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Joachim v. Straight Line Productions, LLC

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

May 6, 2016

Bryan Joachim
v.
Straight Line Productions, LLC, et al.

Providence County Superior Court, PC 09-1272, Michael A. Silverstein Associate Justice.

For Plaintiff: Bryan Joachim, Pro Se

For Defendants: Thomas R. Noel, Esq., John R. Harrington, Esq.

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

OPINION

GILBERT V. INDEGLIA ASSOCIATE JUSTICE.

These consolidated cases came before the Supreme Court after the Superior Court entered an order of dismissal as a sanction for the mid-trial production of certain documents and denied the plaintiff, Bryan Joachim's (plaintiff or Joachim), motion to vacate such order. On appeal, Joachim, who appeared pro se for oral argument, [1] sets forth a myriad of arguments to support his contentions that the hearing justice erred in (1) dismissing the case pursuant to Rule 37(b)(2) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure; and (2) denying his motion to vacate the order of dismissal pursuant to Rule 60(b) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

I

Facts and Travel

On March 4, 2009, Joachim filed a complaint in Providence County Superior Court against defendants, Straight Line Productions, LLC, Joseph Strong, and Ann Strong (collectively, defendants). In his second amended complaint, Joachim set forth allegations of, inter alia, breach of fiduciary duty resulting from oppressive conduct, breach of fiduciary duty resulting from self-dealing, fraud in the inducement, and negligent misrepresentation. The essence of Joachim's complaint is that, after he paid $ 260, 000 for a membership interest in Straight Line Productions, Joseph and Ann Strong shut him out by purchasing the interests of two other members to form a collective ownership interest of 80 percent. Thereafter, according to Joachim, the Strongs used their position to, among other things, engage in oppressive conduct by converting Straight Line's assets for their own personal gain and to engage in self-dealing by entering into transactions with other corporate entities for which the duo also serve as fiduciaries.

During discovery, defendants served three requests for production of documents upon plaintiff. It is undisputed that, throughout the course of discovery in this matter, the Superior Court did not enter any order compelling plaintiff to provide or permit discovery.

On April 25, 2012, a jury was impaneled and a trial commenced. Throughout the first several days of trial, various witnesses were called, including a forensic accountant, the accountant for Straight Line, and Joseph and Ann Strong. On Monday, April 30, 2012, four days into trial, plaintiff's counsel called Joachim as a witness. During cross-examination, defense counsel inquired into a letter (marked as exhibit No. 29) that Joachim had written to Joseph Strong. When he asked Joachim about the March 19, 2008, date on the letter, Joachim indicated that this letter had apparently been auto-dated by his computer. He further elaborated that he was "going through [his] files just this past weekend, [and he] came across one with a date September, I believe, 17th." The cross-examination then continued without scrutiny into anything else that Joachim may have stumbled upon over the weekend.

Joachim's cross-examination continued into the fifth day of trial, which was followed by redirect examination. During this questioning, plaintiff's counsel showed Joachim an exhibit marked for identification as exhibit No. 41. When plaintiff's counsel asked Joachim if he recognized exhibit No. 41, defense counsel objected. The trial justice requested both parties to approach, and the following exchange took place at side bar:

"The Court: What is it?
"[Plaintiff's Counsel]: These are notes of Mr. Joachim apparently talking in at the time that he ...

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