News

Rhode Island Enacts Paid "Sick and Safe" Leave

10/4/2017 - Following a rare September session, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed the "Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act," requiring certain Rhode Island employers to provide employees with paid "sick and safe" leave.  When signed into law by Governor Gina Raimondo on September 28th, Rhode Island joined other states - including Massachusetts and Connecticut - which mandate employers to offer paid sick leave to their employees.  Although the law takes effect in nine months, employers should not wait before planning for the July 1st compliance deadline. James A. Ruggieri and Gregory M. Tumolo have authored an article examining the issues involved. A copy of the complete client alert can be found here.

RI and MA Courts Rule on Medical Marijuana Users in the Workforce

8/31/2017 - Since the legalization of medical marijuana in Rhode Island (2006) and Massachusetts (2013), many individuals with debilitating medical conditions have been able to return to work or continue working. This, however, has created challenges for employers who administer pre-employment drug tests and promulgate drug-free workplace policies.

Recently, courts in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have considered the issue.  Unfortunately, these decisions raise more questions than answers about the right of employers to refuse to hire and to fire personnel for their off-duty consumption of this prescription medication.

James A. Ruggieri and Gregory M. Tumolo recently authored an article examining the issues involved and discussed strategies for employers to consider when addressing these situations. A copy of the complete client alert can be found here.

Gregory Tumolo Appointed Co-Director For State Legislative Affairs for Rhode Island SHRM


8/1/2017 -
 The Rhode Island Chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management (RI SHRM) recently has named Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney attorney Gregory M. Tumolo to serve a two-year term as co-director of the organization’s legislative affairs committee, with a focus on state legislative matters.  In this role as a member of RI SHRM’s Board of Directors, Gregory will be responsible for monitoring legislation pending before the General Assembly that may have an impact on HR professionals and employment law practitioners throughout the State of Rhode Island.  In addition to keeping RI SHRM members fully informed of legislative activity on Smith Hill, Gregory also will be responsible for organizing RI SHRM’s annual employment law and legislative affairs conference.

RI SHRM is the statewide affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest and most influential HR professional society.  Representing 285,000 members in more than 165 countries, SHRM has been the leading provider of resources serving the needs of HR professionals and advancing the practice of human resource management.

For nearly a decade, Gregory has represented employers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts in a wide array of labor and employment law matters.  His practice includes issues arising under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and state and federal anti-discrimination laws.  His practice also has involved negotiating employment agreements, severance packages, and non-competition covenants.  He attended Bryant University, graduating magna cum laude, and graduated cum laude from Suffolk University Law School.  He has been named a “Rising Star” in the field of labor and employment law by Super Lawyers, New England and serves on the labor and employment law steering committee for ALFA International.

The American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel and The National Journal Recognize James Ruggieri

6/28/2017James A. Ruggieri has been acknowledged by The American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel and The National Law Journal for his excellence in the field of insurance law. Throughout his distinguished career, he has litigated numerous insurance law matters on behalf of commercial and individual policyholders with a particular emphasis on product liability and employment law. He has also handled complex cases for leading carriers  involving insurance coverage issues. 

During this time, James has represented some of the largest insurance companies in the world. In the process, he has successfully guided numerous cases through the trial and appellate courts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Earlier this year, he was recognized by both The American Lawyer and Corporate Counsel for his outstanding achievement in the field of product liability litigation.

J. David Freel Joins Red Cross Board

6/8/2017 - The American Red Cross recently announced that Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney Attorney J. David Freel has been elected to its Rhode Island Board of Directors.

“It’s great to have David join our team,” said Mario Bruno, CEO, American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region. “His experience working with both the public and private sectors will help us continue to build partnerships to efficiently deliver our services throughout the community.”

Members of the Board of Directors provide guidance and stewardship for the Red Cross and its network of volunteers as the charity provides emergency assistance, disaster relief, and preparedness education. While the local Red Cross primarily serves Rhode Island, volunteer teams are respond throughout the country and internationally to serve those affected by disaster.

David earned his J.D. from the Roger Williams University School of Law, where he served as an editor of the law review, and his B.A., with highest distinction, from Pennsylvania State University. He is admitted to practice in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families.

David attended the American Red Cross Heroes Luncheon, the signature Red Cross event for Rhode Island. The program recognizes community heroes who have demonstrated extraordinary acts of kindness and courage to prevent and alleviate human suffering, exemplifying the true spirit of the Red Cross. Many of David’s colleagues from Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney attended the event, which also recognized Home Depot, one of the firm’s clients.

James Hornstein and Christine Fitta Address Timely ALFA International Seminar

4/7/2017 - On March 24, 2017 James T. Hornstein and Christine D’Orsi Fitta presented at the ALFA International Worker’s Compensation Seminar in Austin Texas with board certified pain specialist Dr. Roberto Feliz regarding issues surrounding the use of opioid medication in workers’ compensation cases.
  
James and Christine discussed the R.I. Workers’ Compensation Court’s response to the epidemic of long term opioid use and dependency in workers’ compensation cases.  Specifically, they profiled the Interdisciplinary Pain Management Program being administered at the Dr. John E. Donley Rehabilitation Center.

They also examined the goals of that program, the services being provided, and the means by which employers can avail themselves of court orders directing their employees to participate at the Center.

For those individuals who have been directed to the program by the court and have been deemed to be appropriate candidates for inclusion in the program, a treatment plan is established among the rehabilitation experts at the Donley Center together with an on staff doctor, or an outside doctor specializing in this area of medicine.

The many cost benefits of the program’s implementation for insurers, self-insured employers and third party administrators were discussed.
   
Dr. Feliz, who was invited to present by James and Christine, oversaw a lively discussion concerning the heavy price paid from a physical and financial standpoint due to the opioid epidemic, the over-prescription of opioid medications and the advent of medical marijuana.

He also discussed the medical efficacy of medication weaning from these addictive medications and the overwhelmingly positive effects of doing so.

Dr. Roberto Feliz, a renowned pain specialist, was recently named by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker as one of two physicians to serve on a new voluntary program designed for individuals with settled workers’ compensation cases, who are still being treated with long-term opioid medications.

Dr. Feliz earned his medical degree from Dartmouth Medical School and completed his residency at Harvard Medical School at the Beth Israel Hospital. He had a fellowship in Pain Management from Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital.

The program’s sponsor, ALFA International, is the premier network of independent law firms.  With 150 by invitation only member firms throughout the world, the organization is devoted to providing high quality, cost-efficient legal services wherever our clients need them.
 
Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP is a longstanding member and the exclusive Rhode Island law firm of this prestigious organization.

James Ruggieri Recognized by Two National Legal Journals.

4/6/2017James A. Ruggieri was recently recognized by both The American Lawyer and Corporate Counsel, two highly regarded, national legal journals, for his outstanding achievement in the field of product liability. He has devoted a substantial part of his practice to the defense of product liability claims, including automotive/trucking product liability, manufacturing machinery and equipment, electrical components, building products, pharmaceuticals and other products. In addition, he is actively involved in the defense of asbestos product liability claims on behalf of manufacturers of heating and cooling equipment, valves, pumps, compressors, building products manufacturers, and aircraft manufacturers. He is also a sustaining member of the Product Liability Advisory Council, an association of more than 100 leading product manufacturers and 350 of the foremost product liability defense counsel in the United States and abroad.

Susan Fay Victorious at the R.I. Supreme Court in Precedent-Setting Insurance Coverage Case

3/10/2017 - HCC Partner Susan Pepin Fay recently prevailed before the Rhode Island Supreme Court in a precedent-setting case that redefines insurance coverage law in Rhode Island in certain workers’ compensation cases. In so doing, a unanimous Supreme Court overturned a decision of the Appellate Division of the Workers’ Compensation Court, which had held that The Beacon Mutual Insurance Company, the Rhode Island-based carrier,  was solely responsible to pay benefits for a construction company employee who was injured in and worked primarily in Massachusetts.
 
Ms. Fay represented Ajax Construction Company, which is based in Rhode Island and was where the employee’s original claim was filed. She successfully persuaded the Supreme Court to adopt the rationale that she advanced at oral argument and in her brief. HCC represented the employer through its Beacon policy. HCC Partner James T. Hornstein filed the initial petition at the trial level - invoking for the first time the Workers’ Compensation Court’s new authority to resolve coverage disputes between insurers. The trial court found both carriers equally responsible to pay an equal share of the benefits, which resulted in HCC bringing the subsequent appeal to the Appellate Division.

The employer had carried workers’ compensation insurance in every state that it worked in, which included insurance with Liberty in Massachusetts and Beacon in Rhode Island. The Appellate Division initially found no liability on the part of the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company on two grounds. First, the court found that the employee was not a “Massachusetts employee” under the Liberty policy.  Additionally, the Appellate Division ruled that a provision of the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Statute (R.I. Gen. Laws 28-36-5) relating to the “entire liability of the employer” required Beacon to pay the entire amount of benefits in this case.  

Since there is no direct appeal to the Supreme Court in workers’ compensation cases in Rhode Island, Ms. Fay first had to convince the state’s highest court to hear the matter. The Supreme Court eventually did and subsequently held that the lower court erred in its interpretation of the term “Massachusetts employee.”  In particular, the Supreme Court found the term clear and unambiguous and found that its plain and ordinary meaning certainly incorporated an employee who worked primarily on Massachusetts job sites - regardless of where he or she chose to file a claim. The Supreme Court also found that the Appellate Division erred in its interpretation of R.I. Gen. Laws 28-36-5.  Specifically, the Supreme Court found the term “entire liability of the employer” to be ambiguous and in interpreting that provision of state law concluded that the legislative intent was to ensure coverage for all employees - but not necessarily with a single insurance policy.  

The case name is  Ajax Construction Co., Inc. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., and was decided on February 28. Beacon and Liberty were also represented by counsel. Going forward, the case offers clarity for carriers issuing workers’ compensation policies as well as particular companies doing business in multiple states that purchase such insurance.

HCC Partners Profiled on Business Program

James A. Ruggieri and James T. Hornstein were recently interviewed on “Executive Suite,” a popular television program featuring leading business figures from Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts.

They were interviewed in-depth by the program’s anchor Ted Nesi.
The wide-ranging discussion offered an overview of the 17-lawyer firm of Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney; the firm's 65 years of service to large corporations, major insurance companies and smaller businesses; the recent relocation of the headquarters within Providence; and the opening of a Boston office.

James Ruggieri also addressed the firm's ability to serve the litigation needs of larger companies and major insurance carriers doing business in the region in a cost-effective manner with a heightened focus on quality. At one point, he mentioned that clients, both large and small, are demanding greater efficiencies than ever before in their legal representation and how Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney has embraced that change without effecting quality.



He mentioned how clients are not only very concerned about cost but are risk averse and more willing to seek alternatives to litigation. As a result, he cited how technology, careful case management, and comprehensive settlement and mediation strategies have all contributed toward the goals of meeting both the legal and business needs of clients.
 
James Hornstein fielded several questions on past and present developments in worker’s compensation practice in Rhode Island. In particular, Ted Nesi asked how the reforms and restructuring of the R.I. Worker’s Compensation Court during the 1990s had impacted both employers and employees in the Ocean State. James Hornstein answered that these changes have held up very well during the intervening years and had in fact achieved their intended result for all concerned. 



Finally, James Ruggieri was able to review various aspects of the firm’s litigation practice that include general liability, premises liability, construction law, product liability as well as workers' compensation.

Recent guests on “Executive Suite” have included the CEOs of Hasbro and A.T. Cross. The program is presented by the Providence affiliates of CBS and Fox.

Maintaining Employee Handbooks Article Published

An influential, regional business journal has just published an important guest commentary by James A. Ruggieri and Gregory M. Tumolo on the design and development of an effective and purposeful employee handbook.  

The article in the Providence Business News identifies ten essential steps for developing this powerful tool - which employers can use to communicate key information about their values, policies, procedures and benefits.  Their commentary also provides a blueprint for including specific employment law issues arising in jurisdictions like Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The many issues treated in an employee handbook impact business owners, managers and employees alike. Employee handbooks also provide a valuable opportunity to ensure consistency across an organization while providing employees at all levels with a clear and concise understanding of what is expected of them.  A copy of this timely article can be found here.

Because employment laws change rapidly and new obligations are constantly being imposed, the authors note that updating an employee handbook is essential. Moreover, revising an employee handbook does not have to be an unnecessary burden. This is especially so when one updates an employee handbook as developments warrant since the energy spent in updating these manuals can result in valuable savings of time, expense and potential problems in the future.

A significant portion of James Ruggieri’s practice is devoted to representing companies in employment law matters in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. For nearly a decade, Gregory M. Tumolo has represented and advised employers and employees on a wide array of employment law issues in Rhode Island and Massachusetts as well. They often address professional and business audiences on employment law topics.

Three HCC Attorneys Selected By Super Lawyers, New England

12/20/2016 - Peter E. Garvey, a partner with the Providence law firm of Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP, was recently recognized in the 2016 edition of Super Lawyers, New England for his defense of cases involving professional liability with a particular emphasis on attorney malpractice.

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. No more than five percent of the lawyers in Rhode Island are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers, New England to receive the “Super Lawyer” designation.

Peter maintains an active litigation practice throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. He also defends businesses in other matters of alleged negligence including premises liability, liquor liability and general insurance defense. In the process, he has achieved considerable success in defending cases involving major retailers and various companies involved in the hospitality field.

After graduating from law school, Peter served as a law clerk to justices of the Superior Courts for Connecticut and Rhode Island. He is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island and the New England School of Law, where he graduated with honors.

In addition to Peter’s selection, J. David Freel and Kristina I. Hultman were chosen as “Rising Stars” by Super Lawyers, New England. This marks the second consecutive year that both David and Kristina have received this elite recognition.

David is admitted to practice in the state courts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, as well as the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Since 2009, he has been representing primarily national and regional corporate clients both before and throughout all phases of litigation including in the areas of insurance defense, premises liability, product liability, and commercial litigation. David previously served as a law clerk in the Rhode Island Supreme Court’s Law Clerk Department. He is a magna cum laude graduate of the Roger Williams University School of Law where he served as Executive Articles Editor of the Roger Williams University Law Review. Prior to law school, David graduated with highest distinction from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in economics.

Kristina I. Hultman is admitted to practice in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts. She has extensive experience arguing numerous dispositive and discovery motions and is well-versed in all aspects of pre-trial discovery. Her practice focuses on product liability, premises liability, insurance defense and professional liability. She graduated from the College of the Holy Cross and received her J.D., magna cum laude, from Roger Williams University School of Law. While in law school, Kristina served as Associate Editor of the Roger Williams University Law Review.

To be eligible for inclusion as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers, New England, a candidate must be either 40 years old or younger, or in practice for 10 years or less.  No more than 2.5 percent of lawyers in each state are given the designation of a “Rising Star” in any given year.

U.S. News & World Report Names HCC a "Tier 1" Law Firm

12/13/2016 - U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers recently released their “Best Law Firm” selections for 2017 for the State of Rhode Island.

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP (HCC) achieved the highest rankings for both personal injury litigation defense and product liability litigation defense. This marks the fourth consecutive year that HCC has received “Tier 1” recognition for these two areas of practice from U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers.

“We are pleased and proud to have been recognized by our clients and colleagues in such a fashion. Achieving a top-tiered ranking by U.S. News & World Report signals a unique combination of quality law practice, breadth of legal expertise, and litigation talent across our entire law firm,” said Managing Partner Stephen B. Lang.

The rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.

Clients were asked to provide feedback on firm practice groups, addressing expertise, responsiveness, understanding of a business and its needs, cost-effectiveness, civility, and whether they would refer another client to the firm.

Lawyers from other law firms voted on HCC’s expertise, responsiveness, integrity, and cost-effectiveness. Other considerations included whether they would refer a matter to the firm, and whether they consider the firm to be a worthy competitor.

"U.S. News is the global authority in rankings," said Tim Smart, executive editor of U.S. News & World Report. "Evaluating law firms is a natural extension of what we do best."

HCC Sponsors Regional Conference: Medical Challenges in Workers' Compensation

10/21/2016 - Higgins Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP presented its 2016 Workers’ Compensation Seminar at the Hyatt Regency on October 21st. More than 40 insurance professionals, risk managers, in-house counsel and human resources personnel from throughout New England attended the event. The seminar was titled, “Medical Challenges in Workers’ Compensation” and featured three board certified physicians in pain management, orthopedic surgery and behavioral neurology.

Dr. Roberto Feliz, a board certified pain management physician and anesthesiologist, discussed how opioid tapering protocols, if performed slowly and professionally, allow patients to achieve normalize brain cell receptors while focusing on injury recovery and improved functionality.

As a result of these approaches, Dr. Feliz noted that patients often will begin to be more engaged, awake and alert with increased overall general strength and “improved get up and go.”

It has been his clinical observation that too many injured patients and their doctors have become involved in a circular loop of chasing the persistent complaint of pain with more and more medication until ultimately the patient reaches extreme doses of various medications (typically high dose opioids prescribed in combination with several other adjunctive and sedative medications). He added that these combinations have the potential for very detrimental side effects including the substantial risk of an accidental overdose - all while achieving minimal additional reduction in the level or intensity of the pain.

Dr. Feliz was followed by Dr. Michael P. Mariorenzi, a board certified physician in orthopedic surgery. He addressed the distinction between a traumatic work injury to a joint and a longstanding degenerative condition that flares up after the work injury. The anatomical similarities and differences between traumatic and pre-existing conditions were also presented. He stated that drawing a conclusion between exacerbation and aggravation can be difficult due to the interplay between subjective complaints and objective findings. In answer to a question from the audience, Dr. Mariorenzi noted that the construction of the shoulder was far more complex than that of the knee making replacement of that joint far more problematic that that of the knee. He also discussed the pros and cons of less intrusive  surgical interventions to the knee - short of a complete replacement to that joint.

The final speaker, Dr. Jeffrey Wishik, is a board certified neurologist and an attorney. He stated that patients with acute features of concussion may be dazed, confused, bewildered, and perplexed as well as being disoriented. Anterograde or retrograde amnesia may result. In addition, a lack of orderly thought may be present as well as inability to act decisively. Difficulty performing activities associated with daily living can also result.

Despite these symptoms, Dr. Wishik noted that the vast majority of patients with concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries recovery quickly, within days or a few weeks. “Permanent deficits directly due to mild traumatic brain injuries are unusual,” he said, adding that persistent symptoms probably are due to a combination of non-injury, psychosocial factors. He also stated that clinicians should intervene early with education and symptomatic treatment to prevent chronic complaints.

James T. Hornstein, the Managing Partner for the Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney Workers’ Compensation Department, served as program chair. Partners Susan P. Fay and Christine D’Orsi Fitta moderated the sessions by Dr. Feliz and Dr. Wishik. Another attorney in the department, Courtney L. Manchester, facilitated the presentation by Dr. Mariorenzi.

Dr. Feliz is affiliated with New England Pain Management Consultants in Hyde Park, Massachusetts, one of the largest and most experienced, board-certified pain management practices in the Northeast.

Dr. Mariorenzi is with Orthopaedic Associates, Inc., which has offices in Cranston Cumberland, Rhode Island. He is affiliated with Roger Williams Medical Center.

Dr. Wishik is based in Providence and serves as president of the ADHD Center of New England. He is affiliated with Butler Hospital and The Miriam Hospital. He is also the author of the book, “Medical and Legal Aspects of Neurology.”

Stephen Lang Named Among America's Top Lawyers

9/8/2016 - Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney managing partner Stephen B. Lang has been selected for Lifetime Achievement Membership in America’s Top 100 Attorneys®.

Membership among America’s Top 100 Attorneys® is meant to identify and highlights the accomplishments of the nation’s most esteemed and skilled attorneys in all areas of practice.  Only 100 attorneys in each state receive this honor and are included for membership among America’s Top 100 Attorneys®.

In an effort to help ensure that only the most skilled and exceptional attorneys are chosen for membership In creating its selection process, America’s Top 100 Attorneys® has developed a comprehensive multi-phase selection process involving peer recommendations, propriety algorithms and qualitative comparative analysis.

Steve has long attained an AV Preeminent peer review rating by Martindale Hubble, which recognizes lawyers across the country who have exhibited the highest level of professional excellence. In addition, he has been recognized in a special section of the Boston Globe as among the region’s "Legal Leaders" and has been designated as a "Top Rated Lawyer in Insurance Law" by two leading national publications  -Corporate Counsel and American Lawyer.

A past president of the Defense Council of Rhode Island, Steve is also a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, which recognizes a lawyer's experience in civil jury trials, litigation expertise, and high ranking within the legal profession.

In addition, Steve is a member of the firm’s Litigation Department, which is recommended by the 2016 edition of “Benchmark Litigation,” the widely regarded resource to law firms and attorneys in the United States and Canada.

HCC's Summer Social Recognizes Two New Attorneys

8/4/2016 - Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP recently sponsored a summer social for all attorneys and staff, and the occasion provided an ideal opportunity for everyone to meet the firm’s newest associates, Gregory M. Tumolo and Larissa B. DeLisi, who will be practicing law in HCC’s Litigation Department.

This summer event was held at one of the newer downtown establishments, the Rooftop at the Providence G. The popular restaurant provided a comfortable backdrop to share personal and professional interests with one another socially as well as to meet personally with Gregory and Larissa.

Gregory attended Bryant University, graduating magna cum laude.  He graduated cum laude from Suffolk University Law School in 2008.  He is admitted to practice law in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. His practice focuses on representing and counseling employer and employee clients in a wide array of labor and employment law matters.  He regularly assists clients with issues arising under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and state anti-discrimination and wage and hour laws. (Gregory can be seen photographed with HCC partners Paul S. Callaghan at right and Christine D’Orsi Fitta.)

Larissa received her J.D. degree in 2015 from Roger Williams University School of Law, where she graduated summa cum laude. She received her B.A., magna cum laude, from Providence College. She is also licensed to practice law in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Upon graduating from law school, she served as a law clerk to the acting chief judge of the R.I. Workers’ Compensation Court. While in law school, she served as a judicial extern for The Honorable O. Rogeriee Thompson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. (Larissa is pictured to the left of HCC senior associate Kelly A. Kincaid.)

During the course of a year, other firm-sponsored, social activities are also available for the firm’s personnel including cultural and athletic events with clients, professional meetings, pro-bono events, and other informal after-work gatherings.

James Ruggieri Addresses Statewide Forum on New Federal Overtime Rule

5/18/16 - On May 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a final rule updating overtime pay requirements that are expected to impact more than four million workers nationally within the first year of implementation. The regulations will take effect on December 1, 2016.

In anticipation of these sweeping changes in federal law, the R.I. Hospitality Association sponsored a recent seminar explaining the new regulations and their impact on employers. The program featured Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney partner James A. Ruggieri and U.S. Department of Labor investigator Sarah Sullivan (pictured at right). The moderator was Sarah Bratko, the R.I. Hospitality Association’s general counsel.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s rule raised the salary threshold by nearly 100 percent under which most white collar salaried employees are eligible to receive overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The threshold levels were raised from $455 per week ($23,660 annually) to $913 per week ($47,476 annually).

The final rule focused primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for executive, administrative and professional employees to be exempt from overtime payments. The U.S. Department of Labor left intact the “duties test,” which must be also satisfied in order for an employee to qualify for any one of these classifications.

An additional provision was also added to the rule that permits up to ten percent of one’s salary to be satisfied by the payment of nondiscretionary bonuses, incentives and commissions – making it a little less burdensome for employers to meet the new threshold requirements.

Ms. Sullivan addressed these aspects of the new law and highlighted additional provisions affecting highly-compensated employees whose salary threshold was also raised – from $100,000 to $134,004.

Mr. Ruggieri offered detailed steps that businesses can take in planning for these changes in the law. He offered a series of recommendations for identifying employees impacted by the new rule and presented strategies for companies to employ once the requirements take effect. He also identified serious legal pitfalls that will easily face as a result of poor planning or non-compliance.

The seminar sponsor, the R.I. Hospitality Association, represents more than 600 foodservice, hotels, vendors and hospitality members in the state of Rhode Island. It was noted that the hospitality industry will be especially impacted by these changes in the law.

Again, the final rule does not take effect until December 1, 2016. If you or an official in your organization has any question on how these new requirements will impact your business, please do not hesitate to contact James Ruggieri at jruggieri@hcc-law.com

Stephen Cooney Receives the Highest Rating from Martindale-Hubbell

6/14/2016 - Stephen P. Cooney has received an AV-preeminent peer review rating from Martindale-Hubbell®, which is its highest ranking.

The Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ are an objective indicator of a lawyer's high ethical standards and professional ability, generated from evaluations of lawyers by other members of the bar and the judiciary in the United States. Many of these evaluations are conducted anonymously.

Stephen was recently named a partner with Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP. His practice focuses on litigation, including the defense of product liability, premises liability, transportation and insurance claims for corporate clients. He also has significant experience representing manufacturers, distributors and premises owners in asbestos and other toxic tort actions. Admitted to practice in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, Stephen is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and the Roger Williams University School of Law, where he served as an editor of the law review.

One reviewer’s comments were reflective of many others received by Martindale-Hubbell® on Stephen’s behalf. “Stephen is an excellent and experienced civil litigator. He vigorously protects his clients’ interests, and he is a skillful lawyer."

HCC Inducted into the Providence Center's Charles E. Maynard Society

5/18/2016 - Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP, was inducted into the Charles E. Maynard Society in a ceremony on May 18 at the Hope Club in Providence.

Named for The Providence Center's founder and former president, the Charles E. Maynard Society gives special recognition to individuals, corporations and foundations that have made a philanthropic commitment to The Providence Center.

Members have made substantial, cumulative gifts to The Providence Center or have named The Providence Center in a planned gift, such as a bequest, trust or retirement plan.

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney partner Paul S. Callaghan represented the firm at the event, which included a presentation by Providence Center President Dale K. Klatzker, Ph.D., who updated members on The Center's programs.

The Providence Center is at the forefront of innovative approaches to behavioral health care designed to meet the changing needs of the more than 13,000 Rhode Islanders it serves each year.

Since The Providence Center opened its doors in 1969, it has been a community resource, providing people from all walks of life with mental health and substance abuse services in their homes, schools and neighborhoods.

Film Highlighting the Violence Faced by People with Disabilities Is the Focus of Courtney Manchester

April 16, 2016 - No Limits Media, the non-profit organization based in Sherborn, Mass. dedicated to people with disabilities live lives of opportunity and achievement through a variety of initiatives, including films, videos, podcasts, television, web, documentaries, art exhibits, and educational curriculum, has a strong advocate in HCC attorney Courtney L. Manchester, who serves on the board directors.

No Limits Media is currently developing its third major film project, Three Times the Violence, which seeks to raise awareness about the extremely high rate of violence committed against people with disabilities, and to generate a call to action among legislators and the broader community.

Courtney, along with other members of the Board, is spearheading a fundraising event for No Limits Media that will take place in Providence on May 4. Rhode Island Congressmen David Cicilline and James Langevin are scheduled to speak, and the program will include screenings of trailers for Three Times the Violence. The entire press release describing this special event can be found here.

The nonprofit organization has already supported WGBH-Boston’s Ice Warriors, a film about the Paralympic hockey team. The film was selected as one of the six best sports films of that year by Sports Illustrated.

In addition, No Limits and its co-founder, disabled film maker Artemis Joukowsky, have teamed up with Academy-Award winner Tom Hanks and famed documentary maker Ken Burns to produce a film called Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War. The film tells the story of Artemis’ grandparents, a Unitarian minister and his wife, who rescued many refugees from the Nazi occupation during World War II. It will air in the fall of 2016 on PBS.

Courtney concentrates her practice primarily in representing companies in all aspects of workers’ compensation law and litigation. She also focuses a considerable portion of her practice on domestic relations and juvenile law, including matters relating to divorce, child custody and visitation, child support, prenuptial agreements, restraining orders and the Department of Children, Youth and Families.  She also has experience in the class action arena.

She has always remained active in community affairs and has served in the past as a volunteer advocate at DayOne, a Providence-based organization providing advocacy services to victims of violence and abuse.

Melissa Horne named to Federal Bar Association Board

1/19/2016 - Melissa M. Horne recently was elected to the Board of Directors of the Rhode Island Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.  The FBA is dedicated to promoting the professional development of attorneys involved in federal practice through continuing education within more than 20 substantive law specialties.

In addition, the FBA serves as a catalyst for communication between the bar and the bench, monitors and advocates on issues that impact federal lawyers and the courts, and promotes high standards of professional competence and ethical conduct.  As a director, Melissa will help formulate professional development programs and assist in encouraging other federal practitioners to participate in the organization’s activities. 

Melissa  is of counsel with Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney LLP.  She concentrates her practice on business law, advising corporate and individual clients on a wide variety of business issues, including transactional, regulatory and insolvency matters.

50 insurance professionals attend HCC workers' compensation seminar

11/1/2015 - Higgins Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP, presented its 2015 Workers’ Compensation Seminar at the Hyatt Regency on October 22nd. More than 50 insurance professionals, risk managers, in-house counsel and human resources personnel from throughout New England attended the event. The seminar was titled, “Charting Safe Passage through R.I. Workers’ Compensation.” (click here for photos)

The keynote address was delivered by George E. Healy, Jr., the recently retired Chief Judge of the R.I. Workers' Compensation Court. Judge Healy (photographed above) provided the judicial perspective on claims handling and litigation strategies and tactics including IMEs, the place for court IMEs, utilization reviews, offers of light duty and suitable alternative employment, and surveillance. Judge Healy also addressed the importance of employer and employee witness credibility, the significance of initial treatment records, the defense of late notice, and the judicial perspective on social media.

HCC attorney Courtney Manchester addressed the challenges legal and medical standards in defending aggravation and recurrence claims. HCC partner Christine D’Orsi Fitta  examined the legal definition of total incapacity and the medical burden of proof that must be met to reduce an  employee’s disability status to partial incapacity.

HCC partner Susan Pepin Fay discussed an array of privacy issues associated with the court’s new electronic filing procedures and the ethical obligations imposed on the filing party to effectuate service of process.

James Hornstein, managing partner of the HCC Workers’ Compensation Department and program chair, concluded the seminar with a review of litigation and filing statistics compiled by the R.I. Workers’ Compensation Court.

“This program was designed to offer practical approaches and strategies to address new problem issues unique to workers' compensation and create new ways to attack old problem areas.” James Hornstein noted, adding “based on the feedback generated from the attendees, we believe we completely satisfied that objective.”

Paul Callaghan quoted in Lawyers Weekly

7/9/2015 - Lawyers Weekly recently interviewed Higgins Cavanagh & Cooney partner Paul S. Callaghan about a decision by the Massachusetts Appeals Court that interpreted the term “automobile exclusion” under Rhode Island law.  Paul is a recognized authority on insurance coverage issues.

The incident concerned the owner of a 2009 Nissan Altima who was involved in an automobile accident in Fall River, Mass. while operating his employer’s Dodge tow truck on business.

The plaintiff, a passenger in another vehicle that was part of the same accident, brought suit in Bristol County Superior Court against the driver of the tow truck. That action arose once the insurance on the towing company’s truck failed to cover her medical bills.

The personal lines policy on the defendant’s Nissan Altima specifically excluded coverage for bodily injuries “arising out of an accident involving any vehicle while being maintained or used by a person employed or engaged in any auto business.” The policy also defined “auto business” as “delivering” vehicles.

Even so, the plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment and ruling that the personal insurance on the Nissan Altima covered the plaintiff’s injuries.

Paul Callaghan told Lawyers Weekly that the Massachusetts Appeals Court correctly applied Rhode Island law in denying coverage.

“It’s a fairly standard concept that you don’t get insurance for business activities from your personal lines, he said, adding “unless there is an ambiguity in the language, the state’s courts tend to apply business exclusions literally.”

Paul Callaghan did add that if the court were ever inclined to rule against the insurance company in this particular case, it would have done so by finding a difference in the terms “delivering” and “towing.”

John T. Walsh, Jr., Esq. (1942 - 2015)

5/15/2015 - HCC mourns the sudden passing of former partner.

Click here for full obituary.







Paul Callaghan Obtains Successful Jury Verdict for Major Construction Company

HCC partner Paul S. Callaghan successfully completed a jury trial in Providence County Superior Court recently - resulting in a verdict in favor of the defendant, a major national and international construction company with headquarters in New England. 

The plaintiff in the case had requested that the jury award in excess of $3 million for personal injuries he allegedly sustained as the result of a slip-and-fall on ice at a construction site at a college in Worcester, Massachusetts.  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant, which was the general contractor on the construction project, had been negligent in its maintenance of the site. 

At the time of the incident, plaintiff was a union carpenter employed by a subcontractor of the defendant.  The plaintiff claimed that he slipped and fell on a thin layer of ice covered by a dusting of snow on a concrete walkway at the ongoing construction project. In addition, the plaintiff maintained that the defendant should have removed or treated the ice and snow.

The defendant argued that the condition did not constitute a danger in the context of an ongoing wintertime construction project, that it had no actual or constructive notice of the existence of the condition, and that plaintiff’s own negligence was the cause of his fall. 

At trial, the plaintiff claimed that he had sustained in excess of approximately $1,400,000 in damages resulting from about $1.3 million in lost earnings and $100,000 in medical expenses. He claimed to be totally and permanently disabled as a result of the incident and never returned to any form of employment.  He subsequently underwent three unsuccessful surgical procedures to his left shoulder, resulting in “frozen shoulder syndrome.” The plaintiff also sought compensation for pain and suffering and his wife sought damages for loss of consortium. 

The jury deliberated for several hours over the course of two days before returning a verdict finding that the defendant was not negligent. The plaintiff moved for a new trial and the court denied the motion.

Although the case was tried in Rhode Island, Massachusetts law was applied throughout since the site of the incident was in Worcester.

Paul Callaghan maintains an extensive construction litigation practice in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Another Appellate win for James Hornstein

3/4/2015 - In a third case this year involving HCC partner James Hornstein, the Appellate Division of the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Court sustained the decision of the trial judge - that the employee’s incapacity was the result of a progression of arthritis and not a prior work-related injury.

A summary follows. The complete text is available below. The case was reported in Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly. The final decree of the Appellate Division was entered on March 4, 2015.

Christine McIlmail vs. Rhode Island Hospital

The trial was a complicated one. The employee, a nurse, had received benefits for a work-related injury resulting from a hospital stretcher hitting her left knee. She was injured on September 26, 2007 and subsequently returned to work three months afterwards – beginning suitable alternative employment.  Nine months later, she left work again for a sustained period that culminated in an arthroscopy of all three compartments of her left knee. The employee ultimately returned to her regular position on December 1, 2008 until the following June when she felt she could no longer continue her job duties.

The trial judge had entered several pretrial orders including one finding the employee to be partially incapacitated from June 14, 2009 and continuing - due to the left knee sprain she sustained on June 26, 2007. On that issue the employer objected, and the matter was set for trial.

The primary matter at trial was whether the employee’s symptoms were due to preexisting degenerative arthritis in the knee rather than the effects of the work-related injury. By this time, it also became apparent to the treating physician that total knee replacement surgery was likely. (The employee never testified so the court gleaned her history from the records and depositions submitted by the parties.)

In later deposition testimony, the treating physician said his initial report was based upon the erroneous assumption that the employee had been working without any difficulty or symptoms prior to that injury. He was unaware that the employee had tried to schedule an appointment with another orthopedic surgeon for knee pain - on the very day before the injury occurred. (When that surgeon learned that her situation had turned into a workers’ compensation case, he cancelled the appointment.)

Moreover, a court appointed physician testified during the trial that although the employee had advised him of some “on and off” symptoms prior to the injury, he was unaware she had returned to her full-time job as of November of 2008 and received no treatment for her knee until leaving work again in June 2009.

The issue of the previous appointment with another treating physician had been attempted to be used in a prior employer’s petition to prove that the then disability was not work-related, but the court had found that the employee was still disabled from her work injury and denied the petition to suspend. The employee’s benefits were eventually suspended when she returned to full duty.

However, the employee’s failures to acknowledge the seriousness of the previous knee pain to both doctors and the fact that she had never told the court-appointed physician that she had once fully recovered from the original work-related injury paved the way for counsel to have the doctors change their medical opinions as to causation as to the disability when the employee left work some 9 months after returning full duty.

Relying on this changed medical testimony and contradictions in the employee’s own medical history, the trial court reversed its original pretrial order and denied the employee’s petition for reinstatement of benefits.

That decision was appealed and upheld by the Appellate Division of the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Court.

Upon review, the appellate court also examined whether the legal doctrine of res judicata should apply – because the issue of the pre-existing arthritis was already litigated in a prior petition.  

The court said the doctrine did not apply on the issue of arthritis being the causative agent of her disability. The incident in question, the court reasoned, occurred two years after the initial injury when she had been back to full duty for nine months without symptoms or treatment.

James Hornstein prevails on appeal in two workers' compensation cases

2/1/2015 - In the following two cases before the Appellate Division of the R.I. Workers’ Compensation Court, HCC partner James Hornstein prevailed on behalf of the employers.  The cases involved a dispute over an award of damages for scarring benefits and an appeal of a trial court’s decision to deny and dismiss an original petition by a former employee. The decisions were reported in Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly. Summaries follow. The complete text of each is available by clicking onto the respective case name to access the court’s official website.

Bryanna A. Pimental vs. Lifespan Corporation

The Appellate Division of the Workers’ Compensation Court has denied the employee’s appeal seeking review of the trial court’s award of scarring benefits for burns. The employee filed a petition for disfigurement as the result of two burn scars she claimed she had suffered during the course of her employment as a kitchen worker. he employer disputed whether one of the scars, the larger of the two scars, was actually the result of a work incident. After trial which included testimony from the treating doctor and witnesses concerning the disputed scar, the trial court found that both scars were the result of the employee’s work activity. The court awarded the employee 20 weeks for the smaller scar and 28 weeks for the longer, four-inch linear scar on the employee’s forearm. The Appellate Court found that while it could be argued the longer linear scar was more disfiguring than the smaller scar, simply because the award for the longer scar was only eight weeks more than the smaller scar, the award of 28 weeks for the four-inch linear mark it was not so inadequate that it amounted to an abuse of discretion warranting reversal. The Appellate Division therefore the denied the employee’s appeal and affirmed the trial court’s decision.

Stephen M. Badessa vs. Rhode Island Hospital

The Appellate Division of the Workers’ Compensation Court denied the employee’s appeal of the trial court decision which had denied and dismissed an original petition for benefits. The employee/employer relationship had been terminated following an investigation for misconduct. The employee then filed a petition seeking benefits. The employee claimed that he was terminated working light duty due to a work injury and that the employer was aware of his injury and inability to do all tasks associated with is position at the time of his separation from employment. The employer contended that the employee never reported any injury, that it was unaware of any limitations on the employee’s ability to work full duty prior to ceasing employment and that the employee had volunteered to resign rather than be terminated, and had thus abandoned his earnings capacity. The trial court found that the employee claim of a work injury was a fabrication and that he failed to prove he suffered a work injury before the employment ended. The trial court also found no evidence that the employer or its adjuster had any knowledge of a claimed work injury. The employee contended on appeal that there was a stipulation that there was a work injury and that the only issue at trial was whether the employee had abandoned his voluntarily abandoned his earnings capacity. The Appellate Division found that there was no such stipulation to an injury and that that there was no evidence that the trial court overlooked or misconceived the evidence.  The Appellate Division therefore affirmed the denial of the employee’s petition.

Melissa Horne was a featured speaker on business law topics at SBA forum

1/2/2015 - On Wednesday, December 17, HCC attorney Melissa M. Horne addressed a public forum in Warren on the topic: “Contracts and Leases for Small Businesses.”

Her particular presentation had garnered significant community support and interest as part of a broader lecture series titled, “Rhode Island Small Business Seminars and Trainings,” sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Town of Bristol, East Bay Chamber of Commerce, Center for Women & Enterprise, SCORE, BankNewport and People’s Credit Union. 

In her talk, she focused on the ins and outs of contracts and leases and how they affect small businesses. “Small businesses deal with contracts on a daily basis, so they should know how to draft and evaluate contracts that will be enforceable and consistent with one’s business goals.  From terms and conditions of leases, to how one will be paid for services rendered, it is imperative that small businesses understand what the contract means before one signs on the dotted line,” said Ms. Horne.

Melissa M. Horne is of counsel with Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney LLP.  She concentrates her business law practice on transactional, regulatory and insolvency matters.

Susan Pepin Fay receives statewide award for her charitable work

11/24/2014 - HCC partner Susan Pepin Fay has been recognized for her dedication and leadership as a member of the board of directors for Young Voices. She was honored as one of the “2014 Partners in Philanthropy” at the National Philanthropy breakfast sponsored by the Rhode Island chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. The event was held on November 25 in Lincoln, R.I.

 

Since 1987, the Association of Fundraising Professionals Rhode Island and more than 100 non-profit organizations have come together each year to honor outstanding philanthropic contributions of corporations, small businesses, individuals and groups. Through philanthropy and volunteering, these individuals and organizations are recognized for making a significant difference in the lives of men, women and children in Rhode Island and southeastern New England.

 

Young Voices was formed a decade ago to address the pressing need for young leaders to be heard in policy making in Rhode Island.  The non-profit organization has grown to offer more than 400 youth with intensive leadership development, supporting young people to become effective advocates for policy change at the state, local, and school levels. 

Susan Pepin Fay has been very actively involved with the organization for several years and will be beginning her third term on the board of directors in January.

Rhode Island Superior Court institutes mandatory e-filing

Click here for more details

Susan Pepin Fay addresses differences in Massachusetts and Rhode Island law at Workers' Compensation symposium

11/15/2014 - Susan Pepin Fay recently spoke at an educational conference co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys and the Rhode Island Association for Justice.  The seminar entitled Workers' Comp and Circumstance: Practicing in MA, RI and in Between was held last month in Dedham, Mass. and attracted workers' compensation practitioners and judges from Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  Ms. Fay discussed the procedural differences between litigating before the Rhode Island Workers' Compensation Court and the Massachusetts Board of Industrial Accidents.

HCC sponsors event for The Providence Center

10/24/2014 - Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP was a $2,500 sponsor for the third consecutive year for The Providence Center’s annual “Circle of Stars.” The gala serves as the organization’s signature fundraising event.

The firm’s contribution helps support The Providence Center’s commitment to meeting the needs of low-income children, adults and families through innovative mental health and integrated care services. The organization provides these vulnerable people with food, housing, education, primary health care and wellness activities.

The event was held at the Rhode Island Convention Center on October 21st.

Bar Journal: Gerald DeMaria recognized as a "legend" in the law

9/19/2014 - Gerald C. DeMaria, of counsel at Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney LLP, was recently the subject of a special feature article in the Rhode Island Bar Journal, noting his “immeasurable” contributions to the legal profession and  his widespread reputation “as one of the state’s most accomplished trial attorneys in the products liability arena.”

Each issue of the Rhode Island Bar Journal spotlights a particular lawyer whose contributions to the profession have set that attorney apart from the rest - as a true “trailblazer, trendsetter, and treasure” within the state bar. In short, the series highlights the “legends” in Rhode Island legal practice for which Mr. DeMaria was aptly chosen.

The complete interview from the Rhode Island Bar Journal summarizing his remarkable career accomplishments to date is available here.

Click here for full article.

60 insurance professionals attend Workers' Compensation seminar

9/12/2014 - Higgins Cavanagh & Cooney LLP presented its 2014 Workers’ Compensation Seminar at the Hyatt Regency on September 12th. More than 60 insurance professionals, risk managers, and human resources personnel from throughout New England attended the event. The seminar was titled, “Charting Safe Passage Through The Rough Waters Of RI Workers’ Compensation.”

While most litigation has a beginning, middle and end, workers’ compensation is far different. Many cases continue through multiple levels of judicial review – until an end result is achieved or full employment is realized. The program was designed to offer practical approaches and strategies to address new problem issues unique to workers’ compensation and create new ways to attack old problem areas.

In particular, the program addressed the demise of the “going and coming rule” exception; recent procedural and legislative changes occurring at the Workers’ Compensation Court; an employee’s right to reinstatement and its relationship with the FLMA and the ADA; and the versatility and usefulness of suitable alternative employment.

Pictured above (and from left) were the HCC presenters at the program: James T. Hornstein, program chair, James A. Ruggieri, Courtney L. Manchester, Stephen B. Lang, Christine D’Orsi Fitta, and Susan Pepin Fay.

 

Click here for brochure

Click here to view all photos

Stephen B. Lang interviewed on ALFA and numerous business issues

Click here for full Providence Business News article.

HCC Partners recognized for outstanding professional accomplishments

8/6/2014 - Three HCC partners have been honored by several well-respected national legal journals and national peer review organizations for their achievements in the legal profession.
 

Stephen B. Lang and James A. Ruggieri were recently named as “Top Rated Lawyers in Insurance Law” in Corporate Counsel® and The American Lawyer®.

Christine D’Orsi Fitta has received an AV peer review rating from Martindale-Hubbell®, which is its highest ranking.

Moreover, Stephen Lang was recently accepted as a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, which recognizes a lawyer’s experience in civil jury trials together with his litigation expertise and high ranking within the legal profession.

Corporate Counsel® is read by more in-house counsel than any other industry publication. Nearly 90,000 legal professionals turn to The American Lawyer® each month for news, analysis and insight on the most successful law firms across the U.S. and around the world.

The Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ are an objective indicator of a lawyer's high ethical standards and professional ability, generated from evaluations of lawyers by other members of the bar and the judiciary in the United States. Both Steve Lang and Jim Ruggieri also maintain AV peer review ratings from Martindale Hubbell.

HCC named "Best Law Firm" in Rhode Island

8/1/2014 - The authoritative journal U.S. News and Best Lawyers, the leading survey of lawyers worldwide, have joined to rank more than 11,000 firms in 120 practice areas in 170 metropolitan areas and eight states.

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney has received a Tier 1 ranking of Rhode Island’s “Best Law Firms” for the year 2014.

The U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on an evaluation process that includes client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.

Higgins Cavanagh & Cooney is proud of this impressive recognition and is grateful for the continuing support and cooperation of our many clients for making this designation possible.

Key concept in Workers Compensation explained

7/21/2014 - In 1982, the General Assembly promulgated R.I.G.L. §28-33-18.2,the so-called “Suitable Alternative Employment” provision of the Rhode Island Workers' Compensation Act.  Suitable Alternative Employment was created by the Legislature to give employers a means to compel employees to return to the workforce even when they are incapable of returning to their full-duty work activities.  For full details please click here.

HCC Employment Law alert/court opinion

5/29/2014 - R.I. Supreme Court: Firing of 72-year-old worker is not discriminatory.  The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently ruled that Hurd Buick Pontiac GMC Truck, LLC, did not violate the state’s Fair Employment Practices Act when it terminated the employment of Carmella Bucci, who at the time was 72 years old.  For the full alert please click Bucci v Hurd Ponitac Buick GMC Truck, LLC

HCC and Partner James A. Ruggieri Join CLM

5/9/2014 - Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP and partner James A. Ruggieri have been invited to join the prestigious Claims and Litigation Management Alliance.  The CLM is a nonpartisan alliance comprised of thousands of insurance companies, corporations, corporate counsel, litigation and risk managers, claims professionals and attorneys.  Through education and collaboration the organization’s goals are to create a common interest in the representation by firms of companies, and to promote and further the highest standards of litigation management in pursuit of client defense.  Selected attorneys and law firms are extended membership by invitation only based on nominations from CLM Fellows.

Jim has devoted a substantial part of his practice to the defense of product liability claims, insurance coverage matters in the areas of extra.-contractual liability, claims handling, coverage and bad faith, and on issues of employment law. He is also involved in the defense of the transportation industry in connection with trucking accident claims as well as labor and employment issues.

Higgins Cavanagh & Cooney maintains strong alliances with a number of leading national associations devoted to advancing industry best practices, including but not limited to,  ALFA International – the global legal network, the National Retail and Restaurant Defense Association (NRRDA), the Defense Research Institute (DRI) and the Product Liability Advisory Council (PLAC).

Two CLE seminars feature HCC associate

5/7/2014 - The Defense Counsel of Rhode Island (DCRI) sponsored a continuing legal education program on May 7th, 2014 titled, “Is Your Boilerplate Ready.”  The seminar examined the ongoing need for attorneys to revise and update the standard language used in a variety of forms and legal documents. HCC attorney Stephen P. Cooney, Esq. was one of the featured speakers.

The program addressed how rulings from recent case law and language from newly revised statutes need to be reflected into specific contracts, litigation hold letters, and correspondence with clients as well as in the drafting of interrogatories. The seminar also reviewed the appropriate language for discovery requests when seeking information posted on social media websites.

DCRI is a forum for exchanging ideas on current issues of importance to defense lawyers, corporations and insurance companies. 

On April 16th, Steve addressed similar issues at a Rhode Island Bar Association program, titled “Civil Law Practice in Rhode Island – The Basics.” He offered practical tips, checklists, sample client letters and court forms necessary when opening a new client file. He also addressed the ethical and professionalism issues involved during the initial stages of the attorney-client relationship.

 The Rhode Island Bar Association seminar was especially designed for skilled practitioners to share their insight and experience into Rhode Island practice for the benefit of new attorneys and other lawyers unaccustomed to trial practice.

Steve’s practice focuses primarily on civil litigation, including defense of products liability, toxic tort, premises liability, transportation litigation and insurance claims.

Partner named to board of non-profit

5/5/2014 - Higgins Cavanagh & Cooney partner Christine D’Orsi Fitta, Esq. was recently named to the board of directors of the East Bay Center, Inc.  Based in Barrington, R.I., this private, non-profit organization offers comprehensive psychiatric and counseling services to people who struggle with mental illness and substance abuse disorders. Chris was appointed at the recommendation of one of the members of the board based upon her prior employment in the mental health field.

East Bay Center, Inc. provides quality behavioral healthcare primarily in the East Bay region of Rhode Island although services extend to persons throughout the state and into neighboring Massachusetts. The agency offers a full continuum of community-based, home and office based behavioral health treatment and prevention services to adults, children and families. The East Bay Center has been building healthy and caring relationships in the community for over four decades. 

Chris represents insurance companies and their insureds, as well as local, national and international corporations, in workers’ compensation matters.  She also advises clients on issues involving Medicare Secondary Payer Act compliance and the necessity of Medicare Set-Aside Accounts in workers’ compensation and liability cases.

Associate participates in R.I. Law Day

5/2/2014 - On May 2, 2014, members of the state judiciary and the bar joined together to visit various schools across Rhode Island in order to promote awareness of our judicial system, to discuss a relevant and timely legal topic, and to educate the students on their rights and responsibilities as citizens under our legal system. 

HCC attorney J. David Freel, Esq. was one of the participating instructors as part of Rhode Island Law Day.  He was paired with Judge Stephen Isherwood of the Rhode Island District Court.  They addressed students from two, 7th grade classes at the Father John V. Doyle School in Coventry, R.I., on the topic of Fourth Amendment rights and other current issues related to privacy law. 

The event was organized by the Rhode Island Bar Association.  Each year, Law Day programs are conducted across the United States during the entire month of May by bar groups, courts, schools and community to explain the crucial role that the rule of law and the legal process play in protecting freedom. In 1961, Congress issued a joint resolution designating May 1 as the official Law Day.

New Addition at HCC

1/1/2014 – Higgins, Cavanagh and Cooney LLP is pleased to announce that Melissa M. Horne, Esq. has become Of Counsel to the firm. Ms. Horne will utilize more than 20 years’ experience in business law as she continues her practice of advising businesses and individuals on a wide variety of issues, including business restructurings, creditors’ rights and government contracts. She has also had considerable success litigating, arbitrating and mediating business disputes.

She is admitted to practice in the state courts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Michigan, as well as the U.S. District Courts for the District of Rhode Island and the Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan, and the First and Sixth Circuit Courts of Appeals. She is active in the Rhode Island Bar Association, and has taught business law at Providence College.

Prior to serving as a law clerk in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Melissa earned her J.D. from the University of Detroit School of Law. She has practiced at leading law firms in Michigan and Rhode Island.

Ms. Horne lives with her family in Barrington, where she serves on the Board of Directors of the Barrington Land Conservation Trust.

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