MAINSTAY FISHERIES, INC. AND RICHARD F. MUDD, SR.
NORTHERN WATERFRONT ASSOCIATES, L.P. and NORTHERN WATERFRONT ASSOCIATES CO., LLC
KANE AND KANE, INC.; EAST PASSAGE REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATES, L.P.; MT. HOPE MARINE CONTRACTORS, INC.; MICHAEL VIERA; SHELTOW I, INC.; JOHN SHELTON; CONTINENTAL INSURANCE COMPANY; AND CAN FINANCIAL CORPORATION
County Superior Court
Plaintiff: John Deacon, Esq.
Defendant: Robert J. Quigley, Jr., Esq. Robert E. Collins,
Esq. Kenneth R. Tremblay, Esq.
J. MAGISTRATE JUSTICE.
the Court is Plaintiff Mainstay Fisheries, Inc.'s
(Plaintiff) Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and Requests
for Jury Instructions on the issue of the duty of care owed
to Plaintiff by Defendants Northern Waterfront Associates,
L.P. and Northern Waterfront Associates, Co., LLC (jointly,
Defendants). In response, Defendants filed a timely
objection. This Court heard arguments from the parties on
October 3, 2016. Jurisdiction is pursuant to Rule 56 of the
Rhode Island Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure. For the
reasoning set forth in further detail below, the
Plaintiff's Motion is denied.
following facts are undisputed by the parties. Plaintiff is a
Rhode Island corporation which at all times material hereto
had a principal place of business in Portsmouth, Rhode
Island. Plaintiff Richard F. Mudd, Sr. is a resident of
Tiverton, Rhode Island and was the sole shareholder and
officer of Plaintiff. The F/V KISMET, a 65-foot, single-crew,
offshore, wooden lobster boat, was built in 1981 and was
owned by Plaintiff. Plaintiff Richard F. Mudd, Sr. was the
Captain of the F/V KISMET. Throughout its service, the F/V
KISMET was operated as an offshore
lobster/gillnet fishing vessel for Plaintiff.
Northern Waterfront Associates, L.P. is a Delaware Limited
Partnership with a principal place of business in
Pennsylvania. Defendant Northern Waterfront Associates, Co.,
LLC is a Delaware Limited Liability Company and is the
general partner of Northern Waterfront Associates, L.P.
Defendant Northern Waterfront Associates, L.P. was the owner
of the Mount Hope Marine Terminal Dock (the Pier) in
Portsmouth, Rhode Island at all relevant times.
Defendant/Third-Party Defendant John Shelton (Mr. Shelton) is
a resident of Tiverton, Rhode Island and the President of
Defendant/Third-Party Defendant Sheltow I, Inc. (Sheltow).
Sheltow consisted of a tugboat, the HOPE, and a barge, which
were used for tasks like taking fresh water out to vessels.
Sheltow was doing business out of the Pier until it could
locate a more permanent base of operations.
had purchased a crane and other equipment from Defendant Mt.
Hope Marine Contractors. On July 3, 2007, Mr. Shelton was on
the Pier working on the crane. On that day, there was a great
deal of activity happening on the Pier; there were
adolescents in the area preparing a bonfire,  there were
individuals walking on the beach, including Sarah Edelstein
(Ms. Edelstein), and there were laborers working, including
Mr. Shelton and Mike Kelly (Mr. Kelly). According to Mr.
Shelton, both he and Mr. Kelly worked on the Pier until
approximately 4:00 pm. At that time, Mr. Shelton left for a
meeting in Tiverton, Rhode Island.
later that evening, the Pier caught fire. Mr. Viera and Ms.
Edelstein-two eyewitnesses-were talking when Mr. Viera
observed smoke on the Pier, in the vicinity of the pump and
crane. Ms. Edelstein proceeded to take pictures, fully
documenting the fire from its onset. At some point, the F/V
KISMET, which was docked on the Pier, caught fire and drifted
out into the waters surrounding the Pier. The F/V KISMET
became a total loss from the damages sustained in the fire.
As a result, on July 24, 2009, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint
alleging negligence on the part of various defendants in
Newport County Superior Court.
threshold matter, this Court will address whether maritime or
state law is applicable to Plaintiffs motion. We previously
held that maritime law would govern all substantive issues
relating to Plaintiffs claims, while procedural matters would
be decided according to the law of Rhode Island. See
Mainstay Fisheries, Inc. v. N. Waterfront Assocs., LP.,
2016 WL 878739 (R.I. Super. Mar. 2, 2016). "Rule 56 of
the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure constitutes a
procedural device that, in the proper circumstances, plays an
appropriate role in separating the wheat from the chaff in
the litigation process." Young v. Warwick
Rollermagic Skating Ctr., Inc., 973 A.2d 553, 557 (R.I.
2009); see also Sharkey v. Prescott, 19 A.3d 62, 66
(R.I. 2011) (explaining the procedural rule's utility in
identifying issues appropriate for trial); Rotelli v.
Catanzaro, 686 A.2d 91 (R.I. 1996) (clarifying that the
purpose of the summary judgment procedure was to identify
issues for trial, not to resolve the issues); Benner v.
J.H. Lynch & Sons, Inc., 641 A.2d 332, 334-35 (R.I.