July 17, 2013 (PROVIDENCE) – Timothy J. Groves recently persuaded the Rhode Island Supreme Court to uphold summary judgment in favor of Newport condominium associations in a dispute with a unit owner over a planned expansion of his unit.
The court ruled that the Rhode Island Condominium Act requires unanimous approval of all unit owners for an expansion of a unit onto limited common property, superseding contrary language in the condominium’s declaration. Absent unanimous approval the owner cannot expand his unit, the court ruled.
The court also ruled that the firm’s clients are entitled to its attorneys’ fees under the Rhode Island anti-SLAPP law, which prohibits lawsuits against individuals based on the exercise of their constitutional free speech rights.
In the case, the firm’s clients sent a written communication to the state Coastal Resources Management Council objecting to the expansion plans of the unit at the waterfront condominium on Goat Island in Newport. This communication is covered by the anti-SLAPP law because it was sent to a governmental agency related to a matter of public interest, the court found.
The unit owner ultimately filed a complaint against the firm’s clients, including an allegation that the letter contained statements slandering his title to the property.
The court ruled that the condo associations’ letter was immune from suit even if it contained an inaccuracy as to unit owner’s ownership interest in the common property. The written communication was a reasonable attempt by the condo associations to alert the state agency that the unit owner did not have sufficient ownership of the land over which he sought to expand his unit.
“We are pleased that the court vindicated our clients’ argument on the primacy of the Condominium Act, and also upheld the award of attorneys’ fees for defending against claims that violate the anti-SLAPP law,” said Groves.
About Barton Gilman
Barton Gilman is one of New England’s leading civil litigation law firms with offices in Boston and Providence. Its experienced trial attorneys appear regularly in the federal and state courts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The Providence Business News named the firm as one of Rhode Island’s Best Places to Work for five consecutive years (2008–2012).