Christy's Auto Rentals, Inc.
Massachusetts Homeland Insurance Company et al.
Providence County Superior Court (PC 14-2124) Associate
Justice Richard A. Licht
Plaintiff: Michael R. De Luca, Esq. Stephen J. Sypole, Esq.
Defendants: Todd J. Romano, Esq. C. Russell Bengtson, Esq.
John A. Donovan III, Esq. Judah H. Rome, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
WILLIAM P. ROBINSON, III ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
case arose out of a dispute concerning a motor vehicle
collision that occurred in October of 2012 while Christian
Lanoie was driving a vehicle that he had rented from
Christy's Auto Rentals, Inc. (Christy's). In the wake
of that collision, Christy's brought a declaratory
judgment action in the Superior Court, naming as defendants
both Mr. Lanoie and his insurer, Massachusetts Homeland
Insurance Company (Homeland).On January 25, 2016, the
Providence County Superior Court denied Christy's motion
for summary judgment and granted Homeland's cross-motion
for summary judgment, after hearings were conducted with
respect to both motions. The grant of summary judgment was
predicated on the hearing justice's determination that
Christy's lacked standing. However, after ruling that
Christy's lacked standing, the hearing justice
nonetheless went on to opine that Mr. Lanoie's policy of
insurance with Homeland did not provide coverage for the
collision at issue and that such coverage was not statutorily
timely appealed to this Court, contending that the hearing
justice incorrectly determined: (1) that Homeland did not
waive standing as a defense; (2) that Christy's did not
have standing to pursue the declaratory judgment action; (3)
that Homeland's insurance policy did not provide coverage
with respect to the collision at issue; and (4) that coverage
was not mandated by G.L. 1956 § 27-7-6.
reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the hearing
justice's ruling with respect to Christy's lack of
Facts and Travel
relating the pertinent facts, we rely primarily upon the
transcripts of the November 17 and December 17, 2015 hearings
in the Superior Court as well as other documents contained in
the record before us.
Underlying Truck Rental Agreement and Accident
October 9, 2012, Mr. Lanoie entered into a Rental Agreement
with Christy's for the purpose of renting a 2007
Mitsubishi Fuso box truck for one day. At that time, Mr.
Lanoie was employed by a barbecue vendor as a manager. It is
uncontested that he rented the truck in order to transport
barbecue equipment back to the vendor's home base after
the equipment had been used at a seasonal fair in Topsfield,
Massachusetts. When he entered into the Rental Agreement, Mr.
Lanoie declined to purchase the proffered "Liability
Protection" option, and he so indicated by affixing his
initials to a section of the Rental Agreement that
acknowledged that he "agree[d] to be responsible for all
damage or loss [he might] cause to others." At the time
that he signed the agreement with Christy's, Mr. Lanoie
had a personal automobile insurance policy issued by
Homeland. That policy covered Mr. Lanoie's personal
vehicle from November 6, 2011 through November 6, 2012.
uncontested that, on October 10, 2012, Mr. Lanoie returned
the rental vehicle to Christy's and that a corner of the
vehicle had been damaged as a result of colliding with a
concession trailer at the fair. The concession trailer was
owned by Dean and Flynn Fiesta Shows (Dean and Flynn). It
appears that the trailer incurred damages in the amount of
$1, 300; Dean and Flynn was compensated by Christy's on
December 7, 2012. Several months later, in April of 2014,
Christy's sued Mr. Lanoie in order to recover the amount
paid to Dean and Flynn and to obtain compensation for the
damages to the Christy's vehicle. At the same time,
Christy's filed the instant declaratory judgment action
Declaratory Judgment Action Against Homeland
declaratory judgment action against Homeland, Christy's
sought a ruling that the damages Mr. Lanoie caused to its
rental vehicle and to the Dean and Flynn trailer were covered
under Mr. Lanoie's policy with Homeland. In its answer,
Homeland asserted that Mr. Lanoie's policy did "not
cover the damages for which the plaintiff complains."
Homeland also denied many of the allegations set forth in the
petition for declaratory judgment-notably including
Christy's allegation that the Superior Court "has
jurisdiction to declare the rights, status, and legal
relations of the parties pursuant to R.I.G.L. 9-30-1"
and its allegation that "[t]here is an actual dispute