Supreme Court

Published Opinions 2010-2011 Term

Jacalyn Sidell v. Moss Sidell, No. 09-159 (April 19, 2011)

Moss Sidell (Moss) appealed from a Family Court judgment dismissing his post-divorce petitions for lack of jurisdiction, in favor of his ex-wife, Jacalyn Sidell (Jacalyn). The Court found that despite the parties agreeing that Rhode Island would remain the home state for purposes of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, G.L. 1956 chapter 14.1 of title 15, that Rhode Island no longer had jurisdiction over custody issues since neither Moss, Jacalyn, nor their minor child in question lived in Rhode Island. The Court found that the issue of modification of the support order was not before the Court, but that Rhode Island had permissive jurisdiction to enforce the order as the initiating state under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, G.L. 1956 chapter 23.1 of title 15. The Court vacated and remanded that portion of the judgment for a determination from the Family Court of whether it will accept its permissive jurisdiction. Lastly, it held that this was an inappropriate forum to determine whether Moss Sidell’s due-process rights were violated in Connecticut.

Barbara A. Rogers v. Robert F. Rogers, No. 10-106 (April 18, 2011)

The defendant, Robert F. Rogers, filed a motion for declaratory judgment, seeking a declaration that the Family Court was vested with subject-matter jurisdiction over the complaint for divorce filed by his wife, the plaintiff, Barbara A. Rogers. The Family Court sua sponte dismissed the divorce action based on lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, upon learning that neither party resided in Rhode Island after the proceedings commenced.

The Court vacated the judgment of the Family Court and held that, once the complaint for divorce is properly filed in Family Court, the Family Court is not deprived of subject-matter jurisdiction merely because the plaintiff has moved out of Rhode Island and changed his or her domicile.

Mohan Papudesu, M.D. v. Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association of Rhode Island and John Doe, alias, No. 09-364 (April 18, 2011)

The plaintiff appealed from a Superior Court grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant insurer. On appeal, the plaintiff contended that the Superior Court erred (1) in ruling that certain language in the insurance contract governing the relationship between the parties constituted legally appropriate authority for the insurer to settle a malpractice claim against the plaintiff in disregard of his wishes and (2) in granting summary judgment on that ground.

The Supreme Court ruled that the contractual language at issue was unambiguous and that it gave the defendant full discretion to settle the malpractice claim against the plaintiff. Accordingly, after having considered the plaintiff’s arguments on appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court’s grant of summary judgment.