Providence County Superior Court.
For Plaintiff: Jude J. Kostas, Esq.
For Defendant: Steven T. Hayes, Esq.; Gregory P. Piccirilli, Esq.
Before the Court for decision is Defendant Philip Doucett's Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Super. R. Civ. P. 56(b) and Motion for Entry of Separate and Final Judgment pursuant to Super. R Civ. P. 54(b) on cross-claim of Co-Defendant ICON Corp. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant Philip Doucett's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part.
Facts and Travel
On or about March 19, 2011, Plaintiff, Shane Bryant (Bryant), was operating his motor vehicle on Dorrance Street in Providence, Rhode Island when he was struck from behind by a motor vehicle being operated by Defendant, Philip Doucett (Doucett). (Compl. ¶¶ 6, 8). Doucett was allegedly intoxicated at the time of the accident. Id. After the accident, Bryant exited his vehicle to exchange information with Doucett, and Doucett suggested that the parties move their vehicles around the corner. Id. at ¶¶ 9, 10. As Bryant was returning to his vehicle, Doucett began to drive his vehicle around Bryant's vehicle, and in the process struck and ran over Bryant. Id. at ¶¶ 11, 12. Doucett then fled the scene of the accident. Id. at ¶ 13. At the time of the accident, Doucett was under 21 years of age. Id. at ¶ 15.
As a result of the accident, Bryant brought a four count complaint against Doucett and ICON Corp. (ICON), who operates a bar business located at 180 Pine Street. Id. at ¶¶ 21, 22. Counts I and II allege negligence against Doucett and ICON, respectively. Count III alleges that ICON negligently violated the Rhode Island Liquor Liability Act (the Liquor Liability Act), while Count IV alleges that ICON recklessly violated the Liquor Liability Act. See G.L. 1956 §§ 3-14-1, et seq. It is alleged that ICON failed to exercise care by serving alcohol to Doucett, a visibly intoxicated minor, earlier that evening. Id. On July 27, 2015, while discovery was ongoing, Bryant executed a Joint Tortfeasor Release (Release) and Dismissal Stipulation relative to the claims against Doucett. (Doucett Ex. B). After receiving the Release, ICON allegedly refused to execute it, and on August 19, 2015, filed a cross-claim against Doucett seeking contribution and indemnity. See Mem. in Supp. of Doucett's Mot. Summ. J at 3. Doucett now moves for summary judgment on ICON's cross-claim.
Standard of Review
When deciding a motion for summary judgment, the trial justice must keep in mind that it '"is a drastic remedy and should be cautiously applied."' Steinberg v. State, 427 A.2d 338, 339– 40 (R.I. 1981) (quoting Ardente v. Horan, 366 A.2d 162, 164 (R.I. 1976)). "Thus, '[s]ummary judgment is appropriate when, viewing the facts and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the [C]ourt determines that there are no issues of material fact in dispute, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Quest Diagnostics, LLC v. Pinnacle Consortium of Higher Educ., 93 A.3d 949, 951 (R.I. 2014). However, only when the facts reliably and indisputably point to a single permissible inference can this process be treated as a matter of law. Steinberg, 427 A.2d at 340.
The party who opposes the motion for summary judgment "carries the burden of proving by competent evidence the existence of a disputed material issue of fact and cannot rest on allegations or denials in the pleadings or on conclusions or legal opinions." Accent Store Design, Inc. v. Marathon House, Inc., 674 A.2d 1223, 1225 (R.I. 1996); see also McAdam v. Grzelczyk, 911 A.2d 255, 259 (R.I. 2006). "[T]he summary judgment stage is the put up or shut up moment ...