Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court

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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

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The Providence School Board (Board) provided health insurance to active employees and retirees. In 2006, the Providence Teachers Union (Union) filed a grievance protesting a difference in the increase of premium costs for retirees compared with a more modest increase in premium costs for active employees. The Union argued that the Board's action violated three provisions of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the board and the union. An arbitrator ruled in the Union's favor, concluding that the Board violated the CBA by failing to include retirees and active employees in a single group when it calculated the healthcare premium rates. The trial justice vacated the arbitration award, concluding (1) the Union did not have standing to pursue a grievance on behalf of retirees, and (2) the issue of the calculation of the group premium rate was not arbitrable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) pursuant to Arena v. City of Providence and City of Newport v. Local 1080, the Union could not pursue this grievance on behalf of the retirees; and (2) because the Union had no standing to pursue this particular grievance, the grievance was not arbitrable. View "Providence Sch. Bd. v. Providence Teachers Union, Local 958" on Justia Law

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This case involved a dispute between the R.I. Department of Corrections (DOC) and the certified bargaining unit for correctional officers and other DOC employees (the union). The dispute arose from the DOC's proposal to modify the weapons qualification component of the training program for correctional officers. The union filed a grievance, arguing that the training program could not modified without the approval of a training committee that had been created under the parties' collective bargaining agreement (CBA). An arbitrator ruled in the union's favor. The superior confirmed the arbitration award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) this dispute was arbitrable; and (2) the arbitration award must stand because the arbitrator's interpretation of the CBA was passably plausible, did not reflect a manifest disregard for the law, and was not irrational. View "State Dep't of Corr. v. R.I. Brotherhood of Corr. Officers" on Justia Law

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A general contractor (Carlisle) for a construction project contracted with Plaintiff to perform carpentry work for the project. A bond was issued for the project. Carlisle was the principal on the bond, and International Fidelity Insurance Company (IFIC) was the surety. Plaintiff later filed suit against Carlisle and IFIC seeking to recover payment for the work it performed. The arbitrator issued two amended awards. Plaintiff moved the superior court to confirm the second amended awarded concerning Carlisle's liability and to modify it as to IFIC. The trial justice remanded the matter back to the arbitrator for a determination as to IFIC's liability. The arbitrator on remand found that both Carlisle and IFIC were liable to Plaintiff for $43,543. The trial justice confirmed the post-remand arbitration award. The Supreme Court affirmed but on different grounds, holding (1) the second amended award should have been vacated under R.I. Stat. 37-16-18(2), and the trial justice was authorized, under section 37-16-19, to remand the case to the same arbitrator for a hearing; and (2) because the remand in this case accomplished the same result that could have been accomplished under section 37-16-18 and 37-16-19, the judgment was affirmed. View "Drago Custom Interiors, LLC v. Carlisle Bldg. Sys., Inc." on Justia Law

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Under the terms of a collective-bargaining agreement, the City of Newport provided health insurance benefits to its retired firefighters. After the City decided to modify those benefits, Local 1080, International Association of Firefighters, ALF-CIO (Union) filed grievances and sought arbitration. The City responded by seeking relief in the superior court to determine the arbitrability of disputes over changes to these benefits. The superior court determined that this dispute was not arbitrable. The Union disagreed and petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. The Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court, holding that the parties did not intend to arbitrate disputes regarding retiree healthcare, and therefore, such disputes must be resolved, if at all, judicially rather than through arbitration. View "City of Newport v. Local 1080, Int'l Ass'n of Firefighters, AFL-CIO" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought suit against Defendant, the Cranston School Department, seeking grievance arbitration of adverse actions taken against them as to their respective coaching positions at Cranston West High School. Plaintiffs, both of whom were teachers at Cranston West, separately filed grievances against Defendant in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that was in place between the Cranston Teacher's Alliance and the school department. Defendant responded that the CBA did not apply to Plaintiffs in their capacity as coaches, and it refused to submit to arbitration. Plaintiffs filed suit, seeking a declaratory judgment that they were entitled to binding arbitration as guaranteed by the CBA. The superior court ruled in favor of Defendant, determining that Plaintiffs, in their capacity as coaches, were not entitled to avail themselves of the CBA's grievance procedures. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice was correct in determining that Plaintiffs' coaching positions were contractually distinct from their teaching positions and did not constitute professional employment; and (2) Plaintiffs in their coaching capacities had no right to pursue relief based on the rights bargained for by the alliance on behalf of its teacher-members and as contained in the CBA. View "Sacco v. Cranston Sch. Dep't" on Justia Law

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The Cumberland Teachers Association (union), appealed to the Supreme Court that confirmed an arbitrator's award in favor of the Cumberland School Committee (school committee). After protracted contract negotiations, the school committee and the union agreed on a three-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that would govern their relations for the 2006-2007, 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 academic years. "However, the parties soon discovered that they had left the negotiating table with two very different understandings of how a key component of their agreement would be implemented." An arbitrator was selected and the parties agreed that the issue to be decided by the arbitrator was whether “the Cumberland School Committee place[d] the aggrieved teachers at the correct salary level for the 2007-08 school year?” On appeal to the Supreme Court, the union argued that the arbitrator manifestly disregarded a contract provision when he found that there was no written agreement about how the new salary schedule would be implemented for the 2007-2008 year. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the union did not demonstrate that the arbitrator manifestly disregarded the contract or that he was completely irrational in arriving at his decision and award. View "Cumberland Teachers Association v. Cumberland School Committee" on Justia Law