Claire Letizio et al.
Natale J. Ritacco et al.
Washington County Superior Court (WC 15-533) Associate
Justice Bennett R. Gallo
Plaintiffs: Todd D. White, Esq.
Defendants: Robert P. Corrigan, Esq.
Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia JJ.
Associate Justice Gilbert V. Indeglia
negligence action, the plaintiffs, Claire Letizio and
Christopher Letizio (the Letizios), appeal from an order of
the Superior Court denying their motion for a new trial after
a jury found in favor of the defendants, Natale J. Ritacco
and Margaret H. Ritacco (the Ritaccos). This matter came
before the Court on February 28, 2019, pursuant to an order
directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues
raised should not be summarily decided. After considering the
arguments set forth in the parties' memoranda and at oral
argument, we are convinced that cause has not been shown.
Thus, further argument or briefing is not required to decide
this matter. For the reasons outlined below, we affirm the
order of the Superior Court.
Facts and Travel
facts of this case, which are largely undisputed, are as
follows. On March 5, 2015, there had been a light snowfall,
leading to some accumulation at the Ritacco residence in
Westerly, Rhode Island. The Ritacco residence has a long,
relatively flat driveway and a side entrance with two stone
steps that lead up to a side door. That day, Mr. Ritacco
cleared the snow off his driveway using a snow blower. He
used a shovel to clean the stone steps. As was his custom, he
did not spread ice melt, fearing that it could be tracked
into the house after having been caught underfoot. Also, when
later asked if he had spread ice melt, he recalled that there
was no surface "icing up" on that day.
next day, March 6, was a cold but sunny day in Westerly, and
there was no precipitation all day. That night, sometime
between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., Mrs. Letizio arrived at the
Ritacco residence, along with her daughter, who went there to
meet the Ritaccos' daughter and two other classmates to
get ready for a high school dance that was taking place later
that night. Mrs. Letizio parked in front of the right bay
door of the Ritaccos' garage, which was located at the
end of their driveway, and proceeded to the side door of the
house. As she was making her way up the steps, Mrs.
Letizio's daughter slipped on some ice that had formed on
the stone stairs, but she was not injured.
the house, the girls went upstairs to get ready for the
dance. Mrs. Letizio waited downstairs with Mr. Ritacco and
informed him multiple times that his steps were
After Mrs. Ritacco had arrived home and the girls had
finished getting ready, Mrs. Letizio told the Ritaccos that
she could give the girls a ride to the dance because her
house was close to the school where the dance was taking
place. Sometime around 7 p.m., as she was getting ready to
leave, Mrs. Letizio reminded Mr. Ritacco that it was getting
icy outside and that the steps were icy. As a result, Mr.
Ritacco advised Mrs. Letizio and the girls to leave the house
through the garage.However, Mr. Ritacco did not follow the
group outside of his home.
arriving outside, the girls safely entered Mrs. Letizio's
vehicle through the passenger's side front and back
doors. Mrs. Letizio was not so fortunate. As she was walking
to the driver's side front door, she slipped on some ice
that had formed on the pavement near the front left wheel of
her car, and she broke her ankle. She lay on the ground until
she was able to get the attention of her daughter, who
immediately went to get the Ritaccos to aid her mother.
Although the Ritaccos offered to call for an ambulance, Mrs.
Letizio refused, and instead ambulated herself into the
passenger's front seat of the vehicle. Mrs. Ritacco then
drove Mrs. Letizio to the hospital, while Mr. Ritacco brought
the girls to the dance. On his way home, Mr. Ritacco
purchased some ice melt at the store, which he later spread
on the area of his driveway where Mrs. Letizio had fallen.
hospital that night, doctors discovered that Mrs. Letizio had
fractured the tibia, fibula, as well as the talus bones in
her leg as a result of the fall. However, due to the swelling
in her leg, doctors could not perform surgery at that time,
so she was sent home and told to return five days later.
Then, on March 11, Mrs. Letizio underwent an open reduction,
internal fixation surgery, in which doctors inserted six
screws, two wires, and a plate to mend the broken bones in
her leg. As a result, Mrs. Letizio endured hundreds of hours
of treatment and physical therapy.
Letizios filed a complaint in Washington County Superior
Court on November 12, 2015, alleging negligence against the
Ritaccos, and seeking damages for the cost of Mrs.
Letizio's medical expenses and lost wages, as well as
pain and suffering. Additionally, they sought punitive
damages, alleging that the Ritaccos' conduct was reckless
and willful. The parties attempted, unsuccessfully, to
arbitrate their dispute. Later, a three-day trial began on
July 24, 2017, during which the jury heard from six
witnesses, all called by the Letizios.
Letizios called Mr. Ritacco as their first witness, pursuant
to G.L. 1956 § 9-17-12.He recounted that March 5, 2015,
was a cold and snowy day and that he had cleared off the
driveway with his snow blower and the stone steps with a
shovel. Mr. Ritacco stated that the next day, when he went
out to get the paper and the mail, there was no visible ice
on the driveway. He also testified that there was no ice
around the spot where he had parked his car when he went to
pick up his daughter from school, between 2:30 p.m. and 3
p.m. Mr. Ritacco stated that Mrs. Letizio informed him of the
icy condition of the steps when she walked into the house.
Additionally, after having his memory refreshed, he testified
that, as she was getting ready to leave, Mrs. Letizio
reminded Mr. Ritacco that the steps were icy; therefore, Mr.
Ritacco led the guests out a different way. He testified that
he pointed them to the garage, that they exited through a
door attached to the garage, and that Mrs. Letizio slipped
soon after the group was outside. He also noted that,
although he went outside to aid Mrs. Letizio, he was unable
to help Mrs. Letizio to her feet because he had a bad back.
Upon further questioning from the Letizios' counsel, Mr.
Ritacco testified that he had not put ice melt on the
driveway, despite the fact that the area ...