Providence County Superior Court
For Plaintiff: John B. Ennis, Esq.
For Defendant: John S. McNicholas, Esq., Christine A. Murphy, Esq. David J. Pellegrino, Esq.
VAN COUYGHEN, J.
These cases were consolidated pursuant to Super. R. Civ. P. 42 for the sole purpose of resolving the common issue concerning the applicability of G.L. 1956 § 34-27-3.2 to the subject mortgages. All of the above-captioned cases concern nearly identical motions for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction on the ground that Defendantsscheduled foreclosure sales of Plaintiffs' respective properties in contravention of § 34-27-3.2. That section requires a mortgagee to send a notice stating that the mortgagee cannot foreclose without first participating in a "mediation conference." Also before this Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss arguing that the subject mortgages are not subject to the requirements of § 34-27-3.2.
Facts and Travel
All of the above-captioned cases concern whether the Defendants are required to send a mediation notice pursuant to § 34-27-3.2(d) before foreclosing on the subject mortgages. For the purposes of this Decision, the parties have submitted a statement of agreed to facts. The relevant undisputed facts, as submitted by the parties, are as follows.
On July 15, 2013, § 34-27-3.2 was enacted with an effective date of September 13, 2013.The statute required that certain mortgagees send a written notice to mortgagors of the right to mortgage mediation prior to the initiation of foreclosure proceedings. Mortgagors that were in default in excess of 120 days were exempt from the notice requirements of the statute. It is undisputed that, as of September 13, 2013, each Plaintiff had failed to make at least four payments under the terms of the mortgage contract, and that these failures have not been subsequently cured. (Statement of Facts, ¶ 3.) Thus, pursuant to the 2013 version of § 34-27-3.2, Defendants were not obligated to send a mediation notice prior to initiating foreclosure.
On October 6, 2014, an amended version of § 34-27-3.2 became effective. Id. at ¶ 6. This amendment made a number of changes that are discussed infra. It is undisputed that Defendants mailed the requisite notice of foreclosure sale pursuant to § 34-27-4(b) after the effective date of the amended statute. Id. at ¶ 9. The parties also agree Defendants did not send a notice of the right to mediate pursuant to § 34-27-3.2(d) on or after the effective date of the amended statute. Id. at ¶ 8.
Standard of Review
It is well-settled that this Court, in deciding whether to issue an injunction, considers whether the moving party "(1) has a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits; (2) will suffer irreparable harm without the requested relief; (3) has the balance of equities in his or her favor; and (4) has shown that the requested injunction will maintain the status quo." Pucino v.
Uttley, 785 A.2d 183, 186 (R.I. 2001) (citing Iggy's Doughboys, Inc. v. Giroux, 729 A.2d 701, 705 (R.I. 1999)). When balancing the equities, the Court must also consider the public interest in granting or denying injunctive relief. In re State Emps.' Unions, 587 A.2d 919, 925 (R.I. 1991). The moving party is not required to establish a certainty of success when proving the likelihood of success on the merits, but instead is merely required to make out a prima facie case. DiDonato v. Kennedy, 822 A.2d 179, 181 (R.I. 2003) (citing Fund for Cmty. Progress v. United Way of Se. New England, 695 A.2d 517, 521 (R.I. 1997)). Further, the function "'of a preliminary injunction is not ordinarily to achieve a final and formal determination of the rights of the parties or of the merits of the controversy, but is merely to hold matters . . . in status quo, and in the meantime to prevent the doing of any acts whereby the rights in question may be irreparably injured or endangered.'" Fund for Cmty. Progress, 695 A.2d at 521 (quoting Coolbeth v. Berberian, 112 R.I. 558, 564, 313 A.2d 656, 659 (1974)).
Motion to Dismiss
"The sole function of a motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the complaint." Palazzo v. Alves, 944 A.2d 144, 149 (R.I. 2008) (citation omitted). Looking at the four corners of the complaint, this Court examines that pleading and assumes that the allegations contained in a plaintiff's complaint are true, viewing them in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Barrette v. Yakavonis, 966 A.2d 1231, 1234 (R.I. 2009). Our Supreme Court has noted that the pleading rules are to be liberally interpreted so that "cases in our system are not . . . disposed of summarily on arcane or technical grounds." Konar v. PFL Life Ins. Co., 840 A.2d 1115, 1118 (R.I. 2004) (citation omitted).
While the pleading does not need to include the ultimate facts to be proven or the precise legal theory upon which the claims are based, the complaint is required to provide the opposing party with fair and adequate notice of any claims being asserted. Barrette, 966 A.2d at 1234. The goal is to give defendants sufficient notice of the type of claim being asserted against them. See Konar, 840 A.2d at 1119; see also Berard v. Ryder Student Transp. Servs., Inc., 767 A.2d 81, 85 (R.I. 2001). Consequently, "[a] motion to dismiss is properly granted 'when it is clear beyond a reasonable doubt that the plaintiff would not be entitled to relief from the defendant under any set of facts that could be proven in support of the plaintiff's claim.'" Woonsocket Sch. Comm. v. Chafee, 89 A.3d 778, 787 (R.I. 2014) (citation omitted).
The Statutory Framework
The 2013 Statute