Byline: Barry Bridges
Citing the jurisprudence of other courts in support of its position, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has ruled that a trial judge did not satisfy the "good cause" standard of Superior Court Civil Rule 26(c) when he prohibited the oral deposition of a minor daughter of the defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit.
The action was filed after the plaintiffs' son drowned in a swimming pool at the defendants' home. The complaining parents appealed a decision of the motion judge that limited the deposition of the defendants' 10-year-old daughter, "M.Y.," to written questions. They argued that the judge should have instead allowed for an oral deposition with reasonable restrictions that, while limiting the potential impact to M.Y.'s mental health problems, would also preserve their right to relevant discovery.
The unanimous Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs and concluded that the complete prohibition of an oral deposition was not supported by Rule 26(c).
"Good cause was not demonstrated to a sufficient degree" to justify the trial judge's "dramatic restriction" on the plaintiffs' right to depose the defendants' daughter, Justice Frances X. Flaherty wrote on behalf of the court.
The case was remanded so that M.Y. could be orally deposed with reasonable restrictions.
The 18-page decision is Estate of Brian Chen, et al. v. Ye, et al., Lawyers Weekly No. 60-059-19. The full text of the ruling can be found here.
Ronald J. Resmini is representing the plaintiffs in the case.
"Laws of evidence are not provided to negate liability or to interrupt justice, and the Supreme Court does not restrict questions unless it appears that you are blatantly oppressive and are intentionally harassing the minor," the Providence attorney said.
Counsel for the defendants, Mark P. Dolan, also of Providence, did not respond to a request for comment prior to press time.
Swimming pool incident
In June 2016, 7-year-old Brian Chen drowned in a swimming pool while attending a party at the defendants' home in East Greenwich.
That December, the plaintiffs filed a wrongful death suit in Kent County Superior Court, maintaining that the defendants' negligence caused their son's death. Their theories of recovery included attractive nuisance, failure to warn, and premises liability.
The parties disputed whether there were adults near the pool area when Brian drowned. The defendants, Lingting Ye and Yan Sun, pointed to the fact that Brian's father testified in...