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Santos v. D. Laikos, Inc.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

June 7, 2016

Yendelby Santos
v.
D. Laikos, Inc., [1] d/b/a Monet Lounge and John Doe.

         Providence County Superior Court, PC 14-1984, Richard A. Licht Associate Justice.

          For Plaintiff: Shelagh R. McCahey, Esq.

          For Defendants: Fausto C. Anguilla, Esq.

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

          OPINION

          GILBERT V. INDEGLIA ASSOCIATE JUSTICE.

         The plaintiff, Yendelby Santos (plaintiff or Santos), appeals from the Superior Court's denial of his motion to vacate final judgment in favor of the defendant, D. Laikos, Inc., d/b/a Monet Lounge, and John Doe (collectively, defendants), on his personal injury claim. This matter came before the Supreme Court on May 11, 2016, pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised should not be summarily decided. After hearing the arguments of counsel and reviewing the memoranda submitted on behalf of the parties, we are satisfied that cause has not been shown. Accordingly, we shall decide the matters at this time without further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         The facts of this case are straightforward and undisputed. On April 30, 2011, plaintiff alleged that he sustained personal injuries during a "melee" at defendants' Providence nightclub, Monet Lounge. On April 18, 2014, he filed the instant personal injury action in Providence County Superior Court. However, the complaint erroneously stated that the incident in question occurred on November 4, 2010.[2] On April 20, 2015, defendants filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure, [3]stating that the three-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions barred plaintiff's claim.[4] The defendants' counsel certified that he mailed both the motion to dismiss and the accompanying memorandum of law to plaintiff's counsel's office, in addition to filing the motion and memorandum of law via the recently installed electronic filing system as is now required by the Superior Court Rules. The motion included a hearing date of June 16, 2015.

         The hearing on defendants' motion occurred as scheduled; however, plaintiff did not appear. As a result, the hearing justice granted defendants' motion to dismiss on statute of limitations grounds. On June 23, 2015, plaintiff filed an objection and motion to vacate the final judgment, which indicated that his counsel did not receive notice of defendants' motion to dismiss. On June 25, 2015, final judgment entered dismissing plaintiff's claim. On that same day, plaintiff filed a motion to amend his complaint to correct the date of the incident.[5]

         On July 8, 2015, a hearing was held on plaintiff's motion to vacate. At the hearing, plaintiff's counsel argued that excusable neglect pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure, or in the alterative, "any other reason justifying relief" pursuant to Rule 60(b)(6), warranted relief from final judgment.[6] The plaintiff's counsel stated that she never received notice of defendants' motion to dismiss electronically because the service contact in the electronic filing system contained the incorrect contact information. Further, plaintiff's counsel represented that, if given an evidentiary hearing, she was prepared to present evidence to overcome the presumption that notice of the motion was received by mail. Specifically, plaintiff's counsel intended to call her office's litigation paralegal, who handled all of the mail for the firm's litigation department.

         The plaintiff's counsel also indicated that, had she been aware of defendants' motion to dismiss, she would have promptly presented a motion to amend the complaint[7] to correct the "typographical error as to the date of the incident." She argued that "[t]here is no issue of notice of the event as far as * * * defendant[s are] concerned" because the police report issued in connection with the incident, of which defendants had a copy, contained the correct date.

         The hearing justice said he "d[idn't] buy" plaintiff's excusable neglect argument, and denied his motion to vacate. On July 31, 2015, an order entered denying plaintiff's motion to vacate the final judgment and denying his request for an evidentiary hearing.[8] No ruling was ...


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