59 A.3d 125 (R.I. 2013), 2011-211-Appeal, DeMaio v. Ciccone

Docket Nº:2011-211-Appeal.
Citation:59 A.3d 125
Opinion Judge:ROBINSON, Justice.
Party Name:Roland DeMAIO et al. v. Raymond A. CICCONE et al.
Attorney:Ruth DiMeglio, Esq., Providence, for Plaintiffs. Kathleen Wyllie, Esq., West Warwick, for Defendants.
Judge Panel:Present: SUTTELL, C.J., GOLDBERG, FLAHERTY, ROBINSON, and INDEGLIA, JJ.
Case Date:February 01, 2013
Court:Supreme Court of Rhode Island
 
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Page 125

59 A.3d 125 (R.I. 2013)

Roland DeMAIO et al.

v.

Raymond A. CICCONE et al.

No. 2011-211-Appeal.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island.

February 1, 2013

Page 126

Ruth DiMeglio, Esq., Providence, for Plaintiffs.

Kathleen Wyllie, Esq., West Warwick, for Defendants.

Present: SUTTELL, C.J., GOLDBERG, FLAHERTY, ROBINSON, and INDEGLIA, JJ.

OPINION

ROBINSON, Justice.

The plaintiffs Roland DeMaio and Linda DeMaio appeal from the entry of summary judgment in favor of the defendants Raymond A. Ciccone and Cheryl A. Breggia.

This case came before the Supreme Court for oral argument pursuant to an order directing the parties to show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily decided. After considering the record, the memoranda submitted to this Court on behalf of the parties, and the oral arguments of counsel, we are of the opinion that cause has not been shown and that the appeal may be resolved without further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we reverse the Superior Court's grant of summary judgment and vacate the entry of final judgment.

I

Facts and Travel

It is undisputed that, on October 18, 2006, a motor vehicle collision involving Mr. DeMaio and Mr. Ciccone occurred on Hartford Avenue in Johnston. At the time of the collision, Mr. DeMaio was riding his motorcycle and Mr. Ciccone was driving a 1995 Volkswagen Jetta that belonged to his girlfriend, co-defendant Cheryl Breggia. On June 18, 2007, Mr. DeMaio and his wife, Linda, 1 filed a complaint naming Mr. Ciccone and Ms. Breggia 2 as defendants. The complaint alleged that Mr. Ciccone had been negligently operating the Jetta at the time of the collision.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on June 25, 2010. In their accompanying memorandum of law, defendants contended that the evidence

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" established that the plaintiff's motorcycle struck the rear of the defendants' motor vehicle." Under Rhode Island law, " [w]hen a case includes a claim or defense resulting from a rear-end collision between vehicles, a prima facie case of negligence against the driver of the car in the rear is established * * *." Maglioli v. J.P. Noonan Transportation, Inc., 869 A.2d 71, 75 (R.I.2005). The defendants argued that the court should grant summary judgment in their favor because Mr. DeMaio was unable to rebut the prima facie evidence of his own negligence, which prima facie evidence arose from the fact of the rear-end collision.

None of the parties identified any witnesses to the collision; accordingly, the motion justice was presented with the conflicting stories of the two motor vehicle operators along with the deposition testimony of Sgt. Christopher Correia (the investigating officer) as well as a police report concerning the collision and police photographs of the scene. At the conclusion of a hearing on November 9, 2010, the motion justice granted defendants' motion for summary judgment, stating that Mr. DeMaio had " struck * * * the Ciccone vehicle from the rear." The motion justice further stated that, " to rebut the presumption that he was negligent, Mr. DeMaio needs more than just some speculation" regarding Mr. Ciccone's negligence. We shall next proceed to outline in greater detail the evidence presented to the motion justice.

A

Mr. DeMaio's Version of the Events

This section of the opinion sets forth pertinent details regarding the night of the collision as provided by Mr. DeMaio in his deposition testimony and in his answers to interrogatories.

Mr. DeMaio testified that he had been " driving bikes for 35 years" 3 and had been involved in only one accident prior to the collision in October of 2006; he thought that the earlier accident had occurred " in the Seventies." Mr. DeMaio stated that, whenever he rode his motorcycle, " especially at nighttime, [he was] always glancing around."

Mr. DeMaio further testified that, at approximately 8 p.m. on the night of the collision, he was on his motorcycle heading East on Hartford Avenue. He stated that he was traveling " 30, 35 miles an hour" down a straight section of the road with his lights on. He recalled that there was no traffic in the area, and he added that he would have been " looking in the mirrors and checking everything" so as to survey the road. When asked at his deposition what was " the last thing that [he] remember[ed] before the accident," Mr. DeMaio replied:

" No one near me, I'm coming down Route 6 going maybe 35 miles an hour, that's the last thing I remember. So I don't know where Mr. Ciccone came out from. I'd like to know, but I have no idea. He said that supposedly, my wife told me, that he came out, I followed him and banged into him. I would have remembered that. I've been driving bikes for 35 years, I definitely would have remembered that."

Mr. DeMaio testified that his first memory after losing consciousness consisted of

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" waking up in the rescue" briefly; his next memory was of waking up again at the Trauma Center in Rhode Island Hospital, where " a young doctor * * * was sewing [his] ear."

Regarding the damage to his motorcycle, Mr. DeMaio stated that " the heavier damage was all on the right-hand side," noting that " [e]verything was crushed in, the crash bar, the tank, the chrome, the peg was bent up, the foot pegs, and * * * the right front fender was damaged." Mr. DeMaio further testified that the man who removed the motorcycle from the scene of the collision " said that it looked like the impact was on the right-hand side" of the...

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