ALISSA MOULTON; AIDEN ARANGO P.P.A. ALISSA MOULTON, Mother and Next Best Friend; and EDWARD SULLIVAN and DEBORAH SULLIVAN, in their capacity as Co-Trustees of the Alissa L. Moulton 2015 Self-Settled Special Needs Trust
UTGR, INC., d.b.a. TWIN RIVER; TWIN RIVER MANAGEMENT GROUP, INC., f.k.a. BLB MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC.; TWIN RIVER WORLDWIDE HOLDINGS, INC., f.k.a. BLB WORLDWIDE HOLDINGS, INC.; BLB INVESTORS, L.L.C.; LME ENTERPRISES, INC., d.b.a. ROYAL LIQUORS, INC.; ALEXANDER ARANGO
Providence County Superior Court
For Plaintiff: Mark S. Mandell, Esq.; Yvette M. Boisclair, Esq. Heather Bonnet-Hebert, Esq.; Zachary M. Mandell, Esq.
For Defendant: Joshua B. Walls, Esq.; Richard H. Burrows, Esq.; Diane Finkle, Esq.; Craig R. Waksler, Esq.; Daryl E. Dayian, Esq.; John F. Kelleher, Esq.; Dana M. Horton, Esq.; Carol A. Zangari, Esq.; Scott M. Carroll, Esq.; Mary-Rose Watson, Esq.
UTGR, Inc., d.b.a. Twin River, Twin River Management Group, Inc., f.k.a. BLB Management Services, Inc., Twin River Worldwide Holdings, Inc., f.k.a. BLB Worldwide Holdings, Inc. and BLB Investors, L.L.C. (collectively, the Twin River Defendants), along with LME Enterprises, Inc., d.b.a. Royal Liquors, Inc., bring this Motion to Dismiss Improperly Joined Parties Edward and Deborah Sullivan, in their capacity as Co-Trustees of the Alissa L. Moulton 2015 Self-Settled Special Needs Trust (the Co-Trustees). For the reasons set forth herein, Defendants' Motion is denied.
Facts and Travel
The underlying claim stems from a serious motor vehicle accident which resulted in permanent and debilitating injuries to Plaintiff, Alissa L. Moulton (Ms. Moulton or Plaintiff). On April 24, 2010, Alexander Arango (Mr. Arango) was a customer of Twin River Casino, located in Lincoln, Rhode Island. (Compl. ¶ 17). While Mr. Arango was a patron of Twin River Casino, he was allegedly served alcoholic beverages, despite being under the legal drinking age of twenty-one. Id. at ¶¶ 18-19. Moreover, according to Plaintiffs, Mr. Arango was served despite being visibly intoxicated and was subsequently allowed to leave the premises in such a state. Id. at ¶ 21. Upon leaving Twin River Casino-and allegedly due to his intoxicated state-Mr. Arango drove his car off route 146 southbound in Rhode Island, which resulted in a one-car crash. Id. at ¶ 25. At the time of the crash, Ms. Moulton was a passenger in Mr. Arango's vehicle. Id. at ¶ 23. As a result of the accident, Ms. Moulton suffered severe and permanent injuries, including being paralyzed from her chest down. Id. at ¶ 27.
On March 20, 2012, Plaintiffs filed a thirty-six count Complaint against a number of Defendants-including the Twin River Defendants-asserting a number of legal theories entitling them to damages. At that time, only Ms. Moulton and Aiden Arangowere named as plaintiffs in this action. However, on December 24, 2015, pursuant to Super. R. Civ. P. 7 and 15, Plaintiffs moved to amend their Complaint so as to add Edward and Deborah Sullivan, in their capacity as Co-Trustees of the Alissa L. Moulton 2015 Self-Settled Special Needs Trust (the Trust), as plaintiffs. The basis for this motion to amend the Complaint was the concern that absent the Co-Trustees as parties in the action, the jury would be allowed to unfairly speculate as to whether Mr. Arango would potentially benefit from any proceeds that Ms. Moulton received as a result of this litigation, due to the fact that they maintain a relationship and currently live together.Considering this, on January 25, 2016, the Court granted Plaintiffs' motion to amend their Complaint and allowed the addition of the Co-Trustees as plaintiffs. In granting the motion, the Court found that the Trust has a sufficiently concrete interest in this litigation and sufficient adversity to Defendants to have standing for its Co-Trustees. The Twin River Defendants subsequently filed the instant motion to dismiss the Co-Trustees as improperly joined parties on March 28, 2016, contending that they lack standing to participate in this action.
Standard of Review
Defendants' motion to dismiss the Co-Trustees as improperly joined parties is akin to a Super. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) 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 a complaint, this Court examines that pleading and assumes that the allegations contained in the 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 there is a policy to interpret the pleading rules liberally 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) (noting that the requisite notice under Rule 8 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure requires plaintiff to allege what acts committed by defendant entitle plaintiff to legal or equitable relief). Accordingly, "[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).
In support of their motion to dismiss, Defendants proffer several arguments. As a threshold issue, Defendants contend that the Co-Trustees lack standing and should therefore not be allowed to remain as parties in this action. Moreover, Defendants point out that standing is a threshold issue, and therefore the Court must resolve this issue first. Additionally, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' contention that the Rhode Island Rules of Civil Procedure somehow support granting standing to the Co-Trustees is misguided and mischaracterizes the spirit of those rules. Lastly, Defendants alternatively assert that if the Court were to find that the Trust-and by extension the Co-Trustees-have adequate standing ...