[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Washington County Superior Court. (WC 06-687). Associate
Justice Kristin E. Rodgers.
Plaintiff: Jo-Ann Albanese, Pro se.
Defendants: Marc DeSisto, Esq., Brian J. Clifford, Esq.
Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, and Robinson, JJ.
McKenna Goldberg, J.
case came before the Supreme Court on October 28, 2015,
pursuant to an order directing the parties to show cause why
the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily
decided. The plaintiff, Jo-Ann Albanese (plaintiff or
Albanese), appeals pro se from grants of summary judgment by
the Washington County Superior Court in favor of the
defendants, the Town of Narragansett, David Krugman in his
official capacity as Treasurer for the Town, the Narragansett
Police Department, and Sgt. Gerald Favreau (Sgt. Favreau) and
then-Patrolman (now Lieutenant) Matthew Sutton (Lt. Sutton)
in their official capacities as police officers with the
Narragansett Police Department (collectively, defendants).
Albanese further appeals from the denial of multiple pretrial
motions. After examining the memoranda filed by the
parties, we are of the opinion that cause has
not been shown, and we proceed to decide the appeal at this
time. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm in part,
vacate in part, and remand to the Superior Court.
the underlying facts of this action stem from an incident
recounted by this Court in State v. Albanese, 970
A.2d 1215 (R.I. 2009). On November 11, 2003, Sgt. Favreau and
Lt. Sutton were called to the Driftwood Apartment Complex
(Driftwood), where Albanese resides in Narragansett, after
receiving a report that Albanese had physically assaulted a
Driftwood maintenance worker, Thomas Arrico (Arrico).
Id. at 1217-18. The officers arrested Albanese, and
she subsequently was charged with one count of assault and/or
battery upon Arrico and one count of resisting arrest.
Id. at 1217, 1218. A District Court judge found
Albanese not guilty of resisting arrest but guilty on the
other count. Id. at 1217. Albanese appealed her
conviction to the Washington
County Superior Court. Id. In a jury-waived trial,
Albanese centered her defense on her allegation that mold
existed at Driftwood; defense counsel questioned Arrico about
the mold on cross-examination and called a former Driftwood
tenant and a Rhode Island Department of Health official as
witnesses to testify on the subject. Id. at
1217-19. The Superior Court trial justice found Albanese
guilty of battery but not guilty of assault. Id. at
1219. This Court affirmed the conviction. Id. at
circumstances of the 2003 arrest and Albanese's
allegations about the presence of mold at Driftwood are the
subject of this action. On November 10, 2006, Albanese,
acting pro se, filed a multi-count complaint against
defendants in the Washington County Superior Court. She
alleged assault and battery (count 3) stemming from the
purported use of excessive force by Sgt. Favreau and Lt.
Sutton. Specifically, she claimed that Sgt. Favreau and Lt.
Sutton had injured her when they " drag[ged] her [out]
of her car and * * * dragged her with her jacket over her
head, * * * 200 [feet] (approximately) or so to her apartment
in order to put her dog inside her apartment" just
before arresting her. She also alleged false arrest (count
further claimed that defendants had engaged in " gross
negligence and/or misconduct" (count 1) by "
failing to act in a professional manner, * * * effectively
be[coming] [Driftwood's] agents[,] and abus[ing] their
power and position" in the ongoing landlord-tenant
dispute over the purported mold. She alleged that defendants
had intimidated and harassed her in an attempt to dissuade
her from making additional complaints about mold. Albanese
charged that defendants' alleged failure to address
reports of mold constituted " negligence per se"
(count 4). Albanese included an additional claim for
intentional infliction of emotional distress (count 5), and
she sought to recover punitive damages (count 6).
addition to the case at bar, Albanese previously had brought
suit against Driftwood's property management company in
2005, in which she alleged multiple causes of action on
account of the mold in her apartment (Driftwood case). The
suit subsequently settled. In 2009, the attorney who had
represented Albanese in the Driftwood case entered his
appearance in the Superior Court on Albanese's behalf in
the case before us.
the case remained dormant in the Washington County Superior
Court for a number of years, until May 2, 2013, when a
Superior Court justice imposed a deadline of July 17, 2013
for the close of discovery. On August 29, counsel for
Albanese moved to withdraw his representation, citing a
breakdown of the attorney-client relationship. The trial
justice heard the motion on September 6, at which time
Albanese confirmed that she wished to terminate the
relationship and intended to represent herself. The court
scheduled December 10 for trial, ordered defendants to file
any dispositive motions no later than October 11, and gave
Albanese until November 8 to file her objection with
supporting memorandum to defendants' dispositive motions
(September 6 order). On September 20, Albanese, by letter to
the court, alleged that she recently had been diagnosed with
a medical condition and that surgery was imminent; she
requested a continuance until after the surgery. One week
later, at a status hearing on September
27, Albanese informed the court that her surgery had not yet
been scheduled. The trial justice denied Albanese's
request to postpone the November 8 filing deadline but agreed
to revisit the issue at the next status hearing.
October 10, 2013, in accordance with the September 6 order,
defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. In support of
the motion, defendants provided the initial police report and
Albanese's responses to defendants'
interrogatories. The parties reconvened on October 18
for a status hearing. Albanese told the court that her
surgery still had not been scheduled but that she intended to
meet with her surgeon on November 8. The trial justice slated
November 15 as the date for the next status hearing and
extended the deadline for Albanese's response to the
motion for summary judgment to November 29.
status hearing on November 15, 2013, Albanese notified the
court that the surgery had been performed on November 4. She
requested an extension of the November 29 filing deadline
because, she contended, that she had been too ill to work on
her objection. Although the trial justice stressed the need
for the nearly eight-year-old case to proceed, she granted
Albanese a new deadline of December 13. The trial justice
cautioned, " There will be no further
December 6, Albanese filed a written objection to the motion
for summary judgment which indicated that a memorandum and
supporting documentation were forthcoming. With her
objection, she filed an " Emergency Motion for an
Extension of Time/Continuance in which to Complete
[Plaintiff's] Answer to Summary Judgment and a
Continuance for Hearing on Summary Judgment." Albanese
stated that she needed more time because she had learned that
" no discovery [was] even asked for by her previous
attorney, no [depositions], no affidavits, no
interrogatories[,] absolutely nothing was done."
Notwithstanding the order that had cut off discovery six
months earlier, Albanese averred that she had attempted to
request discovery materials from defendants but that they had
refused because the deadline had passed.
trial justice denied the request to reopen discovery but
granted another extension to January 17, 2014 for Albanese to
file her objection. In so doing, she cautioned Albanese:
" [Y]ou have one last opportunity to file your objection
to the motion for summary judgment. One last opportunity. I
absolutely am not even going to entertain anything more on
the record until the date of the hearing." Albanese did
not comply; she peppered the court with a series of filings,
including a letter addressed to the trial justice, seeking
more time. The January 17 deadline passed without Albanese
filing additional materials in objection to defendants'
motion for summary judgment.
parties reassembled in Superior Court on January 31, 2014.
The trial justice denied the multiple motions Albanese had
filed since the previous hearing and indicated that she would
hear the parties on the issue of summary judgment. She
explained that, although Albanese had not
provided written documentation in support of her opposition
to the motion, the pro se litigant still had the opportunity
to provide an oral response. After hearing from both parties,
the trial justice granted summary ...