Angel v. Murray

113 R.I. 482, 322 A.2d 630 (1974)



It is a well-settled rule of statutory construction that the court will not undertake to read an enactment literally if to do so would result in attributing to the legislature an intention that is contradictory of or inconsistent with the evident purposes of the act. The court consistently subscribes to the principle that a legislative enactment should be given what appears to be the meaning most consistent with its policy or obvious purposes.


Plaintiffs, citizens, filed a civil action seeking repayment of additional fees paid to defendant refuse collector by defendant city budget director under a contract. Defendant refuse collector was awarded a contract with the city. He requested additional payments to cover unexpected increases in refuse. Plaintiffs alleged the payments violated the city charter and were made without consideration. The court found for plaintiffs. On appeal, the court reversed, holding that the city charter did not intend to limit the city's ability to amend an existing contract.


Did the city council have the authority to modify the exsting contract?




The court abandoned the preexisting duty rule, and found that the city voluntarily agreed to give defendant refuse collector the requested fees and amend the contract. The modification was made during a time when the contract was not fully performed, and evidence was presented that the volume of refuse had unexpectedly risen substantially. Therefore, the decision to pay the additional fees was fair and equitable.


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