Court eliminates Poirier counterclaim under anti-SLAPP statute

Court eliminates Poirier counterclaim under anti-SLAPP statute

SMITHFIELD – A counterclaim filed by Smithfield resident and former Town Council member Richard Poirier, pictured, in a long legal battle over his Stillwater Road property has been eliminated under the anti-SLAPP statute.

The initial complaint was filed by CVDDI LLC, an abutter of Poirier’s property, in October of 2014.

The company claimed that “Poirier maintains a junkyard” and the “plaintiff’s property has sustained damage and a diminution in value as a direct result of the Poirier’s continued operation of the junkyard.”

At the time of the filing, Poirier was running for re-election to the Town Council and filed a counterclaim in December 2015.

In that document, Poirier argued “the complaint was filed with and for an ulterior motive and was shared with (local press) where a story appeared placing defendant Richard Poirier in a negative light just days before the election.”

Poirier requested a judgment for damages against him and an award for costs and attorney’s fees.

In November 2016, after the company had already sold its property at a reduced sale price, CVDDI filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Poirier’s counterclaim is barred by Rhode Island’s anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute, which protects the right to exercise petition or free speech.

“Poirier undeniably filed his counterclaim in an effort to chill plaintiff’s efforts to exercise its constitutional right to file suit against Poirier,” the document reads.

In June, Superior Court Judge Maureen Keough sided with CVDDI and eliminated Poirier’s counterclaim as a violation of the anti-SLAPP statute.

Neither the legal representation for CVDDI nor Poirier could be reached for comment.

Poirier’s Stillwater Road property is also the subject of a Municipal Court case.

The town first alleged in 2014 that Poirier’s property was in violation of several Rhode Island housing maintenance and occupancy codes.

Poirier was cited by building and zoning officials for storing numerous inoperative or unlicensed cars, boats, equipment, and trailers, along with various debris, including scrap wood, metal, and auto parts.

In May, attorney Nicholas Gorham claimed Poirier is making progress in getting the property up to code.

Poirier was granted a continuation to July 20, when his progress will be reassessed.