United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
ALTIMA JOHNSON, Individually and as Heir and Natural Guardian of CARLTON JOHNSON, Plaintiffs,
HORACE JOHNSON; STATE ROAD AUTO SALES INC.; and ARBELLA MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. MCCONNELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case arises out of a car accident in which the Defendant,
Horace Johnson ("Horace") was the driver, and his
cousin, Carlton Johnson ("Carlton") was the sole
passenger. Carlton filed this suit through his mother to
recover damages for serious injuries sustained in the
accident. Althea Johnson ("Ms. Johnson"),
Carlton's mother, looks to recover damages for her
caretaking of Carlton. The Plaintiffs originally filed this
case in the Superior Court of Rhode Island, against the
Defendants Horace, his insurer Arbella Mutual Insurance
Company ("Arbella"), and the car's lessor,
State Road Auto Sales ("State Road"). Arbella
removed the case to this Court under 28 U.S.C. §§
1332, 1441. ECF No. 1, The Defendants now move for summary
judgment on all counts. For the reasons below, the Court
GRANTS summary judgment to the Defendants on all counts. ECF
December 17, 2017, Horace, a resident of Massachusetts, was
driving a car in Providence, Rhode Island. ECF No. 16 at
¶¶ 3, 5. Carlton, a Rhode Island resident then 28
years old, was Horace's passenger. ECF No. 16 at
¶¶ 2, 7, A single-car accident occurred when the
car struck a utility pole. ECF No. 16 at ¶ 8. Both
Horace and Carlton were seriously injured. ECF No. 16 at
¶ 9. Ms. Johnson, a Rhode Island resident, was not
present at the scene of the accident. ECF No. 16 at ¶
16. However, the Plaintiffs allege that Ms. Johnson
"provide[d] round the clock care and assistance" to
Carlton after the accident because of his injuries. ECF No.
9-1 at ¶ 16.
Horace was driving on the day of the accident was leased to
him by its owner, State Road, a Massachusetts corporation.
ECF No. 16 at ¶ 6. Horace was insured by Arbella, also a
Massachusetts corporation, under an automobile insurance
policy that provided a limit of $100, 000 of bodily injury
coverage for guest occupants injured in accidents outside
Massachusetts. ECF No. 16 at ¶¶ 10-11.
letter dated January 25, 2018, about a month after the
collision, Carlton's counsel reached out to Arbella and
demanded a settlement for his bodily injury claims against
Horace at the policy limits of $100, 000. ECF No. 16 at
¶ 12. Arbella then investigated to determine their
coverage of the incident, claiming a potential issue with
Horace's residency. ECF No. 16 at ¶ 13. After the
investigation, Arbella's counsel, in a letter dated
February 28, 2018, sent a response to Carlton's counsel
in which Arbella accepted Carlton's demand to settle his
claims against Horace for the policy limits of $100, 000. ECF
No. 16 at ¶ 14.
and Ms. Johnson then filed suit on March 6, 2018. ECF No. 3.
Count I of their complaint seeks damages for Carlton's
"severe personal injuries, which continue to date"
causing "significant hospitalization, medical treatment,
home health care, rehabilitation, lost wages, loss of
consortium, permanent injuries, as well as loss of earning
capacity." ECF No. 9-1 at ¶ 11. Count II seeks
damages for Ms. Johnson's post-accident care of Carlton,
namely her "loss of wages, mental and emotional
infliction of distress, loss of consortium benefits, and
other damages." ECF No. 9-1 at ¶ 16. Count III
claims that the Defendants both disregarded Rhode Island
insurance settlement law and violated and breached
Massachusetts insurance settlement law. ECF No. 9-1 at ¶
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is called for when the pleadings and discovery
materials show "that there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact," so that "the movant is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In
determining whether summary judgment is proper, the court
views the evidence in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in his
favor. Continental Cas. Co. v. Canadian Universal Ins.
Co., 924 F.2d 370, 373 (1st. Cir. 1991).
Count I and Count III of the Plaintiffs' complaint hinge
on whether the parties entered into a valid settlement
contract for the policy limits. First, if there was a valid
settlement between Carlton and Arbella, Carlton's bodily
injury claims, Count I, cannot be brought in court. Second, a
timely settlement between Carlton and Arbella destroys the
Count III claims against Arbella, which allege disregard and
breach of various insurance settlement laws and bad faith.
Rhode Island, settlements are considered contracts and thus
are governed by Rhode Island contract law. Furtado v.
Goncalves,63 A.3d 533, 538 (R.I. 2013). Rhode Island
contract law requires that a valid contract have
"competent parties, subject matter, legal consideration,
mutuality of agreement, and mutuality of obligation."
Rhode Island Five v. Med. Assocs. of Bristol Cty.,
Inc., 668 A.2d 1250, 1253 (R.I. 1996). Mutuality of
agreement, or mutual assent, requires that "each party
to the contract. . . have the intent to promise or be
bound." Smith v. Boyd,553 A.2d 131, 133 (R.I.
1989). "In general, assent to be bound is analyzed in
two steps"- offer and acceptance." Id.
Usually, offer and acceptance will be ...