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HCC Administrator Honored by Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly

Gerald M. Miele, HCC administrator and financial officer, was recently honored by Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly with the publication’s inaugural Excellence in the Law Award.

The program was conducted at the Downtown Providence Marriott on April 9th before a crowded audience of the state’s bench and bar. Governor Gina Raimondo served as the keynote speaker and heralded the achievements of all of the award recipients.

Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly honored a diverse group of individuals representing a wide range of accomplishments within the legal community. Categories included up and coming lawyers, in-house counsel, leading practitioners, pro bono honorees as well as administrative personnel.

Gerald Miele was recognized for a career that has spanned more than two decades of service to the legal profession as well as his most recent contributions as the administrator and financial officer at HCC which he joined in 2017. Susan A. Bocamazo, the publisher of Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly noted several specific accomplishments.

On any given day, she said, Gerald Miele manages the firm’s finances, interacts with building contractors, negotiates with vendors, and oversees human resources and personnel matters. He is also responsible for upgrading the firm’s cybersecurity procedures and software systems and has developed new data recovery systems.

In addition, he has taken a leadership role in improving the firm’s social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Ms. Bocamazo added.

Finally, he was also recognized for his civic engagement as chair of the Rules Committee for US Figure Skating and as a board member and coach for Smithfield Youth Soccer.

HCC was a proud sponsor of this event.

(Gerald Miele, at top left, is seen accepting the Rhode Island Excellence in the Law Award from Barry Bridges of Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly. He is also seen seated next to several of his HCC colleagues. At his right are J. David Freel and Paul S. Callaghan. Stephen B. Lang is seated at the far left.)

2019-04-26T06:44:40-04:00April 15th, 2019|

HCC Conducts Successful Blood Drive

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP proudly sponsored a successful blood drive at the law firm’s Providence offices on March 5th in memory of the late Gianna Cirella of Warwick who faced a challenge too great to fight.

The blood drive was held in conjunction with the Rhode Island Blood Center. The firm’s lawyers, staff and even community members participated. Conference rooms throughout the law firm were transformed into temporary medical facilities.

Thirty-one donors rolled up their sleeves that day in honor of Gianna’s memory. Eleven persons donated for the very first time. Thanks to one and all for participating.

On November 1, 2017, Gianna passed away peacefully surrounded by her family. “Not every story has a happy ending,” said her mother, Tara Cirella, adding “but everyone deserves the fighting chance that blood donors give them.”

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

Within days of developing a sore throat, Gianna developed pneumonia and sepsis, a life-threatening infection in her blood. During the 16-day fight for her life, she needed 174 blood, platelet and plasma transfusions, which came from Rhode Island Blood Center donors.

“Gianna would not have survived one day without blood. I hope she brings awareness and action. I hope she makes people not afraid to donate. I hope she shows how very important it is to give blood,” Tara Cirella said.

For more information about the Gina Cirella Memorial Fund, visit www.gistrong.org.

(HCC attorney Brian W. Haynes, pictured above, participates in the firm’s blood drive.)

2019-08-27T13:18:04-04:00March 7th, 2019|

Susan Pepin Fay, HCC Colleague for More Than 20 Years, Becomes a Judge

Governor Gina Raimondo recently announced the appointment of Susan Pepin Fay to serve as a judge on the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Court. The Rhode Island State Senate subsequently confirmed her nomination, and Judge Fay assumed her position on the court on February 11.

In announcing Susan Pepin Fay’s appointment, along with several others at a State House ceremony, the Governor emphasized the importance of a diverse judiciary.

“Obviously, I am pleased and privileged by this appointment,” Judge Fay said at the time, adding, “I will do all that I can possibly do to best serve the interests of the people of Rhode Island as a member of the judiciary.”

Judge Fay has had a long and distinguished career at HCC, joining the law firm in 1997. She has represented employers and insurers before the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Court, the Massachusetts Board of Industrial Accidents, and the U.S. Department of Labor. She has also successfully argued precedent-setting cases before the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Judge Fay earned her law degree, cum laude, from Suffolk University Law School and received her B.A. from Boston College. She served on the board of editors of Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly and is a former member of the Rhode Island Supreme Court Task Force on Alternative Dispute Resolution.

She has also been honored for her service on the board of directors of Young Voices and has been actively involved with the Meeting Street School and the Autism Project of Rhode Island.

“This is a bittersweet occasion as we say goodbye to Susan Pepin Fay. She has been an outstanding colleague and friend to all of us here at Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney for two decades. Without question, she is an excellent choice to serve the people of Rhode Island,” said HCC managing partner James A. Ruggieri.

“We are indeed proud that one of our former partners has assumed the Workers’ Compensation Court bench. She brings invaluable experience to the court as an exceptional litigator. We wish her well,” said James T. Hornstein, managing partner of the HCC Workers’ Compensation Department.

2019-02-14T07:39:22-05:00February 11th, 2019|

HCC Names Three New Partners

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney is pleased to announce that Courtney L. Manchester, J. David Freel and Kristina I. Hultman have become partners of the firm.

Courtney L. Manchester defends insurance companies, leading employers throughout the state, and international corporations on workers’ compensation cases. She appears regularly on behalf of clients in matters involving domestic relations before the R.I. Family Court. Additionally, she has expertise interpreting long-term disability contracts. She received her B.A with honors in English from Wesleyan University and her J.D. from Boston University School of Law. She is admitted to practice in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. She joined the firm in 2012 after five years of active practice.

J. David Freel represents corporate clients in all phases of litigation within the areas of insurance defense, insurance coverage, premises liability, product liability, and employment law. He earned his B.A., with highest distinction, from the Pennsylvania State University and graduated magna cum laude from Roger Williams University School of Law, where he served as the executive articles editor of the law review. He is admitted to practice in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Jersey. He joined HCC in 2011.

Kristina I. Hultman focuses her practice on product liability, premises liability, insurance defense, and professional liability. She has had extensive trial experience on behalf of major corporations. She also holds leadership positions in the Defense Counsel of Rhode Island and the Defense Research Institute. She graduated from the College of the Holy Cross and received her J.D., magna cum laude, from Roger Williams University School of Law, where she was an editor of the law review. She is admitted to practice in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. She joined the firm in 2010.

2019-01-22T13:44:35-05:00January 2nd, 2019|

Attorney Adrianna Hughes Joins HCC

ADRIANNA HUGHES has joined HCC as an Associate in the Litigation Department. She is admitted to practice before the state courts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts as well as the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. She previously was employed as an attorney with a regional, Boston-based law firm where she gained valuable litigation experience.

Adrianna is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Scranton and a graduate of Boston College Law School. She began her legal education at Suffolk University Law School during which time she received the Best Oral Advocate Award – Legal Practice Skills, Best Brief Award – Legal Practice Skills, and Jurisprudence Award – Property II.

During law school, Adrianna served as a law clerk to the Honorable Richard T. Tucker of the Massachusetts Superior Court. Before law school, she was employed as a paralegal at law firms in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

She is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, Rhode Island Bar Association and Massachusetts Defense Lawyers Association.

2018-11-08T10:08:29-05:00November 8th, 2018|

HCC Again Named a “Best Law Firm” by U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers recently released their “Best Law Firms” selections for the State of Rhode Island.

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP (HCC) was named once again as one of the “Best Law Firms,” while achieving special recognition in the areas of personal injury litigation defense and product liability litigation defense.

This marks the sixth consecutive year that HCC has been named among the “Best Law Firms.” During this entire time, the firm also has received “Tier 1” recognition for personal injury litigation defense and product liability litigation defense in Rhode Island from U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers.

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.

Firms selected in the 2019 “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for professional excellence as a result of persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.

“We are pleased and proud to be recognized once again by our clients and colleagues in such a fashion. Achieving a first-tiered ranking reflects a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise. This recognition, afforded by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers, underscores the depth of our experience and the extent of our litigation talent which extends throughout Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney,” said Managing Partner James A. Ruggieri

2019-08-27T14:51:56-04:00November 1st, 2018|

Three HCC Attorneys Selected by Super Lawyers, New England


HCC partner Peter E. Garvey 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 national 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 major retailers and 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 fourth consecutive year that both David and Kristina have received this exclusive recognition.

David represents primarily national and regional corporate clients before and throughout all phases of litigation generally within the areas of insurance defense, insurance coverage, premises liability, product liability, and employment law.  He has successfully defended insurance companies against claims of breach of contract and bad faith, and has authored numerous opinions on insurance coverage issues. He has also handled complex construction law cases and has participated in their settlement negotiations and arbitrations. He was also a member of the legal team that defended a high-stakes wrongful death case in federal court in Massachusetts involving aviation law.

He is admitted to practice in the state courts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, as well as the U.S. District Courts for Rhode Island and Massachusetts and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. He 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.

During the past year, Kristina secured a significant jury verdict in favor of the defendant, a major national transportation company. Her impressive courtroom victory followed a six-day jury trial in which Kristina received 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 in which hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages were sought.

Her practice focuses on product liability, premises liability, insurance defense and professional liability. In preparing for trial, Kristina has garnered extensive experience in arguing numerous dispositive and discovery motions and is well-versed in all aspects of pre-trial discovery.

Kristina also holds leadership positions in the Defense Counsel of Rhode Island and Defense Research Institute (DRI). She graduated from the College of the Holy Cross and received her J.D., magna cum laude, from Roger Williams University School of Law, where she was Associate Editor of the Roger Williams University Law Review. She is admitted to practice in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

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.

2018-10-18T15:43:46-04:00October 18th, 2018|

Melissa M. Horne Prevails in Superior Court Against the Woonsocket Tax Board of Assessment Review

HCC attorney Melissa M. Horne recently won a precedent-setting homestead exemption case against the City of Woonsocket. In the process, the court awarded her clients their attorney’s fees as a result of the city’s violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act.

Attorney Horne’s clients own a parcel of property that contains a primary residence as well as a barn that had been converted to a one-bedroom residence occupied by the client’s grandparents. They sought a special use permit from the city’s zoning board to use the secondary structure as an accessory family dwelling unit.

The tax accessor had initially applied a thirty percent, single family homestead exemption to the total value of the plaintiffs’ property. Thereafter, a new city tax accessor applied a lower two-family exemption to the property. That decision subsequently was appealed to the Woonsocket Tax Board of Assessment Review, which affirmed the Assessor’s decision.

On appeal to the Superior Court, Attorney Horne argued that the property should be classified as a single family residence and, therefore, is entitled to the higher single family exemption. The city countered that the additional dwelling made the property a two-family property and deserved a higher property tax.

The judge agreed with Ms. Horne’s argument, noting that the terms “single family” and “two-family” are not specifically defined within state law authorizing the homestead exemption or the city ordinance discussing the homestead exemption.
The judge found that the physical characteristics of both the primary and accessory residences fit the plain meaning of a single family dwelling. “The fact that there are multiple single-family dwellings on the same plot of land is of no significance to the issue posed by this litigation,” the judge said. He declared that the single family homestead exemption should apply to the assessed value of the primary residence and the land on which the two buildings sit, but decided the accessory dwelling unit was not entitled to any homestead exemption because it is not owner occupied.

Concurrently, Attorney Horne argued that the Board of Assessment Review violated the state’s Open Meetings Act by not deliberating on the appeal in public and failing to maintain minutes and record the votes of the Board’s members. The Court agreed and awarded Attorney Horne’s clients their attorney’s fees incurred in successfully proving a violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act.

Melissa M. Horne is Of Counsel to Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP. The litigation was heard before Superior Court Judge Bennett R. Gallo. The 13-page decision is Roberts v. Pare, et al., C.A. No. PC-2017-2410.

This case has garnered significant attention and was a cover story in Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly. Attorney Horne told that publication: “My takeaway is that improved statutory and ordinance language would perhaps have alleviated the need for this case. The case offered a good example of what can happen when statutes and ordinances do not get updated to reflect changes in housing uses,” she said. In the absence of such statutory updates, this case is precedent-setting relative to the homestead exemption applicable to accessory family dwelling units.

If you have any matter involving land use law or the Open Meetings Act that you would like to discuss with Attorney Horne, she can be contacted at mhorne@hcc-law.com or 401-272-3500.

2018-09-29T13:25:17-04:00September 29th, 2018|

Roger Williams University School of Law Students Tour HCC Offices

First-year students at Roger Williams University School of Law recently toured the offices of Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney and heard from the firm’s associates who also graduated from the same institution. The visit was intended to provide an early introduction to law and practice as the students were about to embark on their legal studies.

The students received a great deal of helpful advice from Kristina I. Hultman, J. David Freel, Larissa B. DeLisi, Kurt A. Rocha, and Kelsey Peck, a Roger Williams University School of Law student and HCC law clerk. HCC partner James A. Ruggieri, who serves on the Board of Directors for Roger Williams University School of Law, directed the lively discussion.

Students were advised as to the excellent foundation that their education would provide for a career in the law. The importance of taking full advantage of writing and research opportunities either though law Review or moot court competitions was emphasized. The value of judicial internships and law firm clerkships was stressed. Registering for courses that would ultimately be covered on the bar exam was also mentioned as was attending classes taught by the law school’s suburb adjunct faculty, which is comprised of well-respected practitioners and judges.

A tour of the firm’s offices followed. The law students were accompanied by Professor Colleen Brown, who teaches legal practice at Roger Williams University School of Law.

2018-08-23T14:04:35-04:00August 17th, 2018|

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.

2018-08-14T15:07:17-04:00August 8th, 2018|