DONNA M. QUATTRINI
DAVID OLSEN, Alias in his official capacity as TREASURER FOR THE CITY OF WARWICK, STATE OF RHODE ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION and GASPEE DAYS COMMITTEE
Plaintiff: Andrew S. Caslowitz, Esq.
Defendant: Kathleen Anne Hilton, Esq.; Alison Brittany
Hoffman, Esq.; Kevin N. Rolando, Esq.
this Court are individual motions for summary judgment by
Defendants: David Olsen, Alias in his official capacity as
Treasurer for the City of Warwick (City), State of Rhode
Island Department of Transportation (State), and Gaspee Days
Committee (Committee). The Plaintiff Donna M. Quattrini
(Plaintiff) objects to the motions. Jurisdiction is pursuant
to G.L. 1956 § 8-2-14.
Facts and Travel
action arises out of a slip and fall taking place on May 25,
2015 in the City of Warwick, Rhode Island. (Am. Compl. ¶
9.) On that day, the Plaintiff was walking on Narragansett
Parkway near its intersection with Grenore Street at the
Gaspee Days Arts and Crafts Festival (Festival), which is
organized and conducted by the Gaspee Days Committee.
Id. While walking, Plaintiff inadvertently stepped
into a pothole in the road, fell, and sustained injuries and
has suffered pain of body and mind as a result. Id.
¶¶ 10, 20.
relevant area of Narragansett Parkway is a public road
located in the City of Warwick, which is freely open to
pedestrian and vehicular traffic. During the Festival, a
distance of one mile from the intersection of Post Road to
Canonchet Street is closed off to most vehicular traffic.
(Peshka Dep. 28:2-19; 41:9-18, Jan. 24, 2018.) Within the
barricaded one mile section, craft vendor tents are set up
from Post Road and continue for approximately two-thirds of a
mile in a southerly direction. Id. at 41:19-21.
Sawhorse barricades are erected at each end of the street
blocking vehicular access and are monitored by City of
Warwick detail police officers at each end. Id. at
28:15-17. These detail officers are paid for by the Committee
and are in addition to two regular patrol officers who
monitor the remainder of the Festival. (Farias Dep. 22:18-23,
Feb. 19, 2018.)
date of the incident, Plaintiff parked at the southern
barrier and proceeded past the detail officer on Narragansett
Parkway. Subsequently, Plaintiff fell in a pothole after her
"heel just fit right in [the pothole] and it was
stuck." (Quattrini Dep. 42:2-4, Oct. 27, 2017.)
Photographs taken days later and deposition testimony have
been introduced in order to determine the size of the
pothole; however, the exact size remains unclear. Moreover,
it remains unclear what caused the pothole or how long it had
existed prior to the incident.
filed a one count Complaint on January 4, 2016 against the
City alleging negligence. Plaintiff then filed a seven count
Amended Complaint on November 28, 2016. The Amended Complaint
brought claims of negligence against the City, the State, and
the Committee. Subsequently, all Defendants moved for summary
judgment, and a hearing was held on June 11, 2018. At that
time, the Court reserved opinion, and a Decision is herein
Standard of Review
judgment is a drastic remedy, and a motion for summary
judgment should be dealt with cautiously."' Cruz
v. DaimlerChrysler Motors Corp., 66 A.3d 446, 451 (R.I.
2013) (quoting DeMaio v. Ciccone, 59 A.3d 125, 129
(R.I. 2013)). This Court can grant summary judgment only if
it concludes, "after viewing the evidence in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party, that there is no
genuine issue of material fact to be decided and that the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law." Lacey v. Reitsma, 899 A.2d 455, 457 (R.I.
moving party bears the initial burden of establishing the
absence of a genuine issue of fact."' McGovern
v. Bank of Am., N.A., 91 A.3d 853, 858 (R.I. 2014)
(quoting Robert B. Kent et al., Rhode Island Civil and
Appellate Procedure § 56:5, (2018-19 ed.)). Once
the moving party has satisfied its burden, however,
"[t]he burden then shifts . . . and the nonmoving party
has an affirmative duty to demonstrate . . . a genuine issue
of fact." Id. "[T]he 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." Mruk v. Mortg. Elec.
Registration Sys., Inc., 82 A.3d 527, 532 (R.I. 2013).
"[C]ompetent evidence' . . . is generally
presented on summary judgment in the form of . . .
'depositions, answers to interrogatories, . . .
admissions on file, . . . [and] affidavits." Flynn
v. Nickerson Cmty. Ctr., 177 A.3d 468, 476 (R.I. 2018)
(internal citation omitted).
Rhode Island, in order to succeed on "a claim for
negligence, 'a plaintiff must establish a legally
cognizable duty owed by a defendant to a plaintiff, a breach
of that duty, proximate causation between the conduct and the
resulting injury, and the actual loss or damage.'"
Willis v. Omar, 954 A.2d 126, 129 (R.I. 2008)
(quoting Mills v. State Sales, Inc., 824 A.2d 461,
467 (R.I. 2003)). "If no such duty exists, then
plaintiff's claim must fail, as a matter of law."
Selwyn v. Ward, 879 A.2d 882, 886 (R.I. 2005). It is
well-settled that "[w]hether a defendant is under a
legal duty in a given case is a question of law" to be
resolved by the court. Willis, 954 A.2d at 129
(citing Martin v. Marciano, 871 A.2d 911, 915 (R.I.
2005)). "Only when a party properly overcomes the duty
hurdle in a negligence action is he or she entitled to a
factual determination on each of the remaining elements:
breach, causation, and damages." Wyso v. Full Moon
Tide, LLC, 78 A.3d 747, 750 (R.I. 2013).
Court will now examine the individual motions presented by
David Olsen, in his official capacity as Treasurer for the
City of Warwick
City argues that because Plaintiff was injured on a state
road-the portion of Narragansett Parkway between the
intersections of Post Road and Spring Green Road-the duty to
repair and maintain said street belongs to the State.
Accordingly, the City argues that Plaintiff's negligence
claim must fail as a matter of law because the City owed no
duty to repair or maintain a state road.
the Plaintiff contends that state ownership of the road does
not extinguish the City's duty because the City had a
duty to protect the Plaintiff from all harm because it
provided the necessary support and security for the Festival
to operate. Moreover, the Plaintiff avers that the City
exerted control over the state owned roadway and thus
retained a duty to the Plaintiff by issuing a special license
to the Committee, by issuing a police department operations
order, and by determining placement of sawhorses to prevent
certain vehicular traffic from entering the Festival.
Rhode Island, "municipalities themselves have a
statutory duty to maintain at their expense all highways
located within their borders as provided in G.L. 1956 §
24-5-1(a)." Town of Lincoln v. State,
712 A.2d 357, 358 (R.I. 1998). Section 24-5-1(a) provides in
"All highways . . . lying and being within the bounds of
any town, shall be kept in repair and amended, from time to
time, so that the highways . . . may be safe and convenient
for travelers with their teams, carts, and carriages at all
seasons of the year, at the proper charge and expense of the
town, under the care and direction of the town council of the
town, provided that the state shall be responsible ...