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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|

HCC Ranked the 9th Largest Law Firm in R.I.

The Providence Business News has just released the 2021 Book of Lists.

This annual publication is the single most comprehensive business resource in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts and is distributed widely throughout the region.

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney is ranked as the 9th largest law firm in the state.

In addition, Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney issued this special announcement in the Book of Lists for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was to acknowledge and appreciate the dedicated efforts of the firm’s attorneys and staff during such a challenging year.

2021-09-16T12:27:10-04:00February 18th, 2021|

HCC Marks 70th Anniversary

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, headquartered in Providence, R.I., marks its 70th anniversary this year in serving the legal needs of individual and corporate clients.

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney was established in 1951 as a general practice law firm by three former presidents of the Rhode Island Bar Association during President Harry S. Truman’s administration.

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney remains one of the largest and most respected litigation firms in the region. In just the past decade, the firm has opened offices in Boston and Hartford.

The firm’s clients reflect a broad spectrum of American business interests, and they are also among the most sophisticated purchasers of legal services in the world. The firm’s success can be attributed to its longstanding professional excellence in advocating for employers, insurance carriers, self-insured corporations, third-party administrators, claims servicing agencies, and individuals.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney developed expertise in the insurance, trucking, construction, manufacturing, and retail industries, which remain core competencies today. Throughout its 70-year history, Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney has established new precedents that have not only benefited specific clients but also entire industries.

Like the firm’s founding partners—James Higgins, Joseph Cavanagh, and John Cooney—the lawyers at Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney have assumed leadership positions in organizations devoted to advancing substantive practice areas.

“As we celebrate this 70th anniversary, words cannot express our profound appreciation for the trust, loyalty, and support of our clients, many of whom we have represented for decades, and we look forward to many more years of dedicated service,” said James A. Ruggieri, Managing Partner.

2021-03-23T15:48:23-04:00January 21st, 2021|

Stephen P. Cooney Chairs “Appellate Practice in the R.I. Supreme Court”

HCC partner Stephen P. Cooney recently chaired an important continuing education program sponsored by the Defense Counsel of Rhode Island. Titled “Appellate Practice in the R.I. Supreme Court – Update, Pointers, Refresher,” this timely seminar reviewed key issues during the Court’s 2020 term.

The speakers also focused on the continuing challenges of the pandemic in shaping legal practice and offered insights into the approaches of the two new jurists who recently assumed the Supreme Court bench.

The seminar provided an invaluable exercise for both trial litigants and appellate practitioners alike. In preparing for the program, Stephen reviewed several significant decisions affecting the insurance industry, including the following.

  • Frazier v. Liberty Mutual, 229 A.3d 56 (R.I. 2020): The Court overruled a prior holding regarding R.I.G.L. § 27-7-2 that enabled a direct action to be brought against the insurer.
  • Nelson v. Allstate Insurance Co., 228 A.3d 983 (R.I. 2020): The exclusion provisions in an insurance policy were interpreted for the insurer’s benefit.
  • Banki v. Fine, 224 A.3d 88 (R.I. 2020): This case involved subject-matter jurisdiction plus judicial review of an agency appeal from the Department of Health.
  • Colpitts v. W.B. Mason, 227 A.3d 996 (R.I. 2020): The Court established standards for an employer-ordered drug test.
  • State v. Mulcahey, 219 A.3d 735 (R.I. 2019): In this case of first impression, the requirements for authenticating text messages were set.

A summary of these cases can be found here. For more information about these decisions or any related matter, please do not hesitate to contact Stephen Cooney.

2021-01-20T16:43:10-05:00January 20th, 2021|

Peter E. Garvey: Pandemic Litigation Being Filed Locally and Nationally Against Insurance Carriers

Just this past week, one of the first pandemic-related lawsuits was filed in the State of Rhode Island. This local case is titled, Procaccianti Companies v. Zurich American. Procaccianti Companies is America’s sixth largest privately held hotel owner and developer, and its lawsuit has already garnered national attention in Law 360.

Procaccianti Companies brought suit against Zurich American for failing to cover losses incurred during statewide COVID-19 shutdown mandates. The company argued in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island that the presence of the virus at its hotels triggered coverage under its $300 million policy. Law 360’s description of the hotelier’s claims against Zurich America can be found here.

Many similar lawsuits are also being filed across the country. The Connecticut Law Tribune reports that some 1,300 pandemic litigation matters have been brought against insurance carriers. To date, there have been about 85 state and federal court rulings nationwide, most favoring the insurance companies. However, no appellate court has addressed the issue, according to the publication. Even so, one recent federal court case in Florida is typical.

According to Law 360 a Florida federal judge dismissed with prejudice a lawsuit brought by a proposed class of Florida restaurants over business interruption insurance coverage stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic because the plaintiffs failed to allege any physical damage.

U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro granted the insurance carrier’s motion to dismiss and denied all pending motions, pointing to recent orders in state and federal courts finding that physical loss is needed to recover under policyholders’ all-risk commercial property insurance, Law 360 noted. The Florida case is El Novillo Restaurant et al. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London et al. The complete Law 360 article describing this Florida ruling can be found here.

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney will continue to monitor court filings as well as the legal literature for pandemic litigation brought locally, regionally and nationally as many more cases are likely to arise and the possibility remains that results may vary.

For more information about pandemic-related litigation contact Peter E. Garvey at pgarvey@hcc-law.com or any of the other partners at the firm.

2020-12-11T18:09:48-05:00December 11th, 2020|

Important Workers’ Compensation Decision Rendered by the R.I. Supreme Court

On November 5, 2020, the Rhode Island Supreme Court reexamined the Exclusivity Provision of the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act in Selby v. Baird.

The plaintiff suffered a serious injury while working as a foreman for a tree removal crew. He brought a workers’ compensation claim against Mulch-N-More and was awarded benefits. He then filed a separate negligence claim in Superior Court against Mike’s Professional Tree Service.

The Supreme Court held that the plaintiff was an employee of Mike’s Professional Tree Services, citing its dominion and operational control over the plaintiff. The fact that another company served an administrative function in providing the plaintiff with his paycheck and workers’ compensation benefits did not change that fact. Thus, the Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court’s ruling in granting summary judgment and denied the negligence claim.

This case was on point with prior holdings. Even so, the Court’s latest decision may allow for a more expansive application of the Exclusive Remedy Doctrine in future tort actions.

If you have any questions whatsoever regarding this or any other workers’ compensation matter, please do not hesitate to contact Peter Garvey (pgarvey@hcc-law.com).

A thorough explanation of the Court’s decision can be found in the Client Alert here.

2021-06-24T16:21:34-04:00November 23rd, 2020|

Business Journal Interviews Paul Callaghan on Law Firms’ Response to the Pandemic

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney partner Paul S. Callaghan was recently interviewed by the Providence Business News on the ways in which law firms were responding to the challenges of the pandemic.

The newspaper reported that despite all the difficulties and hardships in recent months, some law firms have weathered the pandemic fairly well. For example, Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney has not had to lay off anyone. In fact, the firm hired two new attorneys within the last eight months. As a large firm with offices in Boston and Hartford, Connecticut, Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney had already invested in state-of-the-art technology to ease the transition to working remotely.

In the interview, Paul also said, “Obviously, we have adhered to all of Governor Gina Raimondo’s mandates with the wearing of masks, the taking of everyone’s temperature, and other safety measures such as deep cleanings throughout the office. In addition, we gradually brought back employees into the office in accordance with the Governor’s mandates.”

As for the measures that will be here to stay after the pandemic, Paul offered the following assessment. “Many of the changes regarding remote depositions, court appearances, and meetings are most probably here to stay, at least in the short term and maybe permanently,” he said. “How well law firms can adapt to these changes and challenges will underscore the agility and resourcefulness of legal teams in meeting the future needs of clients.”

“The pandemic has taught all of us to have an even greater appreciation for the dedication of our lawyers, staff, and clientele and their devotion to their families,” he concluded.

2021-04-13T13:05:43-04:00November 17th, 2020|

HCC Again Named a Tier 1 Law Firm by U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms”

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

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney once again received a Tier 1 law firm ranking for Personal Injury – Defendants and Product Liability – Defendants.

This marks the eighth consecutive year that Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney has achieved this Tier 1 designation in these practice areas from U.S. News & World Report – Best Lawyers®.

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

Firms selected for the 2021 “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for professional excellence because of consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.

“This distinction by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers highlights the depth of our experience and the extent of our legal talent at Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney. We are delighted and honored to be recognized by our clients and colleagues in this manner following such a rigorous evaluation process by this prestigious arbiter of excellence within the legal industry.” said Managing Partner James A. Ruggieri.

The 2021 rankings are based on the highest attorney and law firm participation on record.

2020-11-05T12:53:35-05:00November 5th, 2020|

Super Lawyers® Recognizes Multiple HCC Attorneys

Super Lawyers has named numerous attorneys from Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney as 2020 Super Lawyers and another as a 2020 Super Lawyers’ Rising Star. Super Lawyers is the national rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

2020 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.)

2020 Super Lawyers’ Rising Star

Brian W. Haynes (General Litigation, Personal Injury – General, Insurance Coverage, Alternative Dispute Resolution.)

2021-10-05T16:39:21-04:00October 13th, 2020|