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Stephen Cooney Moderates Program on Changes in Rhode Island Law Impacting Corporate Clients

During the latest legislative session, the Rhode Island General Assembly amended many existing statutes of the General Laws that will impact negligence claims and their defenses including: Section 9-1-32 (“Effect of Alteration of Product after Sale”); Sections 10-6-3, 10-6-4 and 10-6-7 (“Contribution Among Joint Tortfeasors”); Section 10-7-1.2 (“Death By Wrongful Act”); and other measures impacting insurance and coverage requirements.

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney partner Stephen P. Cooney recently moderated a lively seminar on the impact that these changes will have upon the practice of law for defense attorneys in the state.

This program entitled, “Defense Dynamics: 2021 Tort Law Changes by the General Assembly,” was sponsored by the Defense Counsel of Rhode Island. For an in-depth look at the issues involved, click here.

Stephen Cooney has participated in a number of important continuing education programs sponsored by the Defense Counsel of Rhode Island. In January, he moderated a seminar entitled, “Appellate Practice in the R.I. Supreme Court – Update, Pointers, Refresher.”

That timely seminar reviewed critical cases that arose during the Court’s 2020 term. That program also offered insights into the philosophies and approaches of the two new jurists who recently assumed the Supreme Court bench.

2021-11-02T12:51:01-04:00November 2nd, 2021|

Paul Callaghan Receives Singular Honor from Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney is pleased to announce that Paul Callaghan has been named a “Go To Lawyer” for 2021 by Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly.

Paul is just one of a dozen lawyers who received this statewide recognition and the only one recognized in the field of insurance defense. Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly defines a “Go To Lawyer” as someone who is a senior expert in his field, has an extensive record of success, routinely receives referrals from other lawyers due to his expertise, and thinks creatively to identify all options for a client.

Paul has been practicing for nearly 30 years and has handled thousands of insurance defense matters for many of the largest insurance companies in the world.

He is an accomplished trial lawyer who has tried dozens of insurance cases in the state and federal courts in Rhode Island and Massachusetts with great success.

He is also an experienced appellate advocate and has numerous reported decisions relating to insurance in the Rhode Island Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Read the entire Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly article here.

2021-10-29T14:26:48-04:00October 29th, 2021|

HCC Welcomes Attorneys Meagan Bellamy and Lauren Moore

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP is pleased to announce that Attorneys Meagan M. Bellamy and Lauren E. Moore have joined the firm.

Meagan Bellamy is admitted in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. She was previously with a regional law firm concentrating in premises liability. Earlier, she was employed by a municipal law firm, serving as an Assistant Solicitor for several Rhode Island towns. She also served as a prosecutor for numerous municipalities in their local housing and municipal courts.

She graduated from Sacred Heart University, where she earned her B.A. degree in English. She is a cum laude graduate of Roger Williams University School of Law.

Lauren Moore is also admitted to practice before the state courts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Before joining the firm, she served as a Judicial Law Clerk at the Rhode Island Supreme Court Trial Court Law Clerk Department, where she conducted extensive legal research for various civil and criminal cases. In the process, she also prepared memoranda and draft opinions for the trial justices on important matters.

She received her J.D. degree from Vermont Law School. Her B.A. degree in Sociology was awarded from Stonehill College.

2021-10-26T07:00:08-04:00October 25th, 2021|

Super Lawyers® Recognizes Multiple HCC Attorneys

Super Lawyers has named several attorneys from Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney as 2021 Super Lawyers and another as a 2021 Rising Star.

Only five percent of the lawyers in Rhode Island receive the Super Lawyer designation in any single year. No more than 2.5 percent of lawyers in each state obtain the designation of a Rising Star yearly.

2021 Super Lawyers

James A. Ruggieri (Personal Injury – Products, Insurance Coverage, General Litigation, Employment Litigation.)

Paul S. Callaghan (Construction Litigation, Insurance Coverage, Civil Litigation, Transportation, Maritime.)

Peter E. Garvey (Personal Injury – General, Professional Liability, Insurance Coverage, General Litigation, Business Litigation.)

2021 Super Lawyers’ Rising Star

Brian W. Haynes (General Litigation, Personal Injury – General, Insurance Coverage, Alternative Dispute Resolution. Recognized for two consecutive years.)

Super Lawyers is the national rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

The selection process for Rising Stars is the same as the Super Lawyers selection process, with one exception: to be eligible for inclusion in Rising Stars, a candidate must be either 40 years old or younger or in practice for 10 years or less.

James Ruggieri, Paul Callaghan and Peter Garvey are partners with the firm. Brian Haynes joined Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney as a litigation attorney in 2017.

Congratulations one and all!

2021-10-12T12:41:11-04:00October 12th, 2021|

The Best Lawyers in America© Honors Multiple HCC Attorneys; Another Selected as Best Lawyers®: One to Watch

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP, is pleased to announce that James A. RuggieriPaul S. Callaghan, Stephen P. Cooney, and Gerald C. DeMaria, Sr. were recently recognized in the 2022 edition of The Best Lawyers in America©. The Best Lawyers in America features only the top 6% of private practicing attorneys in the United States for their outstanding professional excellence.

In Rhode Island, James Ruggieri was selected for Product Liability Litigation – Defendants and Employment Law – Management. Paul Callaghan was recognized for Litigation – Insurance. Stephen Cooney was named for defending Mass Tort Class Actions, Product Liability – Defendants, and Litigation – Insurance.

Gerald C. DeMaria, Sr. was recognized for Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants and received an additional accolade by being named “Lawyer of the Year” for that category. Only a single “Lawyer of the Year” designation is afforded a lawyer in any given location and practice area.

Best Lawyers® also honors attorneys for their accomplishments early in their careers. The “Ones to Watch” selected from HCC once again was Brian W. Haynes. Brian Haynes was recognized in the areas of Insurance Law and Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants.

James Ruggieri, Paul Callaghan and Stephen Cooney are partners with the firm. Gerald DeMaria is Of Counsel. Brian Haynes joined Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney as a litigation attorney from another regional litigation firm in 2017.

The Best Lawyers in America is considered one of the leading peer-reviewed resources for choosing the best legal talent. The selection process begins when lawyers are nominated for consideration.

Those individuals who receive high peer reviews undergo an additional validation process. Only then can these attorneys be recognized by Best Lawyers. Recognition in Best Lawyers is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor, conferred upon lawyers by their peers.

2022-07-07T06:55:22-04:00August 23rd, 2021|

The General Assembly Enacts Tougher Changes to Defending Tort Claims

There have been some recent, dramatic changes in Rhode Island’s General Laws, benefitting plaintiffs, which relate to the defenses, claims allowed, and allocation of contribution among joint tortfeasors for many tort claims. The revised statutes are outlined below.

Feel free to contact any of the partners at Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney for more information about these developments or any pending matter.

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney has been a leading litigation law firm in this region for more than 70 years.

  • Sections 10-6-3, 10-6-4 and 10-6-7 of the General Laws in Chapter 10-6 1 entitled, “Contribution Among Joint Tortfeasors,” were amended.

This act now limits the credit received by a joint tortfeasor to the amount paid by the released tortfeasor without regard to finding of fault. Previously, this section of the law provided that a joint tortfeasor would receive the greater benefit of the sum paid by a released tortfeasor or the percentage of fault attributed to the released tortfeasor. This act applies to all claims pending at the time of passage or asserted thereafter; but it does not apply to, affect, or impair releases executed before the passage date. The change creates extra considerations in the resolution of a claim in multi-defendant cases given that Rhode Island is a pure joint and several liability jurisdiction and co-defendant fault is no longer a consideration for apportionment. This act was signed by the Governor on July 14, 2021.

  • Section 9-1-32 of the General Laws, “Effect of Alteration of Product after Sale,” was amended.

This amendment eliminates the defense of immunity for a manufacturer or seller due to a subsequent alteration or modification of a product in a products liability case. Rather, a defense that a substantial cause of the injury, death, or damage was a subsequent alteration or modification of the product would be determined by comparative negligence.

Any defense claimed by the manufacturer or seller that the person injured made a subsequent alteration or modification to the product that is found to be a significant contributing factor to the injury, death, or property damage shall be controlled by the comparative negligence provisions of § 9-20-4.

The statutory amendment applies to causes of action and claims arising after the effective date of passage. The change to the scheme is significant for product liability claims and repeals existing and longstanding common law, in addition to the statutory change. At a minimum, the question of a successful dispositive motion alleging this immunity is called into doubt. This act was signed by the Governor on July 13, 2021.

  • Section 10-7-1.2 of the General Laws in Chapter 10-7, “Death By Wrongful Act,” was also amended.

This act now allows for recovery of damages for the emotional distress, grief, and loss of enjoyment of life as a result of the wrongful death of a spouse, a parent or a son or daughter. The amendment applies only to claims resulting from injuries occurring after the effective date. Loss of consortium and loss of society were previously components of the wrongful death statutes but there was no specific reference for the recovery of the above. Now, there is clear statutory authority for such a damage assessment and award. This act was signed by the Governor on July 12, 2021.

2021-08-04T10:41:44-04:00August 3rd, 2021|

New R.I. Superior Court Mediation Program Offered


Counsel may now request that cases currently assigned to the trial calendar in Providence County be mediated by one of the justices who is currently assigned to the trial calendar.

Members of the bar who are interested in pursuing this option, should complete the COVID-19 Mediation Submission Form found on the Superior Court website.

The R.I. Superior Court has never ceased operations during the pandemic and in fact has undertaken significant measures to allow jury trials to continue on a limited basis in Providence County while the COVID-19 restrictions remain in place.

As a result of the pandemic, the court was forced to adapt quickly to a new set of social standards to protect and preserve the health, safety and welfare of court users and court employees. Specifically, this required implementing measures to restrict crowds, while at the same time safely providing necessary in-person access to justice for the most critical matters.

Given these limitations and the court’s current inability to schedule more than two jury trials at any one time, the court is offering this mediation program to assist counsel and their clients.

Superior Court Presiding Justice Alice Bridget Gibney authored the order implementing this new mediation program.

2021-05-14T08:43:56-04:00May 13th, 2021|

The R.I. Superior Court Announces New Initiative to Address Recent Backlog


The R.I. Superior Court has begun identifying cases for settlement or mediation that are assigned to the Trial Calendar to aggressively address the backlog of civil cases caused by the pandemic.

Presiding Justice Alice B. Gibney and Judge Maureen B. Keough, who is currently in charge of the Pre-Trial/Trial Calendar in Providence County, are spearheading this effort. Judge Linda Rekas Sloan will assist Judge Keough throughout this process. More information will follow.

The Defense Counsel of Rhode Island, of which HCC is a longstanding member, was active in its comment and support of this fledgling program. The firm continues to utilize all methods of ADR to successfully and efficiently resolve our clients’ litigation matters and looks forward to taking advantage of this new opportunity.

2021-04-20T10:25:26-04:00April 20th, 2021|

James A. Ruggieri Interviewed by Lawyers Weekly on a Return to Normalcy as Vaccinations Accelerate

Recently, Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney managing partner James A. Ruggieri was quoted extensively in an article in Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly that examined how law firms across the state are coping with the aftereffects of the pandemic following a year of working mainly on a remote basis.

Attorneys at Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney have mostly returned to work at the firm’s Providence headquarters even though the office remains closed to visitors. Employees must strictly adhere to distancing and masking protocols, and temperatures of everyone entering the office are also taken.

James Ruggieri also told Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly: “We will always be vigilant in looking at CDC and state guidelines, and we are still a bit more conservative than we could be. I feel extremely comfortable that we have done extremely well. We have not let our guard down at all.”

“For medium-sized law firms like Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, we are not outliers in having reopened office operations in a responsible and flexible fashion. Such an approach is especially true with firms like ours that have extensive, time-sensitive litigation practices. Nonetheless, many larger firms in other states have been far more reticent in having their employees return to their corporate hallways.” he noted.

James Ruggieri believes that remote operations will always remain to some degree and outlive the pandemic. “Routine” depositions will likely be continued through Zoom or Webex, with platforms such as AgileLaw offering necessary technical support to allow users to view voluminous documents, he said.

But for “critical” depositions, such as those involving a key expert or a key witness, he believes that these proceedings will continue to be conducted live and in person.

2021-03-31T07:01:19-04:00March 31st, 2021|

The R.I. Superior Court Issues New Operating Guidelines, No Trials Before June 1, 2021

The R.I. Superior Court has issued new protocols to ensure the continuation of court business while also safeguarding court users and court personnel. These new directives will take effect on Monday, March 15, 2021.

For the most part, the court will continue to operate remotely. A summary of several significant provisions of the recent court order follows.

Trial Calendar. The court will continue all trials until sometime after June 1, 2021.

  • Bench Trials. Parties may contact the Presiding Justice if they would like to discuss a possible bench trial.
  • Pre-trial Motions. For cases that are ready for trial, counsel may contact the court to discuss assigning matters to a trial judge as well as to address any pre-trial motions that may help streamline the case or potentially lead to an agreed upon resolution.

Control Calendar. Counsel are encouraged to discuss potential resolutions in their pending cases. If after discussions, the parties determine that they require a conference with the court, they may request an in-person meeting or a WebEx /telephone conference to discuss a potential resolution of the case or other issues that require timely assistance.

Arbitration Calendar. Matters scheduled on the arbitration calendar shall be decided on the papers. If the parties wish to discuss a particular issue, they may schedule a WebEx conference.

Again, this is a summary of recent developments in civil cases before the R.I. Superior Court. There may be some minor differences for criminal cases. In any event, the complete text of the court order, issued by Justice Maureen B. Keough and titled “Courtroom 4 Protocol – Winter/Spring 2021,” is available here.

2021-03-23T15:43:16-04:00March 9th, 2021|