§ 6-36-12. Attorney general Suits parens patriae.
(a) The attorney general may bring a civil action in superior court in the name of the state, as parens patriae on behalf of persons residing in this state, to secure monetary relief as provided in this section for injuries sustained by the persons to their property by reason of any violation of this chapter. This parens patriae action shall take precedence, have priority status, and automatically stay any other action by a city or town in superior court seeking monetary relief for the same injuries sustained by the persons to their property by reason of any violation of this chapter. The court shall exclude from the amount of monetary relief awarded in this action any amount of monetary relief:
(1) That duplicates amounts that have been awarded for the same injury; or
(2) That is properly allocable to persons who have excluded their claims pursuant to subsection (c)(1) of this section.
(b) The court shall award the state as monetary relief threefold the total damage sustained as described in subsection (a) of this section and the costs of suit, including a reasonable attorney's fee.
(c)(1) In any action brought under subsection (a) of this section, the attorney general shall, at the times, in the manner, and with the content that the court may direct, cause notice of the action to be given by publication.
(2) Any person on whose behalf an action is brought under subsection (a) may elect to exclude from adjudication the portion of the state claim for monetary relief attributable to him or her by filing notice of the election with the court within the time specified in the notice given pursuant to subsection (c)(1) of this section.
(3) The final judgment in an action under subsection (a) shall be res judicata as to any claim under § 6-36-11 by any person on behalf of whom the action was brought and who fails to give the notice within the period specified in the notice given pursuant to subsection (c)(1) of this section.
(d) An action under subsection (a) shall not be dismissed or compromised without the approval of the court and notice of any proposed dismissal or compromise shall be given by publication at the times, in the manner, and with the content that the court may direct.
(e) In any action under subsection (a):
(1) The amount of the plaintiff's attorney's fees, if any, shall be determined by the court and any attorney's fees awarded to the attorney general shall be deposited with the state as general revenues; and
(2) The court may, in its discretion, award a reasonable attorney's fee to a prevailing defendant upon a finding that the attorney general has acted in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for oppressive reasons.
(f) Monetary relief recovered in an action under this section shall: (1) Be distributed in any manner that the court in its discretion may authorize; or (2) Be deemed a civil penalty by the court and deposited with the state as general revenues; subject in either case to the requirement that any distribution procedure adopted afford each person a reasonable opportunity to secure his or her appropriate portion of the net monetary relief.
(g) In any action under this section the fact that a person or public body has not dealt directly with the defendant shall not bar or otherwise limit recovery. Provided, however, that the court shall exclude from the amount of monetary relief awarded in the action any amount of monetary relief that duplicates amounts that have been awarded for the same injury. No provision of this chapter shall be construed to limit the standing of any person or public body, whether the person or public body is a direct or indirect purchaser, from bringing suit on his or her own behalf.
(P.L. 1979, ch. 98, § 1; P.L. 2013, ch. 274, § 1; P.L. 2013, ch. 365, § 1; P.L. 2014, ch. 528, § 26.)