Case Caption: Island Tile and Marble, LLC v. Berle Bertrand, AdministratrixCase Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2012-0050Date: 11/07/2012Author: Hodge, Rhys S. Citation: Summary:

In a review of four issues addressed by the Superior Court in interlocutory orders certified for immediate appellate review pursuant to 4 V.I.C. § 33(c), those rulings are affirmed as they relate to the questions certified to this Court. If the Superior Court possesses authority to grant or deny relief, it has authority to alter its decision prior to entry of judgment. In this case, a stipulation between the parties required court approval to become effective. A motion described as a motion to dismiss required consideration of matters outside the pleadings, transforming it into a motion for summary judgment, filed before the parties' joint stipulation for discontinuance of the action, which therefore did not become binding upon filing pursuant to Federal Rule 41(a)(1)(A)(i). Federal Rule 54(b) governs whether the Superior Court should exercise its discretion to revise or alter a prior interlocutory order. But the "as justice requires" standard for granting relief under that rule is in addition to the legal standard that governs the underlying order. The Superior Court erred in applying Federal Rule 12(b)(6) in analyzing whether Rule 54(b) warranted revision of the order of discontinuance pursuant to Rule 41(a)(2), but that error was harmless in this case. The Superior Court has an active role in reviewing voluntary dismissal or settlement of wrongful death actions, as a guardian for the interests of absent relatives, and the present cases is one in which there is simply no way that the court could have denied the estate's motion under the proper legal standard; it had no choice but to credit the factual materials filed with the motion, and it took the appropriate measures to minimize prejudice to the defendant as a result of its ruling. The uncontradicted evidence in the record established entitlement to Rule 54(b) relief, and the Superior Court did not abuse its discretion in setting aside its prior order and permitting the estate to re-file its causes of action. Finally, since the Legislature has decreed that a Certificate of Government Insurance Coverage only establishes "prima facie evidence"-as opposed to "conclusive evidence"-of status as an insured employer, the Superior Court correctly rejected the argument that the estate could not proceed in light of the exclusive remedy provisions of the Virgin Islands Worker's Compensation Act, simply because the employer received such a certificate. Instead, under 24 V.I.C. § 272(c) every employer that has not filed the required reports and paid the premium due is considered an uninsured employer. The underlying opinions and orders of the Superior Court are affirmed as they relate to the questions certified for review in this appeal.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion