Plaintiff: John B. Harwood, Esq., David S. Francazio, Esq.
Defendant: William R. Grimm, Esq.
the Court is Defendant Safety Educators, Inc.'s
(Defendant) Super. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff Labonte's Auto School, LLC's (Plaintiff)
Complaint. Whether Defendant will prevail on its Motion to
Dismiss depends on the interpretation of the word
"program" in G.L. 1956 §
31-10-20(b). The Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant
to G.L. 1956 § 9-30-1.
to the allegations set forth in Plaintiff's Complaint,
Plaintiff-a Massachusetts limited liability company whose
principal place of business is in the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts-and Defendant-a Rhode Island corporation whose
principal place of business is similarly located in
Massachusetts-are in the driver's education business.
Compl. ¶¶ 1-4. As a prerequisite to obtaining
limited instruction drivers' permits or drivers'
licenses, Rhode Islanders must complete a driver's
education course of instruction that meets certain statutory
requirements. Prospective drivers under the age of eighteen
can fulfill their statutorily-prescribed thirty-three hours
of classroom education in two ways: either they successfully
complete the course offered by the Community College of Rhode
Island (CCRI) as outlined in § 31-10-19-or one similar
to it, see § 31-10-20(a)-or they successfully
complete "a similar course of instruction in another
state recognized by the [Rhode Island Board of
Education] as equivalent to it." Sec.
31-10-20(b). To qualify as a "similar course of
instruction" that is offered in another state, the
course must satisfy four minimum requirements, the fourth of
which is at the center of the present dispute-i.e.,
"that the program does not offer outside the classroom
road test instruction or driving lessons to Rhode Island
students." Sec. 31-10-20(b).
case, both Plaintiff and Defendant offer such courses of
instruction to Rhode Island's prospective drivers.
However, Defendant's sister company, AAA Driver Training
School, which is located at the same location as Defendant,
also offers "on the road" driving lessons. Compl.
¶¶ 5-6. Plaintiff alleges that, at the same
location, Defendant and AAA Driver Training School separately
offer both the in-class course of instruction mandated by
§ 31-10- 20(b) and "on the road" driving
lessons. According to Plaintiff, Defendant and AAA Driver
Training School share more than a location: they purportedly
share the same president and treasurer as well as another
corporate officer. Comp. ¶¶ 7-8, 10.
March of 2017, Plaintiff filed its Complaint alleging the
foregoing facts. Plaintiff charges that while Defendant and
AAA Driver Training School may be distinct in form, they
exist as separate entities for the principal purpose of
evading § 31-10-20(b)'s requirement "that the
program does not offer outside the classroom road test
instruction or driving lessons to Rhode Island
students." In support of this position, Plaintiff reads
§ 31-10-20(b)'s language as preventing a driving
school-or "program"-from offering both in-class
instruction and outside the classroom instruction. In other
words, as Plaintiff puts it, Defendant and AAA Driver
Training School-through the use of a corporate fiction-offer
a "one stop shop" for Rhode Island's
prospective drivers in violation of § 31-10-20(b).
Complaint, Plaintiff seeks two forms of relief from this
Court: (1) a declaratory judgment that Defendant is a
corporate fiction set up to evade what Plaintiff purports is
§ 31-10-20(b)'s requirement that Defendant not offer
on-road instruction or driving lessons to Rhode Island
students; and (2) injunctive relief prohibiting Defendant
from providing classroom driver education courses going
forward. In early April 2017, Defendant moved to dismiss
Plaintiff's two-count Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)
of our Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendant
denies that it is a corporate fiction set up to allow AAA
Driver Training School to essentially offer both in-class and
on-road driving instructions. In moving to dismiss, Defendant
assumes arguendo-but continues to deny as a matter
of fact-that it and AAA Driver Training School are a single
entity. Defendant maintains that even if it and AAA Driver
Training School are treated as one, § 31-10-20(b) does
not prevent a single entity from offering both in-class and
sole function of a motion to dismiss is to test the
sufficiency of the complaint[.]'" Audette v.
Poulin, 127 A.3d 908, 911 (R.I. 2015) (quoting
Ho-Rath v. R.I. Hosp., 115 A.3d 938, 942 (R.I.
2015)). In testing the complaint's sufficiency, the
Court's "review is confined to the four corners of
that pleading, " id. (citation omitted), and
the Court "'assumes the allegations contained in the
complaint to be true and views the facts in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff.'" R.I. Emp't
Sec. All., Local 401 v. State, Dep't of Emp't &
Training, 788 A.2d 465, 467 (R.I. 2002) (hereinafter
R.I. Emp't) (per curiam) (quoting St. James
Condo. Ass'n v. Lokey, 676 A.2d 1343, 1346 (R.I.
1996)). Phrased another way, "'[w]hen ruling on a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the [Court] must look no further than
the complaint, assume that all allegations in the complaint
are true, and resolve any doubts in a plaintiff's
favor.'" Pellegrino v. R.I. Ethics
Comm'n, 788 A.2d 1119, 1123 (R.I. 2002) (quoting
R.I. Affiliate, ACLU v. Bernasconi, 557 A.2d 1232,
1232 (R.I. 1989)); see also Palazzo v. Alves, 944
A.2d 144, 149 (R.I. 2008). Accordingly, a motion to dismiss
"should not be granted 'unless it appears to a
certainty that the plaintiff will not be entitled to relief
under any set of facts which might be proved in support of
[its] claim.'" R.I. Emp't, 788 A.2d at
467 (internal alterations omitted) (quoting St. James
Condo Ass'n, 676 A.2d at 1346).