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R.I. Superior Court Offers Latest Protocols for Scheduling Hearings and Conferences

The R.I. Superior Court has issued additional protocols to enable counsel to request a remote hearing or conference during the COVID-19 crisis.

Pending Motions There are motions that were previously scheduled for hearings on or after March 16, 2020, or that have been filed since March 16, 2020, and have not been assigned hearing dates. If such a motion remains unresolved, any party may request that it be decided on the pleadings or that a hearing on such a motion be held.

Hearings An attorney wishing to schedule a hearing will submit by electronic mail a specialized form to the judge’s clerk. If a hearing is requested, the court will determine whether the hearing will be held remotely during this crisis period or whether it will be given a future hearing date. If the hearing is to take place during the crisis period, the clerk will coordinate the date and time for the hearing among all concerned.

Seven Associate Justices in the Superior Court will be authorized to conduct remote hearings, simultaneously, on any given day. All hearings will be held remotely by WebEx video conferencing, will be recorded by a court reporter, and the audio of the hearing will be made available to the public through YouTube streaming.

Conferences and Requests to Decide Motions on the Papers Attorneys who wish to schedule a conference or have a motion decided on the papers may do so by emailing the judge’s clerk using the same specialized form referenced above. There will be no stenographic record of these conferences.

Decisions on the Pleadings The clerk will enter the court’s disposition of the motion in the docket. Counsel shall submit an order reflecting the disposition of the motion for signature by the judicial officer and the clerk.

Additional requirements apply. A copy of this latest court order is available here. If you have questions about this latest court order or any legal matter, please do not hesitate to contact any of the partners at the firm.

2020-05-04T12:53:40-04:00May 4th, 2020|

Superior Court Establishes New COVID-19 Related Procedures for Business Calendars

As a result of the continuing coronavirus crisis, the R.I. Superior Court issued new protocols on April 21, 2020, for handling motions and hearings at the Business Calendars in Providence County and all outlying counties.

The Business Calendars will now consider all receivership proceedings, pretrial motions, dispositive motions, as well as pretrial and status conferences. These matters will be conducted remotely.

  • For pending motions, which were previously scheduled for hearing on or after March 16, 2020, or which have been filed since March 16, 2020, and not assigned a hearing date, the following conditions apply. If such a motion remains unresolved, any party may request that it be decided on the pleadings or that a hearing be held. If neither party requests a hearing, then the motion will be decided on the pleadings unless the court seeks oral argument.
  • Prior to filing any new motion, a party shall submit to the clerk, by electronic mail, a specific form. If the moving party does not request a hearing, the opposing party may do so by electronic mail. If neither party requests a hearing, then the motion will be decided on the pleadings unless the court seeks an oral argument.
  • All hearings will be held remotely by WebEx® Video conferencing, will be recorded by a court stenographer, and the public will have audio access through YouTube streaming. Once a hearing date is set, attorneys will receive an email invitation to the remote hearing. While WebEx® permits audio-only participation, video participation will be required for any attorney addressing the court. This video call is offered at no cost to the participants. Justice Brian Stern has prepared a 15-minute video on how to use the WebEx® system.
  • As for requesting a conference with one of the justices, a lawyer must first email a specialized form to the justice’s clerk and copy all other counsel. The attorneys will receive a WebEx® conference invitation by electronic mail. In these instances, there is no need for a stenographic record of conferences.

Additional requirements apply. To view the complete court order establishing these protocols and the requisite form for initiating contact with the court, click here.

If you have questions about this court order or any legal matter, please do not hesitate to contact any of the partners at the firm.

2020-04-27T09:35:11-04:00April 24th, 2020|

Insurance Industry Best Practices During the Pandemic

For almost 70 years, the litigation firm of Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney has provided clients in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut with dedicated representation in all phases of insurance defense and coverage litigation.

Over the years, our team of lawyers has handled numerous cases involving various insurance coverage issues, including cases involving extracontractual liability, claim-handling practices, insurance fraud, breach of contract, intentional torts, and bad faith.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, our attorneys are already addressing critical questions that insurance industry officials will inevitably face and the legal claims that are certain to arise from distressed policyholders.

  • What types of business interruption insurance will most likely apply in the COVID-19 crisis?
  • What other insurance recovery claims will probably arise?
  • What defenses might be available to these and related COVID-19 claims?
  • What exclusions might prevent coverage in standard insurance policies?
  • What proven strategies should be considered in COVID-19 related coverage cases?
  • What impact will civil authority orders have on COVID-19 losses?
  • Will the failure to obtain federal assistance be a factor in mitigating damages?

During the months ahead insurance carriers, as well as their in-house counsel, risk managers, and TPAs, will be severely tested while placing unparalleled reliance upon outside counsel to achieve exceptional results, competitive rates, efficient billing practices, and effective case management.

The attorneys and staff at Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney stand ready to assist our insurance industry clients in any way possible.

If you have questions about any recent developments pertaining to the pandemic or any pending legal matter, please do not hesitate to contact any of the partners at the firm. We are always available.

In the meantime, everyone here hopes that you, your colleagues, and your families remain safe during these trying times.

2020-04-23T08:13:35-04:00April 20th, 2020|

Supreme and Superior Courts Issue New Orders of Operation Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Crisis

Effective as of April 13, 2020, Chief Justice Paul A. Suttell of the R.I. Supreme Court ordered the reopening of the Noel Judicial Complex (serving Kent County) and the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal for emergency and essential matters.

However, the Murray and McGrath Judicial Complexes remain closed until further notice. In keeping with a previous order, all emergency or essential matters, which would have been heard in either of these judicial buildings, shall be heard in the Noel Judicial Complex.

The Chief Justice’s order also contains the following key points.

  • Everyone entering a judicial building shall be subject to verbal screening for COVID-19 exposure or symptomology.
  • Only judicial officers, essential personnel, litigants, witnesses, and other necessary parties who pass this verbal screening shall be allowed to enter the judicial buildings.
  • All proceedings shall adhere to mandated social distancing and crowd restrictions
  • All judicial buildings are closed to the public, except as provided for above.
  • All filing deadlines, which would have expired between March 17, 2020, and May 17, 2020, shall be extended to May 29, 2020.
  • Statutes of limitations shall continue to run, given the availability of the electronic filing system.
  • Except for emergency matters, no in-person hearing shall take place in any judicial building unless otherwise assigned by the Presiding Justice, Chief Judge or Chief Magistrate.
  • Courts are encouraged to utilize videoconferencing tools whenever possible.
  • In such cases, oaths or affirmations shall be administered remotely.
  • All jury trials shall be continued until after May 17, 2020.

A copy of this Court Order by the Chief Justice is available here.

Additionally, Presiding Justice Alice B. Gibney of the R.I. Superior Court has issued a separate order governing nonemergency and nonessential matters. These matters may be conducted remotely during the period April 20, 2020, through May 15, 2020 and include:

  • Receivership Proceedings.
  • COVID-19 Receivership Program Matters.
  • Dispositive Motions.
  • Post-Conviction Relief.
  • Administrative and Magistrate Appeals.
  • Pre-Trial Motions/ Pre-Trial Conferences/Control Conferences/Status Conferences.
  • Other matters explicitly approved in advance by the Presiding Justice

A copy of her Court Order, which also includes the most up-to-date assignments of Duty Justices and Magistrates for emergency and essential matters, is available here.

2020-04-21T17:15:39-04:00April 15th, 2020|

R.I. Workers’ Compensation Court Announces New COVID-19 Guidelines

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in accordance with the Governor’s continued directives and the orders of the R.I. Supreme Court, the R.I. Workers’ Compensation Court has taken the following actions through May 17, 2020.

  • Effective April 20, 2020, the court will hear its pretrial calendar either telephonically or by video conference. If the parties cannot agree to have their matter heard remotely, they shall advise the court and the matter shall be continued to a date in June (provided that the court is operational). The court will also hear contested cases if agreed to by the parties.
  • The court will continue to hear remotely other matters previously scheduled including but not limited to initial hearings, motions, and status conferences.
  • The court will allow the filing of stipulations, consent decrees, and final decrees disposing of cases.
  • The court will continue to hear commutations and denials and dismissals remotely, either telephonically or by video conference. In lieu of the employee’s in-person testimony, parties shall file an employee affidavit or interrogatories.
  • Settlements will be heard on the record with a stenographer present. Employees or employers may also take part in the telephonic or video hearing.
  • The chief judge will be available to hear urgent matters.
  • All trials shall be continued to a date after May 17, 2020.
  • All appellate arguments shall be continued to a date after May 17, 2020.
  • By agreement of the parties, the court will hear mediations remotely.
  • All court Impartial Medical Exams (IMEs) are suspended through May 7, 2020.
  • Public access to all court proceedings shall be available by telephone or other means.

A copy of the court order is available here.

2020-08-25T14:05:10-04:00April 14th, 2020|

The Noel Courthouse and Traffic Tribunal Closed: Emergency Matters Shift To Providence

A law enforcement officer who had entered the Noel Judicial Complex on April 2 and an employee assigned to the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal were recently tested positive for COVID-19.

As a result, Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul A. Suttell issued an executive order on April 5, closing the Noel Judicial Complex in Warwick (serving Kent County) and the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal in Cranston. The closures took effect April 6 and will continue until further notice. A copy of that executive order is available here.

As of April 6, any emergency or essential matters for the Superior Court, which would have been heard in Kent, Newport or Washington Counties, shall be heard at the Licht Judicial Complex in Providence.

Any emergency or essential matters arising in the Rhode Island Family Court, Rhode Island District Court, and Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal, which would have been heard in either the Noel Judicial Complex in Warwick or the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal in Cranston, shall now be heard in the Garrahy Judicial Complex in Providence.

Chief Justice Suttell had earlier issued an executive order closing both the McGrath Judicial Complex in South Kingstown (serving Washington County) and the Murray Judicial Complex in Newport (serving Newport County) effective April 1 and until further notice. A copy of that article is available here.

2020-04-07T15:07:09-04:00April 7th, 2020|

COVID-19 Update: Courthouses in Washington and Newport Counties Closed Until Further Notice

In light of the ongoing public health crisis arising from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul A. Suttell has signed an executive order closing the McGrath Judicial Complex in South Kingstown (serving Washington County) and the Murray Judicial Complex in Newport (serving Newport County) effective April 1 and until further notice.

The number of hearings being heard within the state’s courts has been significantly reduced, as has the amount of foot traffic to each of the judicial buildings; this is especially true in the Newport and Washington County courthouses. Hence the closures of these two court complexes.

As of April 1, 2020, any emergency or essential matters which would have been heard in either of the judicial buildings in South Kingstown or Newport shall be heard in the Noel Judicial Complex in Warwick (serving Kent County).

Chief Justice Suttell also signed and issued a separate executive order limiting the number of on-site staff and other essential personnel from congregating in groups of more than five people, which is consistent with Governor Gina Raimondo’s directive on social distancing.

To the extent that more than five individuals are required to be present in a courtroom for the adjudication of emergency and essential matters, the Chief Justice has directed that such hearings be conducted in a manner that will ensure appropriate distancing among all necessary participants.

If you have questions about any of these court orders or any pending legal matter, please do not hesitate to contact any of the partners at the firm.

2020-04-06T09:36:40-04:00April 1st, 2020|

Rhode Island Superior Court Launches COVID-19 Business Recovery Plan

Rhode Island Superior Court Presiding Justice Alice B. Gibney has initiated a business protection program in response to disruptions caused by the coronavirus public health crisis. A copy of that administrative order is available here.

Under the COVID-19 Business Recovery Plan, the court will supervise and provide protections for Rhode Island businesses that are intended to allow businesses to remain operational, access new working capital, and pay debts.

The court will use a non-liquidating receivership model, which will help keep the business and its assets intact. The court will appoint receivers to oversee the preparation of an operating plan for businesses in the program.

Once new working capital, such as disaster relief or small business assistance, is obtained, the business will be able to continue operations, address its debts, and begin to generate revenues again.

The Superior Court has also addressed a series of frequently asked questions that businesses can expect to face in seeking protection under the new COVID-19 Business Recovery Plan. That information is available here.

Businesses filing for relief must be represented by legal counsel. If you have any questions regarding the COVID-19 Business Recovery Plan, please contact Attorney Melissa M. Horne at mhorne@hcc-law.com or 401-490-3941.

2020-04-01T18:13:53-04:00April 1st, 2020|

Latest Court Orders Affecting State and Federal Cases in Rhode Island

One of the newest guidelines in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic issued by R.I. Governor Gina Raimondo is Executive Order 20-09 requiring all business service personnel that can work from home to do so.

This Executive Order applies to accountants, lawyers, human resources, and procurement professionals among others. Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney has adhered to this directive in advance of its enactment with no interruption of legal services.

At the same time, the state and federal courts in Rhode Island have issued their own scheduling orders in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The R.I. Supreme Court has issued multiple Executive Orders:

For Executive Order 2020-05 related to the specific operations of the Supreme Court, click here.

For Executive Order 2020-04 related to all state court operations, click here.

For Executive Order 2020-03 related to duty magistrates and judges of the Superior Court assigned to emergency/essential matters, click here.

For Executive Order 2020-02 related to Workers’ Compensation Court operations, click here.

For Executive Order 2020-01 related to the suspension of Family Court calendars, click here.

The U.S. District Court has also issued a General Order regarding court operations in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, click here.

In addition, the U.S. District Court has issued a subsequent General Order addressing all criminal matters in that court, click here.

Finally, the U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the District of Rhode Island has issued a General Order related to the Bankruptcy Court operations, click here.

If you have questions about any of these scheduling orders or any pending legal matter, please do not hesitate to contact any of the partners at the firm.

2020-03-24T12:36:07-04:00March 24th, 2020|

The Coronavirus (COVID-19): An Update To Our Clients

Dear Friends and Clients,

In response to federal and state government guidelines and public concerns over the expansion of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney is implementing a series of preventative measures.

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney offices have transferred almost all business operations remotely for the time being. Given the technology in place, there will be no interruption of legal services during this time and all data will be secured.

Our lawyers and staff will work remotely with easy access to emails and voicemails; meetings will take place using Skype, similar online platforms or conference calling, and all work travel has been suspended. We hope these steps will protect our staff, clients and others, and contribute to the well-being of the communities we serve.

As for court emergencies, we are monitoring the directives of court officials and will inform our clients on a case by case basis on how best to proceed with any essential legal matter.

We thank you for your cooperation during this difficult time and hope that you, your colleagues and your families stay safe.

If you have questions about any of these developments or any pending legal matter, please do not hesitate to contact any of the partners at the firm.

Sincerely,

James A. Ruggieri
Managing Partner
Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP

2020-03-17T17:31:33-04:00March 17th, 2020|