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Gianfrancesco v. A.R. Bilodeau, Inc.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

April 17, 2015

Mario Gianfrancesco
v.
A.R. Bilodeau, Inc. et al

Providence County Superior Court. (PC 13-1458). Associate Justice Daniel A. Procaccini.

For Plaintiff: Merill J. Friedemann, Esq.

For Defendants: Kelly A. Carden, Esq.

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

OPINION

Page 704

Paul A. Suttell, C.J.

The defendants, A.R. Bilodeau, Inc. (ARB) and Service Tech, Inc. (Service Tech), appeal from a Superior Court order granting preliminary injunctive relief to the plaintiff, Mario Gianfrancesco, which prevented the defendants from trespassing on the plaintiff's property. 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.

Page 705

After considering the parties' written and oral submissions and reviewing the record, we conclude that cause has not been shown and that this case may be decided without further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the order of the Superior Court.

I

Facts and Procedural History

The plaintiff and defendants in this action are business owners with abutting properties located on Douglas Avenue in North Providence. The plaintiff owns the Geneva Diner, located at 1162 Douglas Avenue; he has owned this diner since 1992 or 1993, before which time it was owned by his father, beginning in 1983. The defendant ARB owns property located at 1164 Douglas Avenue, and defendant Service Tech is ARB's tenant. Andrew Bilodeau is the sole shareholder of both ARB and Service Tech. ARB has owned the property at 1164 Douglas Avenue since 1998, which is when Service Tech began operating in that location. Service Tech is in the business of manufacturing and servicing water remediation and air filtration equipment. As part of its usual operations, Service Tech requires deliveries of materials that arrive on large tractor-trailer trucks, ranging in length from thirty to fifty-three feet. These trucks are not owned by Service Tech, but are affiliated with independent trucking companies.[1] Bilodeau testified that these deliveries occur at least once a week, or six to eight times per month.[2]

The plaintiff's and defendants' properties are accessible from Douglas Avenue by means of adjacent driveways, or " curb cuts," separated by a small section of sidewalk. These two curb cuts lead to an open parking area, through which runs the unmarked boundary line between the two lots. Since Service Tech began operating at its current location in 1998, large delivery trucks routinely travel on a diagonal path from Douglas Avenue, through plaintiff's driveway, and onto Service Tech's premises. Bilodeau explained that, although plaintiff had never given him permission to use his driveway, Bilodeau allowed the truck drivers to enter Service Tech via plaintiff's property because " [i]t was the only way to get the product into [his] facility." Timothy Rutherford, a Service Tech employee, also testified that the trucks use plaintiff's driveway because " [t]here is just not enough room. They wouldn't be able to make it to the facility otherwise. * * * There is no other way to do it." The diagonal path through plaintiff's driveway to Service Tech's premises, which is traveled regularly by the large delivery trucks, is the disputed property at issue in this case.

The plaintiff testified that, between the years 1999 and 2001, there were a few instances in which trucks caused damage to the diner while making deliveries to Service Tech. After this happened multiple times, plaintiff " aggressively policed" his property in order to prevent the trucks from causing further damage. The plaintiff testified that the trucks continued to pass through plaintiff's property despite his actions, although less frequently. Arthur Cimini, who had been a patron of the diner for approximately thirty years and had done some carpentry work there, testified that, one day when he was leaving the diner, he found that his vehicle was

Page 706

blocked in by a truck; after requesting that the truck be moved, " the people from next door came with a forklift and loaded the truck." However, Bilodeau testified that he had never given permission for any tractor-trailer trucks to park on plaintiff's property. The plaintiff rented the diner to a tenant for three years from 2010 to 2013 and then took repossession of the business in March ...


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