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Perella v. The General Council of Assemblies of God

Superior Court of Rhode Island, Providence

March 1, 2019

LUDOVICO PERELLA, MARY PERELLA, NICOLE FERRARA, individually and as guardian and next friend of KELSEY FERRARA, a minor, and MICHAEL FERRARA

          COURT: Providence County Superior Court

          For Plaintiff: Amato A. DeLuca, Esq.

          For Defendant: Kathleen M. Guilfoyle, Esq.; John R. Mahoney, Esq.; Rajaram Suryanarayan, Esq.


          LICHT, J.

         I. Introduction

         Defendants Radiant Christian Assembly of God, Inc. (Radiant Christian) and Southern New England District of the Assemblies of God, Inc. (Southern New England District) moved for this Court to apply the substantive law of the country of Bangladesh in the instant action. Ludovico Perella and Mary Perella (Plaintiffs) object to Defendants' motion to apply foreign law.

         II. Facts and Travel

         On December 31, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint alleging that Ludovico Perella (Ludovico), [1] a resident of Bristol, Rhode Island, suffered injuries in a car crash while on a mission trip in Bangladesh. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 22.[2] Mary Perella (Mary), also a resident of Bristol, Rhode Island and the wife of Ludovico, has brought a loss of consortium claim. Compl. ¶¶ 2-3. Defendants are Radiant Christian, the Rhode Island church that planned the mission trip (Comp. ¶ 14); the General Council of the Assemblies of God (General Council), a Missouri Corporation (Compl. ¶ 6); and Southern New England District, a Massachusetts corporation (Compl. ¶ 7). Radiant Christian is part of the Southern New England District and both fall under the governance of the General Council. Compl. ¶¶ 10, 13, 14.

         In 2011, Radiant Christian's minister, Larry Mangone (Pastor Mangone), planned a missionary trip to Dhaka, Bangladesh. Radiant Christian's Mot. Apply Bangladeshi Law (Mem.) 5. He did so by coordinating the logistics of the trip with Larry Smith (Smith), the director of the A.G. Mission.[3] Plaintiffs' daughter is a member of Radiant Christian who planned to go on the mission and Ludovico decided to accompany her. Pls.' Mem. 3. In order to prepare for the trip, Ludovico met with Pastor Mangone to learn about the trip and the obligations of the participants. Id. During this trip, the missionaries stayed in lodging provided by A.G. Mission and were provided with transportation to missionary sites by A.G. Mission. Radiant Christian's Mem. 5. The trip cost $2, 000 for each participant. Pls.' Mem. 3.

         While on the mission trip in Bangladesh, Ludovico was driven to various locations in a vehicle that was purchased by the General Council and then registered in Smith's name. Pls.' Mem. 6. The vehicle was driven by Sushanto, Smith's personal driver. Radiant Christian's Mem. 5. On August 18, 2011, Sushanto was driving Ludovico and others back from a visit to an orphanage when Sushanto collided into the rear end of a truck that was pulled over on the side of the road. Id. at 6. As a result of the accident, Ludovico sustained severe injuries to his spinal cord and back. Pls.' Mem. 7.

         The Complaint includes claims of vicarious liability, corporate negligence/direct liability, and loss of consortium. Under vicarious liability, Plaintiffs claim that Defendants had substantial control over each other as well as Pastor Mangone, Smith, and Sushanto and are liable for Plaintiffs' injuries. Compl. 6, 10, 14-15. Under the claim of corporate negligence/direct liability, Plaintiffs claim that Defendants breached their duty to exercise reasonable care to Plaintiffs "by implementing policies, practices and/or procedures which jeopardized the safety of individuals including the Plaintiffs and/or by not ensuring that its policies, practice and/or procedures were properly followed." Compl. 4-5, 9, 17.

         Radiant Christian has moved to apply Bangladeshi law. Southern New England District also moved to apply Bangladeshi law and relies upon Radiant Christian's memorandum.

         III. Standard of Review

         When presented with a Conflicts of Law question, the Court must first determine if a "true conflict" exists between the laws of the two states in question. See Nat'l Refrigeration, Inc. v. Standen Contracting Co., Inc., 942 A.2d 968, 973-74 (R.I. 2008). A "true conflict" exists when each state retains an interest in the application of its contradictory laws. Peavey Co. v. M/V ANPA, 971 F.2d 1168, 1171 (5th Cir. 1992).

         If a "true conflict" is found, the Court must apply an interest-weighing approach with respect to choice-of-law questions. Harodite Indus., Inc. v. Warren Elec. Corp., 24 A.3d 514, 525 n.17 (R.I. 2011). When applying the "interest-weighing approach," the Court "'look[s] at the particular . . . facts and determine[s] therefrom the rights and liabilities of the parties in accordance with the law of the state that bears the most significant relationship to the events and the parties."' Id. at 534 (quoting Cribb. v. Augustyn, 696 A.2d 285, 288 (R.I. 1997)) (emphasis in original).

         The interest-weighing approach mandates an examination of these five factors: (1) predictability of result; (2) maintenance of interstate and international order; (3) simplification of the judicial task; (4) advancement of the forum's governmental interests; and (5) application of the better rule of law. Najarian v. Nat'l Amusements, Inc., 768 A.2d 1253, 1255 (R.I. 2001). In addition, in a case sounding in tort, the Court must consider four more factors: "(a) the place where the injury occurred; (b) the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred; (c) the domicil, residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of business of the parties; and ...

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