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Last Reviewed / Modified On 29 Oct 2018.



Statutes of Limitation

  1. BI, PD.
  2. R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-1-14 – 3 years for actions for personal or bodily injuries R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-1-13 – 10 years for actions for personal property damage

  3. Breach of oral/written contract for cargo losses?
  4. R.I. Gen. Laws § 6A-2-725 – 4 years for breach of contract for sale of goods

    R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-1-17 – 10 years for breach of written contract

    State law only applies as to cargo transported intrastate. Federal law applies to cargo damaged or lost during interstate transport, 49 U.S.C. Sec. 14706, also known as the “Carmack Amendment”, pursuant to which the statute of limitations for a claim for loss or damage to cargo is 2 years from date of the receipt of the notice of denial of claim, or 4 years from date of accrual if no denial was served.

Negligent Entrustment, Hiring, Retention, Supervision

What if Course and Scope is Admitted?

Rhode Island recognizes claims for negligent hiring, retention, and training separate and distinct from a claim based on the doctrine of respondeat superior. The Rhode Island Supreme Court has not adopted an independent claim based on the theory of negligent entrustment.

Course and Scope of Employment

To recover on the basis of respondeat superior against an employer for the tortious acts proximately caused by an employee, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the acts were within the scope of employment and by the express or implied authority from the employer. See Cruz v. Town of N. Providence, 833 A.2d 1237, 1240 (R.I. 2003).

Comparative or Contributory Negligence

The Rhode Island Legislature abolished the affirmative defense of contributory negligence in 1971 and replaced it with comparative negligence. R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-20-4 (2012); Kay v. Menard, 754 A.2d 760, 768 (R.I. 2000). Comparative negligence in Rhode Island refers only to a comparison of the fault of plaintiff with that of defendant, and does not necessarily result in a simple division of damages; instead, it operates to reduce the recoverable damages in proportion to the total fault of the plaintiff as compared with the total fault of the defendant. R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-20-4 (2012).

Sudden Emergency Defense?

Available. Under Rhode Island law, the sudden emergency law provides that individual confronted with sudden and unexpected events demanding immediate action cannot be held to the same standard of care required of one in no such predicament. The emergency is a factor in the trier of facts evaluation of the reasonableness of the driver’s actions. The defense is unavailable where the emergency was foreseeable, the event was spontaneous or the responding party was negligent in acting.

Contribution or Implied Indemnity from Third-Parties

Common law indemnity is preserved by statute in Rhode Island. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 10-6-9 (2012). Although the right to indemnity is often contractual in nature, it can also be based upon equitable principles. Wilson v. Krasnoff, 560 A.2d 335, 341 (R.I. 1989). Indemnity arises when one person is exposed to liability by the wrongful act of another in which he did not join, such that he will be liable for the whole outlay and not just a pro rata share. Hawkins v. Gadoury, 713 A.2d 799, 803 (R.I. 1998). To prove indemnification in Rhode Island, the prospective indemnitee must prove three elements: (1) the party seeking indemnity must be a third party; (2) the prospective indemnitor must also be liable to the third party; and (3) as between the prospective indemnitee and indemnitor, the obligation ought to be discharged by the indemnitor. R & R Assocs. v. City of Providence Water Supply Bd., 724 A.2d 432, 434 (R.I. 1999).

The right to contribution is statutory. Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act, R.I. Gen. Laws § 10-6-1 et seq. (2012). Under Rhode Island law, a plaintiff may recover 100% of her damages from a joint tortfeasor who has contributed to the injury in any degree. The joint tortfeasor may then seek contribution pursuant to the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act either by a separate action or by impleading the fellow joint tortfeasor under third-party practice. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 10-6-3; see also Calise v. Hidden Valley Condo. Ass’n, Inc., 773 A.2d 834 (R.I. 2001).

Exclusivity of Workers Compensation

The exclusivity clause of the workers’ compensation act bars a plaintiff from filing a second cause of action on the basis on a different legal theory for the same injuries on which his or her workers’ compensation claim was based. See R.I. Gen. § 28-29-20.

Seat Belt and Helmet Use

Any passenger thirteen (13) years of age or older, in any seating position, shall be transported properly wearing a safety belt and/or shoulder harness system per R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-22-22(f). A motor vehicle operator shall be properly wearing a safety belt and/or shoulder harness system per R.I. Gen Laws § 31-22-22(g). All infants and toddlers under the age of two (2) years or weighing less than thirty (30) pounds must be restrained in a rear-facing car seat per R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-22-22(a). Children under age eight (8) years old, less than fifty-seven (57) inches (4 feet, 9 inches) tall and weighing less than 80 lbs. (max weight limit of a booster seat) must be transported in any rear seating position of a motor vehicle and properly restrained in a child restraint system per R.I. Ged. Laws § 31-22-22(a). Children between the ages of 8 through 12 as a passenger in any seating position shall be properly wearing a safety belt per R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-22-22(a).

Any operator under the age of twenty-one (21) shall wear a helmet of a type approved by the administrator of motor vehicles. In addition, all new operators, regardless of age, shall be required, for a period of one year from the date of issuance of the first license pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-10.1-1, to wear a helmet of a type approved by said administrator. Any person deemed in violation of this provision shall be subject to the fines enumerated.

However, failure to wear a safety belt and/or to wear a helmet is neither considered contributory or comparative negligence, nor admissible as evidence at trial in a civil action. R.I. Gen. Laws §§31-22-22(a)(2), 31-19-2.1.


Rhode Island is an evidentiary issue warranting jury instruction containing an adverse inference, or permitting an adverse inference against the spoliating party if proven that the spoliating party deliberately or negligently destroyed relevant evidence. See McGarry v. Pielech, 47 A.3d 271 (R.I. 2012). The imposition of sanctions by the court for spoliation of evidence is also available, including issue preclusion, dismissal, summary judgment, default judgment and exclusion of certain evidence. Rhode Island, however, does not recognize an independent cause of action for spoliation. .




Joint & Several Liability

Yes. “Joint tortfeasors” are statutorily defined as two or more persons jointly or severally liable in tort for the same injury to person or property, whether or not judgment has been recovered against all or some of them. R.I. Gen. Laws § 10-6-2 (2012). In other words, joint tortfeasors share all common liability, and may be severally liable for the whole amount of a plaintiff’s damages.

Standard of Proof Required for Compensatory Damages

Collateral Source (Meds billed v. paid)

The Collateral Source Rule applies to negligence actions in Rhode Island and requires a tortfeasor to pay in full damages suffered by a plaintiff without credit for any amounts received by the plaintiff from any collateral sources, such as insurance, wage continuation plans, or any other payments made on his or her behalf. The rule does not apply to worker’s compensation benefits.

Hedonic Damages


Life Care Plans

Yes, provided that the opinions set forth therein satisfy the requirements for the admissibility of expert opinions under DiPetrillo v. Dow Chemical Co., 729 A.2d 677 (R.I. 1999).

Wrongful Death Standing and Damages

In Rhode Island, wrongful death actions are of a purely statutory nature and can be brought by the decedent’s estate. See R.I. Gen. Law. § 10-7-1 et seq. The Rhode Island Wrongful Death Act provides recovery for the decedent’s estate and survivors for funeral and burial expenses, medical expenses related to the final injury, lost wages and benefits, property damaged in the events surrounding the death, loss of care, companionship and guidance, pain and suffering and punitive damages. Under Rhode Island law, the minimum recovery, subject to the plaintiff’s comparative negligence, from a defendant found liable in wrongful death is $250,000.00. Three year statute of limitation period that runs from time of death.

Punitive Damages

  1. Recoverable? If so, standard for it?
  2. Yes. Punitive damages are available upon a showing that the defendant acted intentionally, maliciously or in bad faith.

  3. Caps?
  4. There is no monetary limitation on punitive damages

  5. Insurable?
  6. No

Offers of Judgment

“At any time more than ten (10) days before the trial begins, a party defending against a claim may serve upon the adverse party an offer to allow judgment to be taken against the defending party for the money or property or to the effect specified in the offer, with costs then accrued. If within ten (10) days after the service of the offer the adverse party serves written notice that the offer is accepted, either party may then file the offer and notice of acceptance and thereupon the clerk shall enter judgment.” RI Super.Ct.R.Civ.P. Rule 68(a).


Before testimony from a biomechanical engineer may be admitted at trial, the proponent of the evidence must prove the methods of study utilized by the engineer are both generally accepted and reliable. DiPetrillo v. Dow Chemical Co., 729 A.2d 677 (R.I. 1999). Rhode Island has not expressly adopted the “reliability” test in the United States Supreme Court’s Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., but has used its principles as guidance. Owens v. Silvia, 838 A.2d 881, 890-91 (R.I. 2003).

Must policy limits be disclosed pre-suit?

Yes, upon request. R.I. Gen. Laws §27-7-5 requires any insurance company to reveal to an injury party making a claims against an insured the amount of the limits of liability coverage upon receiving a request in writing for that information. The reply is due within 14 days of receiving the request.

May claimant recover general damages if the claimant does not have own auto-insurance? So called no pay no play rules.


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