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Rhode Island Partner Prevails at Trial on Behalf of Condominium Association Board

Rhode Island Partner Prevails at Trial in an action brought against Board of a Condominium Association in a high-end, upscale condominium complex in Providence.

Partner, Luana DiSarra Scavone obtains defense judgment after trial in Providence County Superior Court involving an action for injunctive relief seeking to enjoin members of a Condominium Association. Plaintiffs filed suit seeking to enjoin both the President and Secretary of the Association arising from alleged violations of the Rhode Island Condominium Act, Condominium Declarations and Bylaws. Following trial, Luana DiSarra Scavone drafted supplemental post-trial briefing as ordered by the presiding justice, with the assistance of Associate Laurie Christensen, to address questions of law involving contractual interpretation of the Condominium Declaration and Bylaws, as well as the statutory interpretation of pertinent sections of the Rhode Island Condominium Act. After the trial evidence and the parties’ supplemental post-trial legal briefing, the Court issued its findings and entered judgment in favor of the defendants. The Court also found that plaintiffs’ allegations that defendants intentionally and deliberately violated the applicable statutes and knowingly engaged in misconduct were unfounded and lacked any evidentiary support. In light of these judicial findings, the plaintiffs are also not entitled to any recovery sought for claims of punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

In its decision, the Court held that while an Executive Board may not engage in an act that directly conflicts with the Condominium Declaration, Bylaws or Rhode Island Condominium Act, the Board of a Condominium Association has broad discretion to manage the Association’s affairs. Additionally, this decision has established that unit owners cannot infringe on the Board’s broad discretion to manage the affairs of the Association or even micromanage the Board by demanding conduct that is not required by the governing documents and not within the Board’s broad discretion to perform. Unit owners cannot attempt to compel or seek injunctive relief against a Board for it to act beyond the powers conferred by the governing Declaration and Bylaws as a Board cannot be vested with the authority to act ultra vires. This decision also serves to reinforce that remedies available to unit owners who are not satisfied with a Board’s governance are limited to the rights specifically reserved to unit owners, such as amending the Declaration and Bylaws or taking action for removal of a certain member of the Board that does not meet the unit owner’s expectations.

This important decision was not only favorable to the client, but also serves to positively impact condominium law across the State of Rhode Island. This decision will set precedent for a recognized standard to grant Board Members of Condominium Associations exclusive authority over the administration of affairs, such that owners of condominium units are not permitted or otherwise authorized to direct the Board on how to conduct the daily activities of the Association.

Luana concentrates her practice in the evaluation, preparation and trial of complex commercial litigation. She handles professional liability, dram shop and discrimination claims, as well as general, trucking and commercial liability matters. Luana has defended hundreds of insured private individuals, insured companies, self-insured corporations and insurance companies.