Peter E. Ucci et al.
Town of Coventry.
Superior Court Kent County No. KC 13-1090 Allen P. Rubine
Plaintiffs: Thomas J. Cronin, Esq., Peter D. Nolan, Esq.
Defendant: Nicholas Gorham, Esq., Sarah F. Malley, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
William P. Robinson, Associate Justice
case arises out of a dispute concerning a very small piece of
real property in the Town of Coventry (the Town), which
property the Town contended had been dedicated to the Town
(as a public street) in 1946. The Town appeals from a
February 4, 2016 declaratory judgment of the Superior Court
entered following the grant of summary judgment in favor of
the plaintiffs, Peter E. Ucci and John S. Ucci. The hearing
justice's grant of the plaintiffs' motion for summary
judgment was predicated on his determination that, even if he
assumed for the sake of deciding that there had been a
dedication, "[t]here [was still] nothing to support the
position [of the Town] that this dedication was accepted
either by public use or by official action." On appeal,
the Town contends that the hearing justice erred in so
ruling. The Town further contends that the hearing justice
erred by not dismissing plaintiffs' action due to their
alleged failure to join indispensable parties.
case came before the Supreme Court for oral argument 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 reviewing the record and considering the
written and oral submissions of the parties, we are satisfied
that cause has not been shown and that this appeal may be
decided at this time.
reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of
the Superior Court.
small piece of property at issue is roughly sketched on a
recorded plat entitled "PLAN SHOWING LOTS 1, 2, 3 4 ON
THE UCCI PLAT, OWNED BY ELVIRO and FILOMENA UCCI, Ray C.
Matteson Eng'r, September 1946" (the 1946 Plat); it
is a strip of land thirty-feet wide, one hundred ninety-three
feet long on one side, and two hundred ten feet long on the
other side. The strip is bordered on its southern side by
plaintiffs' property (designated as Lot 3 on the 1946
Plat), on its eastern side by Benoit Street, on its western
side by a body of water called "Middle Pond, " and
on its northern side by a parcel of land designated as Lot 4.
It is undisputed that the 1946 Plat does not, on its face,
indicate the purpose of the disputed strip of land. It is
further undisputed that the owner of Lot 4 is not a party to
October 9, 2013, plaintiffs filed a complaint against the
Town in Superior Court, seeking a declaratory
judgment to the effect that they were the owners in
fee simple of the disputed strip of land. (The plaintiffs
alleged in their Complaint that the Town had "designated
the area in question as Tax Assessor's Map 62 Lot 85.4
and [had] taxed the same to the Plaintiff[s], " which
allegation the Town denied in its answer.) On November 24,
2015, the Town moved for summary judgment, arguing that
plaintiffs did not own the disputed strip of land because,
according to the Town, said strip of land was dedicated as a
public way because it appears on the 1946 Plat, which had
been recorded, and because lots were sold with reference to
plaintiffs filed an objection to the Town's motion for
summary judgment as well as a cross-motion for summary
judgment. In their memorandum of law, plaintiffs argued that,
in order for private property to become a public street by
way of dedication, there must be "a manifest intent by
the land owner to dedicate the land in question called an
incipient dedication or offer to dedicate" as well as
"an acceptance by the public either by public use or by
official action to accept the same on behalf of the
municipality." The plaintiffs argued that, even if the
original owners of the 1946 Plat had offered to dedicate the
strip of land at issue, the Town had never accepted that
purported offer of dedication, either by public use or by
official action and that, therefore, one of the mandatory
requirements for there to be a dedication had not been
January 11, 2016, a justice of the Superior Court conducted a
hearing on the cross-motions for summary judgment. At that
hearing, the Town expressly conceded on the record that there
had been no acceptance of the purported offer of dedication,
either by public use or by official action. In light of that
concession and after observing that "the standard for
dedication requires both dedication and acceptance, "
the hearing justice concluded that there was no genuine issue
of material fact with respect to the Town's not having
accepted the purported offer of dedication. Accordingly, on
January 19, 2016, he granted summary judgment in favor of
plaintiffs. Judgment entered on February 4, 2016. The Town
timely appealed from that judgment.
Court will review the grant of a motion for summary judgment
de novo, employing the same standards and rules used
by the hearing justice." Newstone Development, LLC
v. East Pacific, LLC, 140 A.3d 100, 103 (R.I. 2016)
(internal quotation marks omitted). We will affirm a trial
court's decision granting summary judgment "only if,
after reviewing the admissible evidence in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party, we conclude that no genuine
issue of material fact exists and that the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Id.
(internal quotation marks omitted). We have further stated
that "the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving by
competent evidence the existence of a disputed issue of
material fact and cannot rest upon mere allegations or
denials in the pleadings, mere conclusions or mere legal
opinions." Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). And it is a basic principle that ...