000. The superior court granted Defendant’s motion and entered an order for Plaintiff in the amount of $100,000. The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court, holding that the trial justice erred when he (1) reviewed the arbitrator’s award under a de novo review and supplemented the record with the admission of the insurance policy and the testimony of the arbitrator; and (2) modified the arbitration award because there were no grounds to do so under Rhode Island’s Arbitration Act. Remanded with instructions to issue an order confirming the arbitration award. View "Lemerise v. Commerce Ins. Co." on Justia Law