County Superior Court (PC 13-3861) Brian Van Couyghen
Plaintiff: Ronald J. Resmini, Esq.
Defendants: Jonathan Myhre, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
A. Suttell Chief Justice.
plaintiff, Bruce Zarembka, appeals from the Superior
Court's denial of his motion for a new trial, following a
jury verdict in favor of the defendants, Kali Whelan and John
Whelan. This case came before the Supreme Court
pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show
cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be
summarily decided. After considering the parties' written
and oral submissions and reviewing the record, we conclude
that cause has not been shown and that this case may be
decided without further briefing or argument. For the reasons
set forth in this opinion, we affirm the decision of the
outset, we note that plaintiff did not order a transcript of
the trial in the Superior Court. Nevertheless, we will
outline the facts that we can deduce from the record before
appeal arises out of an automobile accident that occurred on
November 17, 2011, at the intersection of Niantic Avenue and
Dupont Drive in Providence, Rhode Island. On August 29, 2013,
plaintiff brought an action against Kali Whelan, the operator
of a vehicle involved in the collision, and John Whelan, the
vehicle's registrant. The complaint alleged that Kali
negligently operated her vehicle, which caused a collision
with Zarembka's vehicle and resulted in Zarembka
sustaining personal injuries. The defendants denied
plaintiff's allegations and raised multiple affirmative
case proceeded to arbitration. After hearing the case, the
arbitrator issued an award for plaintiff in the amount of $7,
500 plus interest and costs. The defendants rejected the
award. The case went to trial; and, on May 16, 2016, a jury
returned a verdict for defendants. Judgment was entered that
reflected the jury's verdict.
23, 2016, plaintiff moved for judgment as a matter of law,
additur, and/or a new trial; and he argued that the
jury's verdict was against the law, the evidence, and the
facts. The defendants objected to the motion and moved for
the assessment of costs against plaintiff pursuant to G.L.
1956 § 9-22-5 and Rule 54(d) and (e) of the Superior
Court Rules of Civil Procedure.
August 19, 2016, a hearing on plaintiff's motion was
held. The trial justice clarified that plaintiff's
motion, which was styled as a motion for judgment as a matter
of law, additur, and/or a new trial, was in effect a motion
for a new trial; and, plaintiff agreed to this clarification.
The plaintiff argued that the jury failed to apply the facts
to the law in the case at hand. Specifically, he maintained
that defendants should have been found negligent based on
Kali's testimony at trial that she was traveling thirty
miles per hour in a twenty-five-mile-per-hour zone through an
intersection in an area with which she was familiar. The
defendants asserted that the testimony was conflicting and
that, therefore, reasonable minds could differ as to the
outcome of the case. Specifically, defendants referenced
plaintiff's trial testimony that Kali left the lane in
which she was traveling and crashed into him, whereas Kali
testified that she had a green light, was in the right of
way, and that plaintiff pulled in front of her without using
a turn signal.
trial justice then rendered his decision. He first
articulated the standard for deciding a motion for a new
trial. He noted that he had instructed the jury on the burden
of proof, duty of care, and comparative negligence, and had
provided instructions related to the specifics of the case,
such as the degree of care to be exercised when entering an
intersection and the violation of motor-vehicle laws as
evidence of negligence. The trial justice found
plaintiff's and Kali's accounts of the accident
incompatible and observed that neither the photographs nor
the testimony about the photographs tended to support either
account of the accident. Because the trial ...