KATHLEEN I. MAIN, Individually, as legal beneficiary and on behalf of all legal beneficiaries of DAVID D. MAIN, MICHAEL D. MAIN, BONITA I. MAIN; and DAVID M. MAIN
CITIZENS FINANCIAL GROUP, INC.
County Superior Court
Plaintiff: Mark B. Decof, Esq.; Donna M. DiDonato, Esq.; Mark
J. Brice, Esq.
Defendant: David A. Wollin, Esq.
matter came to be heard on May 9, 2016 before the Superior
Court, Procaccini, J., on Defendant Citizens Financial Group,
Inc.'s (Citizens or Defendant) Motion for Summary
Judgment. Defendant seeks summary judgment on the basis that
it did not owe a duty of care to provide additional security
at its Walnut Hill Branch in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.
Defendant also seeks summary judgment on the basis that
Defendant was not the cause of David D. Main's (Mr. Main)
fatal injuries. Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 §
Facts and Travel
September 20, 2010, Mr. Main, the manager of a local Shell
Station (Shell Station), was shot and killed while attempting
to make a deposit for his employer at a Citizens Bank branch
in Woonsocket, Rhode Island (Walnut Hill Branch). Mr. Main
was the victim of a targeted and planned attack by
co-conspirators, Jason Pleau (Mr. Pleau), Jose Santiago (Mr.
Santiago), and Kelley Lajoie (Ms. Lajoie) (collectively,
Co-Conspirators). The Co-Conspirators received inside
information regarding the Shell Station's bank deposit
practices. On the date of the attack, Mr. Pleau hid on
property adjacent to the Walnut Hill Branch owned by the City
of Woonsocket. Ms. Lajoie stood watch at the Shell Station
and alerted Mr. Pleau when Mr. Main left for the Walnut Hill
Branch with the weekend deposit in tow. Mr. Santiago was
waiting nearby with a getaway vehicle.
Pleau confronted Mr. Main in the parking lot of the Walnut
Hill Branch pointing a loaded gun and demanding that Mr. Main
give him the "dough." Mr. Main did not comply with
the demand and ran towards the entrance of the Walnut Hill
Branch. Mr. Pleau fired several shots, one of those shots
fatally wounding Mr. Main. Mr. Pleau took the bank bag and
ran toward the back of the bank, hopped a fence, and fled to
where Mr. Santiago was waiting. The Co-Conspirators were
later apprehended. All three Co-Conspirators pled guilty to
their respective charges.
2011, Kathleen I. Main, Mr. Main's wife, filed a
single-count Complaint against Citizens on behalf of all the
legal beneficiaries of Mr. Main (collectively, Plaintiffs),
alleging that Citizens failed to maintain adequate security
at its Walnut Hill Branch. Defendant now moves for summary
judgment on the basis that it satisfied its duty to provide
security under the Bank Protection Act and industry
standards. Defendant continues that it does not owe a duty to
provide additional security measures. Specifically, Defendant
argues that the prior robberies at the Walnut Hill Branch did
not trigger an additional duty to provide heightened
security, as it was not foreseeable that an armed robbery
turned murder would occur at the Walnut Hill Branch.
Defendant also posits that it did not cause Mr. Main's
fatal injuries because both Mr. Pleau and Mr. Main's
actions broke the causal chain. In response, Plaintiffs
contend that the issues in this case are purely one of
fact-that being, whether Defendant met its duty to provide
adequate security. Additionally, Plaintiffs maintain that the
Rhode Island Supreme Court has already held that prior acts
of violence need not be in the exact manner of the injury
causing act to make it foreseeable that the injury causing
act will occur. Finally, Plaintiffs contend that whether Mr.
Main's flight from Mr. Pleau was so unreasonable that it
broke the causal chain is a question of fact for the jury to
Standard of Review
granting a motion for summary judgment, the trial court is
required to review the pleadings, as well as affidavits,
admissions, answers to interrogatories, and other appropriate
evidence from a perspective most favorable to the nonmoving
party. Steinberg v. State, 427 A.2d 338, 340 (R.I.
1981). The question before the Court is whether there is a
genuine issue as to any material fact which must be resolved.
See R.I. Hosp. Trust Nat'l Bank v.
Boiteau, 119 R.I. 64, 66, 376 A.2d 323, 324 (1977). If
an examination of the evidence, viewed in the light most
favorable to the opposing party, reveals no such issue, then
the petition is ripe for summary judgment. See
id. When the moving party sustains its burden, the
opposing party must then prove "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). The trial justice must keep in mind that summary
judgment "is a drastic remedy and should be cautiously
applied." Steinberg, 427 A.2d at 339–40
(quoting Ardente v. Horan, 117 R.I. 254, 256-57, 366
A.2d 162, 164 (1976)) (internal quotation marks omitted). The
purpose of summary judgment "is not to cull out the weak
cases from the herd of lawsuits waiting to be tried . . .
only if the case is legally dead on arrival should the court
take the drastic step of . . . granting summary
judgment." Mitchell v. Mitchell, 756 A.2d 179,
185 (R.I. 2000).
a duty of care is owed is a question of law for the court and
not the jury." Bucki v. Hawkins, 914 A.2d 491,
495 (R.I. 2007). Under Rhode Island law, having abolished the
common law categories of premise liability, "courts must
determine whether landowners have satisfied their affirmative
duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of all people
reasonably expected to be upon the premises."
Id. Whether a duty exists depends on the particular
facts and circumstances of each case. See Berardis v.
Louangxay, 969 A.2d 1288, 1291 (R.I. 2009). Courts are
directed to consider:
"(1) the foreseeability of harm to the plaintiff, (2)
the degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered an
injury, (3) the closeness of connection between the
defendant's conduct and the injury suffered, (4) the
policy of preventing future harm, and (5) the extent of the
burden to the defendant and the consequences to the community
for imposing a duty to exercise care with resulting ...