Justia Vermont Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Twelve years after a trial court ordered defendant Randy Therrien to pay restitution, he moved to vacate the order. The trial court denied the motion as untimely. The Vermont Supreme Court agreed the motion was untimely, and affirmed that portion of the judgment. The Supreme Court remanded the case for the correction of a computational error in the order made pursuant to the parties’ stipulation. View "Vermont v. Therrien" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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Plaintiff Theodore de Macedo Soares challenged the process by which defendant, the Prudential Committee for Barnet Fire District No. 2, obtained approval for a municipal bond. The trial court denied plaintiff’s request to invalidate the bond vote, finding that although the Prudential Committee violated the Open Meeting Law during the process, the defect was the result of oversight, inadvertence, and mistake, and it was cured by the Committee’s validation resolution. The court denied plaintiff’s remaining requests for relief as well. Plaintiff argued on appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court that the trial court erred in: (1) concluding that the Open Meeting Law violations could be cured under 24 V.S.A. § 1757 or 17 V.S.A. § 2662; (2) failing to address his request for a new trial; (3) denying his attorney-fee request; and (4) dismissing his claim regarding curb-stop fees. The Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the trial court’s judgment in favor of the Committee. The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the trial court to enter final judgment in favor of defendant Vermont Municipal Bond Bank too. View "de Macedo Soares v. Barnet Fire District #2 et al." on Justia Law

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Defendants Brenda and Dale Merritt (neighbors) challenged a superior court’s decision granting summary judgment to plaintiff Steven Daiello (landowner) and defendant Town of Vernon in a dispute over a road in Vernon, Vermont. They argued the court erred by concluding: (1) that Stebbins Road was properly established as a public road; and (2) that landowner had a common-law right of access to his property over Stebbins Road that prevented him from proving that the Town interfered with his right to access his property. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Daiello v. Town of Vernon, et al." on Justia Law

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In February 2021, the Vermont State Auditor of Accounts, Douglas Hoffer, filed a complaint alleging that defendant OneCare Accountable Care Organization, LLC, had breached various provisions in its contract with the Department for Vermont Health Access (DVHA) by denying the Auditor’s requests for OneCare’s employee payroll and benefits records for fiscal years (FY) 2019 and 2020. The civil division granted OneCare’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the Auditor lacked contractual or statutory authority to demand the records, and the Auditor appealed. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "Hoffer v. OneCare Accountable Care Organization, LLC, d/b/a OneCare Vermont" on Justia Law

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Father appealed a sanctions order imposed by the family division enjoining him from submitting filings in this case unless the filing was signed by a licensed attorney or he first obtained permission from the court. The Vermont Supreme Court determined the trial court acted within its discretion in sanctioning father given his pattern of filing numerous motions that lacked factual or legal support, failing to adhere to procedural rules, and acting without good faith. The Court concluded, however, that the court’s order was overly broad in scope because it applied to all of father’s submissions to the court in this matter and did not clearly provide father with instructions on how to comply. Therefore, the case was remanded for the trial court to amend its sanctions decision accordingly. View "Fox v. Fox" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Sean Kelly appealed the grant of summary judgment to the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) on employment discrimination and breach-of-contract claims arising from UVMMC’s decision not to extend his one-year medical fellowship. UVMMC selected plaintiff for the 2017-18 fellowship. UVMMC was aware that plaintiff suffered from an adrenal deficiency that had delayed the completion of his residency. In the first five months of the fellowship, plaintiff missed nineteen full days and parts of nine more days for various reasons. By February 2018, after missing several more days and expressing that he felt “frustrated with [his] absences” and “overall inadequate as a fellow,” program personnel became concerned that plaintiff was falling behind in his training. In a March 30 meeting, the program director told plaintiff his performance had “deficiencies and these need[ed] to be addressed.” At some point during this period, the director also told plaintiff he “should plan on extending [his] fellowship due to [his] time out and some minor deficits through August.” Plaintiff emailed other program personnel expressing frustration at the prospect of staying through August to complete his training. On April 14, 2018, plaintiff suffered a stroke, and on April 19th he attempted suicide. He was hospitalized from April 14 through May 3 and was not cleared to return to work until June 1, 2018. In all, plaintiff missed approximately six more weeks of the fellowship. On or about May 31, the director called plaintiff and told him that while UVMMC had determined he needed six more months of training to finish the fellowship, it could not accommodate additional training for that length of time. UVMMC paid plaintiff his remaining salary. Plaintiff filed a grievance under the Graduate Medical Education rules; the grievance committee affirmed UVMMC's decision. Because the decision not to extend his fellowship was an academic decision, there was no employment action and consequently no adverse employment action. The Vermont Supreme Court did not find plaintiff's arguments on appeal persuasive, and affirmed the grant of summary judgment in UVMMC's favor. View "Kelly v. University of Vermont Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Angela Gates appealed a trial court’s decision granting summary judgment to defendant, her former employer, on plaintiff’s claims for disability discrimination under the Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA) and retaliation under both the Vermont Parental Family Leave Act (PFLA) and Vermont’s workers’ compensation law. Defendant hired plaintiff as a “molder” in 1996. In May 2015, plaintiff reported to defendant that she injured her left knee outside of work. She subsequently took approximately twelve weeks of leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the PFLA, which ran concurrently. Plaintiff returned to work full-time as a "molder" in August 2015 after exhausting her FMLA/PFLA leave. She returned to molder work, but it caused pain in her knee. Plaintiff was reassigned to work as a "finisher," which again aggravated her knee. After a third period of recovery and return to work, plaintiff testified that when she returned, she was told there was no work she could do that was a light-duty task. "Ultimately, plaintiff had the burden to present some admissible material by which a reasonable jury could infer that defendant’s stated legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating her - that she was indefinitely incapable of performing the essential functions of her job - was a lie. She failed to do so." The trial court correctly granted summary judgment to defendant on plaintiff’s retaliation claims. View "Gates v. Mack Molding Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Town of Albany, Vermont, appealed an order granting summary judgment to a surviving relative of the grantors who had quitclaimed undeveloped property to the Town subject to certain conditions. The civil division found that the deed was ambiguous, considered extrinsic evidence to discern the grantors’ intent, and concluded that a logging operation overseen by the Town violated the deed. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that the deed was unambiguous, and the logging was not a violation. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Sanville v. Town of Albany" on Justia Law

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Employee Christie Mitchell appealed a summary judgment order in favor of NBT Bank, N.A. regarding its policy of deducting her overtime compensation from her commissions so that she was never paid more than gross commissions regardless of how many hours she worked in a week. She contended the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) required the bank to pay her entire gross commissions plus overtime wages. Because the FLSA contained no such requirement, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mitchell v. NBT Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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In dividing the divorcing parties’ assets, a Massachusetts court ordered a special master to sell the Vermont property. After the sale, plaintiff filed an action in a Vermont superior court to rescind the sale and quiet title to the property. Applying the doctrine of comity, the civil division dismissed his action, deferring to the ongoing proceeding in Massachusetts. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the Vermont court should not have dismissed his suit on comity grounds because the Massachusetts court lacked jurisdiction to order the special master to sell the property. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded the Vermont court acted within its discretion and affirmed. View "Nijensohn v. Ring" on Justia Law