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ABC Building Corp. v. Ropolo Family, LLC

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

March 14, 2018

ABC Building Corporation d/b/a Advanced Building Concepts
v.
Ropolo Family, LLC.

         Newport County Superior Court (NC 16-215) Associate Justice Walter R. Stone

          For Plaintiff: Attorney(s) on Appeal Joseph J. Reale, Jr., Esq.

          For Defendant: Michael A. Kelly, Esq.

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

          OPINION

          Francis X. Flaherty, Associate Justice

         The defendant, Ropolo Family, LLC, appeals from an order of the Superior Court that confirmed an arbitration award in favor of the plaintiff, ABC Building Corporation, and from a corresponding judgment of the Superior Court in favor of ABC and against Ropolo in the amount of $72, 415, plus statutory interest in the amount of $7, 086.24 through the date of the arbitration award, and post-award interest thereafter. Ropolo contends on appeal that the arbitrator exceeded his authority by (1) manifestly disregarding clear and unambiguous contractual language that should have precluded any award in favor of ABC, and (2) manifestly disregarding well-settled law by awarding ABC recovery in quasi-contract when a valid and enforceable contract was in existence. 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 summarily be decided. After considering the parties' written and oral arguments, and after 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 below, we affirm the order and judgment of the Superior Court.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         ABC and Ropolo entered into a contract for the construction of a restaurant in Newport. Sometime thereafter, a dispute arose regarding payment that Ropolo owed to ABC. It is uncontroverted that, when it failed to receive full payment on the bills it submitted to Ropolo, ABC ceased work on the project.[1] The contract provided that the parties would submit their dispute to binding arbitration. They did, and, after significant discovery and protracted hearings, the arbitrator awarded $72, 415 to ABC, plus $7, 086.24 in interest. The arbitrator predicated his award on the following pertinent findings:

"3. I find that under the factual circumstances of this matter, the Agreement and its General Conditions require payment by [Ropolo] to [ABC] of the fair and reasonable value of labor and materials supplied on the project.
"4. I find that [ABC's] testimony, taken as a whole, was sufficient and credible as to the fair and reasonable cost of work, the reasonable necessity of the work, payment by [ABC] for the work, and [ABC's] communication of the same to [Ropolo].
" * * *
"8. I find that [ABC] did not materially breach the Agreement."

         In rendering his award, the arbitrator decided that "[ABC] is entitled to recover from [Ropolo] under the contract and alternatively in quantum meruit * * *."

         ABC moved to confirm the arbitration award in the Superior Court. Ropolo objected to ABC's motion to confirm and simultaneously moved to vacate the arbitration award. Ropolo argued that the arbitrator manifestly disregarded clear and unambiguous contractual language- specifically, § 7.1.4:

"With each Application for Payment, the Construction Manager shall submit payrolls, petty cash accounts, receipted invoices or invoices with check vouchers attached, and any other evidence required by the Owner or Architect to demonstrate that cash disbursements already made by the Construction Manager on account of the Cost of the Work equal or exceed progress payments already received by the Construction Manager, less that portion of those payments attributable to the ...

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