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Barone v. State

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

June 27, 2014

Ernest Barone
v.
State of Rhode Island et al

Providence County Superior Court. (PC 12-5087). Associate Justice Luis M. Matos.

For Plaintiff: Ernest Barone, Esq., Pro se.

For Defendants: Maria R. Corvese, Esq.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

OPINION

Robinson, Justice.

The plaintiff, Ernest Barone, appeals pro se to this Court from an order of the Superior Court granting a motion to dismiss filed by the defendants, the State of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Division of Taxation. This case came before the Supreme Court pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily decided. After a close review of the record and careful consideration of the parties' arguments (both written and oral), we are satisfied that cause has not been shown and that this appeal may be decided at this time. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the order of the Superior Court.

I

Facts and Travel

On October 2, 2012, plaintiff filed a complaint pro se in the Superior Court seeking " declaratory, injunctive, [and] equitable relief and reimbursement of sales taxes imposed and collected by the State of Rhode Island, Division of Taxation on motor vehicle property taxes collected from citizens * * * who lease rather than own their motor vehicles." In that complaint, plaintiff challenged the constitutionality of G.L. 1956 § 44-18-12(a); in another count, plaintiff also brought a statutory claim, arguing that lessees of motor vehicles are " entitled to a refund of sales taxes paid on excise taxes because the property tax and sales taxes thereon are separately stated in both the Lease Agreement and the monthly billing statements of the Lessor, and consequently fall within the exception to the definition of '[s]ales [p]rice' contained in * * * § []44-18-12(b)(iv)." (Emphasis in original.) It was further plaintiff's contention that he was a member of a

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class, which class he argued met the requirements necessary to certify his complaint as a class action.

As alleged in plaintiff's complaint, this case stems from a September 5, 2009 agreement in which plaintiff agreed to lease a motor vehicle from a company called " Nissan of Smithfield." On the basis of monthly lease statements that plaintiff received from " Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation," he learned that he had been charged " separately * * * for property tax on the leased vehicle and an additional seven (7) percent sales tax charged on that amount * * * ." Subsequently, plaintiff filed a claim for a refund with the Division of Taxation in the amount of the sales tax that he had paid on the property tax assessed on his leased vehicle. In due course, on September 5, 2012, the tax administrator rendered a final decision denying plaintiff's claim. The plaintiff thereafter filed an appeal pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 44-19-18 and § 44-19-25 to the Sixth Division District Court contemporaneously with his filing of the complaint in the present action in Superior Court.

In plaintiff's Superior Court complaint, he contended that he had pursued administrative remedies as required by law. He added, however, that he deemed judicial review pursuant to § § 44-19-18; 44-19-19; 44-19-25 to be inadequate for two reasons:

" (1) the District Court does not have jurisdiction to enter declaratory, injunctive, equitable relief or damages pursuant to R.I.G.L. ยง []9-30-1 et seq.[; and] (2) the District Court does not have the equitable power to certify a class under the District Court Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 23 whereas the Superior Court does have the power to certify a class ...

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