Estate of Richard J. Deeble
Rhode Island Department of Transportation
Providence County Superior Court. (PC 13-618). Associate
Justice Brian Van Couyghen.
Plaintiff: Robert Clark Corrente, Esq., Christopher Nicholas
Defendant: Richard B. Wooley, Department of Attorney General.
Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia,
Maureen McKenna Goldberg, Justice.
case came before the Supreme Court on January 21, 2016, after
a justice of the Superior Court entered a judgment in favor
of the defendant, the Rhode Island Department of
The plaintiff, the Estate of Richard J. Deeble (plaintiff or
estate), appealed the trial justice's determination that
the estate is not entitled to a right of first refusal to
repurchase land condemned for highway purposes under article
6, section 19 of the Rhode Island Constitution. On appeal,
the plaintiff contends that the trial justice erred in
failing to conclude that the preemptive right passed to the
estate of the original condemnee, Richard J. Deeble
(Richard), upon his death. After careful
consideration of the parties' arguments, we affirm the
judgment of the Superior Court.
facts underlying this action are not in dispute. In January
2001, RIDOT acquired a 31,502-square-foot parcel of real
property located at 480 Benefit Street in Providence, Rhode
Island (condemned property) through eminent domain in
connection with the relocation of Interstate Route 195. At
the time of the acquisition, the condemned property was owned
by Richard and his wife, Virginia (the Deebles), as tenants
by the entirety. Virginia passed away on April 16, 2006.
Richard died three years later, on July 7, 2009, and his will
was admitted to probate in Coventry, Rhode Island.
utilized a portion of the condemned property in furtherance
of the relocation of Interstate Route 195. Upon completion of
the project, approximately 24,601 square feet of the
condemned property remained (surplus property). However, in
accordance with G.L. 1956 § 37-5-8(b), RIDOT was "
directed, authorized[,] and empowered to sell, transfer[,]
and convey" the surplus property to the State of Rhode
Island I-195 Redevelopment District Commission.
February 5, 2013, plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive
relief against RIDOT in the Providence County Superior Court,
asserting that, should RIDOT seek to sell or lease the
condemned property, the estate must be offered the
opportunity to repurchase or lease the land in accordance
with article 6, section 19 of the Rhode Island Constitution.
The estate contended that, when Richard died, the right of
first refusal that was vested in him by virtue of article 6,
section 19 passed to his heirs, successors, and assigns.
RIDOT countered that the preemptive right was personal to
Richard and died with him. On April 26, 2013, the parties
entered into a consent order, in which RIDOT agreed to
refrain from selling or encumbering the surplus property
pending resolution of this litigation.
16, 2014, the Superior Court justice issued a written opinion
in which he found that the clear and unambiguous language of
article 6, section 19 restricted rights set forth in the
provision to the original condemnee. Consequently, the
Superior Court justice held that the provisions of article 6,
section 19 did not ...