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HCC Prevails in Product Liability Case That Lawyers Weekly Calls Among the Most Important of 2018

HCC partner Stephen P. Cooney recently secured a dismissal for the defense in a product liability subrogation action in the Federal District Court for the District of Rhode Island. The case involved product liability and insurance law and was recognized by Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly as among the most important court decisions for 2018.

After the plaintiff insurance company had paid a homeowner under the terms of her homeowner policy for water damage at her residence in West Warwick, Rhode Island, it filed its claim. Pre-suit negotiations were unsuccessful. The plaintiff insurance company alleged that the defendant manufacturer of a water connector fitting was defective and caused the damages sought. The defendant disputed any defect in its product.

Prior to filing suit, plaintiff was in possession of the allegedly defective product. Plaintiff’s expert’s reviewed the product and rendered an opinion favorable to the plaintiff. Though not alleged to be in bad faith, the product was then lost or otherwise discarded before examination by the defendant manufacturer. This left the manufacturer with no ability to properly defend against the allegations of defect. The product manufacturer thus moved to dismiss under the doctrine of spoliation. The plaintiff argued that other remedies were available if needed.

Judge McConnell of the Federal District Court for the District of Rhode Island granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss. The Court importantly noted that a drastic remedy was warranted given the unique positioning of the plaintiff insurance company in the subrogation context in a product liability matter. Therefore, citing the doctrine of spoliation, the defense prevailed and the matter was dismissed.

The case is Amica Insurance Company v. BrassCraft Manufacturing Company.

2018-08-14T15:07:17+00:00 August 8th, 2018|

CLE Ethics Seminar Features Stephen Cooney and Presiding Justice of the Rhode Island Superior Court

The Defense Counsel of Rhode Island (DCRI) sponsored a continuing legal education program on August 1, 2018 titled, “Mindfulness for Lawyers.” The program focused on improving personal and professional development within the stresses and demands of everyday life including time constraints, work volume, competition, family obligations, and personal health.

HCC partner Stephen P. Cooney developed and moderated the program and was one of the featured speakers along with The Honorable Alice B. Gibney, Presiding Justice of the Superior Court. The seminar also concentrated on understanding basic techniques for work-life balance and building more ethical lawyering, civil communications, emotional intelligence, equanimity, and best practices. The evening program was held at the Harbor Lights Marina and followed the organization’s annual golf outing.

DCRI is the state association of attorneys defending the interests of business and individuals in civil litigation. Members of DCRI include lawyers engaged in private practice, corporate counsel and insurance company counsel. DCRI serves as a forum for exchanging ideas on current issues of importance to defense lawyers, corporations and insurance companies.

Stephen Cooney’s practice focuses primarily on civil litigation, including defense of products liability, toxic tort, premises liability, transportation litigation and insurance claims. He recently and successfully defended a leading manufacturer in a product liability lawsuit in federal court that Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly called one of the most important cases of 2018.

(In the photograph above, Presiding Justice Alice B. Gibney addresses the audience as Judith Hoffman, Executive Director of Coastline EAP, and HCC partner Stephen P. Cooney listen. Ryan McGowan, founder of Laid Back Fitness, also served on the panel.)

2018-08-17T06:57:19+00:00 August 1st, 2018|

Paul Callaghan Interviewed by ALFA International

Paul S. Callaghan was recently featured in social media publications produced by ALFA International, the premier global network of independent law firms.

In a wide ranging interview, Paul was asked to address one of the highlights of his successful career as an attorney. He said prevailing in a highly contested jury trial where the plaintiff was seeking a multi-million dollar verdict after he had been forced to cancel a family vacation due to the trial date selected by the presiding justice.

His client was a major national construction company, and the case arose out of an unwitnessed construction site accident with no evidence to the contrary. He found this win particularly appealing because he had been forced to cancel that family vacation, and the plaintiff’s attorney, a senior member of the plaintiffs’ bar, was especially overconfident throughout the proceedings.

The jury deliberated for more than two days and then came back with a question. The question led the plaintiff’s attorney and his partner to believe that they had won the case, to the point where they were literally boasting to colleagues that they had done so even before the jury returned a verdict. Afterwards, Paul was delighted to receive a personal, handwritten letter from the company’s chairman and CEO thanking and congratulating me on the victory.

The complete ALFA International interview can be found here.

2018-07-20T15:36:59+00:00 July 13th, 2018|

HCC Summer Associate Wins National Moot Court Competition at UCLA

HCC law clerk Kelsey Peck recently won the award for Best Overall Oral Advocates at the UCLA Cyber Crimes Moot Court Competition in Los Angeles.

UCLA School of Law Cyber Crimes Moot Court Competition is an annual moot court competition open to law schools across the nation, exploring cutting-edge issues in the field of cyber law.

Kelsey and her teammate Allison Regan are second-year law students at Roger Williams University School of Law. Kelsey (pictured at right) has been serving as a law clerk at HCC for the past year and will continue her work at the firm as a summer associate.

This UCLA Moot Court Competition featured an esteemed panel of renowned cyber law experts to judge competitors’ oral advocacy. In addition to the Competition, participants and judges heard from thought provoking speakers identifying new developments in the practice of cyber law, according to the UCLA School of Law website.

2018-07-02T09:10:08+00:00 May 7th, 2018|

Celebrating the Life of Gianna Cirella

On April 20th, Higgins Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP employees (past and present) came out to celebrate the life of Gianna Cirella and to raise funds for the Gianna Cirella Memorial Fund.

On October 13, 2017, 16-year old Gianna developed a sore throat that turned into pneumonia and, ultimately, a life-threatening blood infection known as sepsis. Despite the heroic efforts of doctors at Hasbro Children’s Hospital to save her life, Gianna lost her battle to sepsis on November 1st.

The Gianna Cirella Memorial Fund was established to raise funds for pediatric sepsis research and provide financial assistance to children and families affected by sepsis. In honor of Gianna’s love of soccer, the fund will also provide scholarships to local soccer players.

Hundreds of people attended the gala at Crowne Plaza in Warwick to honor Gianna’s memory. Eyewitness News Reporter Kim Kalunian and Rhode Show host Will Gilbert hosted the event which included a night of dinner and dancing.

Tara Cirella, Gianna’s mother, is a longstanding and highly regarded HCC staff member. She is the firm’s billing and accounts receivable coordinator.

Tara serves as the parent advocate on a committee at Hasbro Children’s Hospital to work on sepsis awareness.  She told the reporter: “It means Gianna made a difference. I’m going to carry that on.”

Information about the Gianna Cirella Memorial Fund can be found at www.gistrong.org.

2018-05-25T11:47:41+00:00 May 1st, 2018|

Kristina I. Hultman Secures Defense Verdict After Six-Day Jury Trial

Following a six-day jury trial in Providence Superior Court, HCC associate attorney Kristina I. Hultman recently secured a jury verdict in favor of the defendant, a major national transportation company.

The plaintiff in the case was struck by a motor vehicle as she attempted to cross a state highway at night. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s vehicle, parked on the side of the roadway, contributed to the accident by altering her path of travel across the highway. The plaintiff alleged that the operator of the defendant’s vehicle had been negligently trained and supervised.

The plaintiff sustained catastrophic personal injuries, including permanent neurological damage. She incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills and also sought compensation for her lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering.

Attorney Hultman had several notable rulings at trial. She secured rulings limiting the scope of the testimony of the plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert; excluding all evidence of the plaintiff’s loss of future earning capacity; and excluding several of the plaintiff’s fact witnesses. In addition, she obtained a ruling that excluded records and bills from many of the plaintiff’s medical providers.

After six days of testimony, the jury deliberated for forty minutes before returning a verdict in favor of the defendant on all counts.

In addition to maintaining an active civil litigation practice at HCC, Attorney Hultman has leadership roles in the Defense Counsel of Rhode Island and Defense Research Institute (DRI). She was also recently selected by Super Lawyers as a “Rising Star” for the third consecutive year.

2018-05-22T08:18:27+00:00 February 8th, 2018|

Courtney Manchester: An Authority on Long-Term Disability Insurance

In recent years, Courtney Manchester has developed considerable expertise on the interpretation and application of long-term disability contracts.

As most people know, these policies are designed to serve as a continuing source of income, as well as aid in covering essential expenses, during an extended illness or following a debilitating accident.

Long-term disability insurance is generally provided through one’s employer or can be obtained privately by the policyholder. Every carrier and every policy employs different language in the construction of these complicated contracts of insurance. So, each case has unique characteristics.

Serious disputes can result in litigation that is frequently resolved in state or federal court. If the underlying claim is wrongfully delayed or denied, insurance carriers may also face potential punitive damages for bad faith conduct, as well as additional sanctions imposed by the court for the attorney’s fees of the plaintiff. So, these cases can involve significant exposure for the carriers involved.

When contested, these matters require a careful scrutiny of the full extent of the insurance coverage offered. In addition, an array of experts, including numerous board certified physicians representing a variety of specialties, are often called upon to offer testimony about the policyholder’s medical condition. In the process, these experts often face vigorous examination and cross-examination as to the validity, credibility and certainty of their medical opinions.

For many years, Courtney has practiced in the area of workers’ compensation defense, which necessitates an in-depth knowledge of numerous medical specialties. This particular field also requires significant skill at examining and cross-examining physicians and surgeons from a variety of disciplines concerning the certainty of their medical opinions. This specialized background is especially well-suited for her handling of particular long-term disability cases.

Courtney is a graduate of Wesleyan University and Boston University School of Law. She is admitted to practice law in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and the U. S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island.

2018-07-02T12:08:14+00:00 January 10th, 2018|

Three HCC Attorneys Selected by Super Lawyers, New England

Peter E. Garvey, a partner with the Providence law firm of Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP, was recently recognized in the 2018 edition of Super Lawyers, New England for his expertise in the areas of professional liability, personal injury defense, and insurance defense.

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 third consecutive year that both David and Kristina have received this exclusive 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 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 any given state receive the designation of a “Rising Star” in any one year.

2018-05-22T13:39:21+00:00 December 20th, 2017|

HCC Celebrates New Quarters

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney recently hosted a very well-received Open House to celebrate the relocation of the firm’s Providence headquarters. It was a gala event attended by more than 80 people. Great fun and good cheer were evident throughout the entire evening.

The event also provided an opportunity to mingle and network among the many leading business personnel in attendance from the fields of finance, business and law.

Clients and friends of the firm also had an opportunity to view the modern offices, which were specially designed to manage more efficiently and effectively the flow of information between departments and practice groups.

The new headquarters at 10 Dorrance Street in Providence is located across from City Hall and is only a short walk from the state and federal court houses. The recent move represents the firm’s longstanding commitment to Rhode Island’s capital city. At the same time, the firm has expanded regionally with the opening Boston office within the past year.

Additional photographs from the event can be found here.

2018-05-22T08:43:28+00:00 December 1st, 2017|

James Ruggieri Discusses RI’s New Paid Leave Law on NBC10

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney partner James Ruggieri was interviewed recently by NBC10 anchor Frank Coletta on the wide-ranging impact of Rhode Island’s new paid sick leave law – the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplace Act.” The law takes effect on July 1st. Even so, many employers are already preparing for the upcoming compliance date.

Employees can accrue and use leave for: 1) the employee’s own health condition; 2) to care for certain family members with health conditions; closure of the employee’s business or a child’s school due to a public health emergency; or 4) the employee or family member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Most employers with 18 or more employees must provide paid leave; employers with fewer than 18 employees must provide unpaid leave. This new law is very technical and will have a profound impact on the workplace. If you have any questions or for more information, please contact James Ruggieri or Gregory Tumolo.

2018-05-22T08:40:42+00:00 November 15th, 2017|