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Dominguez v. Otero

Superior Court of Rhode Island, Providence

May 24, 2018

LESLIE DOMINGUEZ and MARIE B. DOMINGUEZ
v.
WILFREDO ROSA OTERO

          For Plaintiff: Ernest G. Barone, Esq.

          For Defendant: Erin Illuzzi, Esq.; Shaun Thomas Hogan, Esq.

          DECISION (REGARDING MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL)

          LANPHEAR, MAGISTRATE J.

         This matter came on for hearing before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for New Trial. This case was tried for two days before a jury. The jury returned a verdict for Defendant finding the absence of any negligence.

         On December 8, 2014, a motor vehicle collision occurred at the intersection of Douglas Avenue and Eaton Street in Providence. The intersection is oddly configured in that it has a red-light, but some four different roads travel through or end at the intersection, or within a few feet of it. Leslie Dominguez[1] and Wilfredo Otero were driving on Eaton and Donelson Streets, respectively. The streets do not squarely face one another, but receive the same traffic-light signal.

         In Quillen v. Macera, 160 A.3d 1006, 1011 (R.I. 2017), the high court recited the time-honored standard for considering a motion for a new trial. See R.I. Managed Eye Care, Inc. v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, 996 A.2d 684, 695 (R.I. 2010). In this role, "the trial justice should review the evidence and exercise his or her independent judgment 'in passing upon the weight of the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses."' 996 A.2d at 695.

         The Evidence

         The Court will review the evidence presented but limit its discussion on damages, as the jury failed to find the Defendant negligent.[2] Hence, the jury never reached the issue of damages.

         The first witness to testify was Leslie Dominguez, the Plaintiff-driver. A housecleaner, she described how the car was used for different family members to get to work. When she approached the intersection from Eaton Street to turn left onto Douglas Avenue, she noticed Defendant's vehicle stopped at the intersection. She testified that as she travelled through the intersection at about 10 mph, Mr. Otero's car suddenly accelerated around her, striking her car. Her air bags deployed and she received injuries to her chest, hand, thumb and lower back. Her car was towed after police arrived. On cross-examination, she acknowledged that she stopped and saw Mr. Otero's vehicle but she moved when he stayed at a stop, even after her light signal turned green.

         Mr. Carrillo testified next. He was a passenger in Plaintiff's vehicle and previously dated Leslie. He testified that the Dominguez vehicle stopped at the intersection and when the light turned green, Mr. Otero's car did not move. He thought that Mr. Otero did not have a green light, and stated that the Dominguez car moved first. He testified that Mr. Otero's vehicle accelerated to the right and struck their car. The two drivers got out of the car and a quarrel escalated. He pushed the Dominguez car out of the intersection as it was inoperable. On cross he stated that, "we saw the Otero car coming after we already started moving."

         The Court found each of these witnesses to be consistent throughout and consistent with one another. But for the description of which car hit the other, their testimony appeared credible.

         Mr. Otero testified next. Called by the Defendant, he testified out of turn. He testified that his car was travelling west on Donelson Street, intending to continue onto Eaton Street, across the odd intersection. There were five people in his vehicle. He testified that he noticed no other cars and did not see the Dominguez vehicle until "she was right on top of me."

         The photographic evidence shows that the front left of the Dominguez vehicle contacted the front left corner of the Otero car. Oddly, Mr. Otero also testified that he would have stopped if another car was moving at the intersection. On cross, he testified that although they had just left a family visit, there was no talking in his vehicle. After he acknowledged that his wife was talking, he stopped answering cross-examination questions directly, so the Court questioned his credibility. He acknowledged that his wife told him to slow down and watch out.

         Maria Dominguez, the owner of the vehicle and Leslie's mother, testified extensively about damages as did other witnesses. ...


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