Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney partner James T. Hornstein successfully persuaded the R.I. Supreme Court recently to deny a petition brought by an employee in which lifetime benefits were sought.
The trial court had denied the employee’s petition seeking benefits beyond the six-year maximum for partial incapacity, which she had already collected for a post-traumatic stress disorder that originated at work. As a result, she maintained that her condition presented a “material hindrance” from obtaining future employment.
Alternatively, she argued that her condition rendered her totally incapacitated under the “Odd Lot Doctrine,” which allows for continuing total incapacity benefits even if someone is still medically only partially disabled based upon age, education, work experience, and the employee’s injury.
The employee claimed to be terrified from an incident originating at work years before and rarely ever went out as a result. She was weeping when testifying. Her vocational specialist testified indeed she could not work based on her presentation. However, the court-appointed doctor said a gradual return to work would be beneficial.
The employer’s vocational specialist did not believe the employee’s assertions of her inability to work and found that she could return to work. This view was consistent with the opinions of the court-appointed doctor.
The trial court denied the employee’s petitions, and an appeal was taken. The Appellate Division of the R.I. Workers’ Compensation Court affirmed, finding there was ample evidence demonstrating that the employee was not credible.
Besides the conflicting medical testimony, there was also surveillance that she exercised at a local gym and socialized with other members. Attendance records established the employee attended the gym for almost every day for an entire year and only stopped once the employer used that evidence in court.
The employee sought review from the R.I. Supreme Court on a petition for a writ of certiorari. The petition was denied, and the Appellate Division decree is now final.
The case was not only a significant victory for the employer, but the favorable result saved its insurance carrier hundreds of thousands of dollars in lifetime benefits for the employee.
James T. Hornstein is the Managing Partner of the Workers’ Compensation Department at Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP. For more than 30 years, his practice has focused on the counseling and representation of employers, insurance carriers, self-insured corporations, as well as third-party administrators and claims servicing agencies in all aspects of workers’ compensation defense before the R.I. Workers’ Compensation Court, the Department of Industrial Accidents, and the R.I. Supreme Court.
The Roger Williams University School of Law has recently named several new members to its board of directors. James Ruggieri continues to serve the law school in that capacity as he has continuously for multiple years.
The impressive roster of new and existing board members, representing a broad cross-section of the bench and bar, also includes:
Judge William E. Smith, U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, Chief Justice Paul A. Suttell of the R.I. Supreme Court, Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, Judge Brian Stern of the R.I. Superior Court, Magistrate Judge Patricia Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, Nicole Verdi, Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Gina M. Raimondo, and Kenneth E. Arnold, former Senior Vice President & General Counsel at Lifespan Corporation.
Dean Michael J. Yelnosky, whose term ends on June 30, said he is confident that the School of Law is in good hands. “I am thrilled for the law school that so many talented and committed individuals have agreed to join our Board of Directors,” Yelnosky said. “They are a remarkable group.”
The Roger Williams University School of Law, founded three decades ago, is the only law school in Rhode Island.
The Superior Court continues to safeguard court users and court personnel. Hearings and conferences that are conducted remotely are encouraged and will continue to be supported by court personnel. Public access to court proceedings will continue through YouTube streaming.
Non-emergency matters that cannot be handled remotely shall be conducted in-person on a limited basis. Calendars will continue to be staggered to ensure compliance with the courthouse and courtroom capacity limits and the social distancing. Judicial Officers shall ensure that courtroom capacity levels are adhered to and that social distancing and face mask protocols are respected.
The following calendars will continue to operate through September 7, 2020, in Providence County: Daily Criminal Calendar, Miscellaneous Criminal Calendar, Trial/Pre-Trial Calendar, PreArraignment Conference (PAC) Calendar, Civil Calendar. In Kent County, the following calendars will operate through September 7, 2020: Daily Criminal Calendar, Civil Calendar, and Newport/Washington County Criminal/Civil Calendar.
Criminal and Civil Jury Trials
All criminal and civil jury trials scheduled to begin between March 16, 2020, and July 31, 2020, shall be continued to a date not earlier than September 8, 2020 and will only take place provided social distancing and precautionary measures are implemented.
Bench Trials – Criminal and Civil
All criminal and civil bench trials are continued to a date not earlier than July 1, 2020, unless explicitly authorized by the Presiding Justice.
COVID -19 Related Calendar
All calendar protocols/orders issued in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as any modifications or amendments, shall remain in full force and effect unless superseded by a subsequent protocol/order.
Finally, the clerks’ offices shall continue to conduct court business in all emergency and non-emergency matters.
Additional requirements apply. To view the complete court order, 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.
As Rhode Island state courts prepared to slowly return to in-person proceedings on June 1, the judiciary will continue to build on two months of hearings and conferences conducted remotely during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
While two county courthouses remain closed in Newport and Wakefield, the court system itself never shut down. The Rhode Island Supreme Court heard oral arguments in seven cases over May 13 and 14 using the WebEx video conferencing technology.
In the Superior Court, judges and magistrates have held hundreds of telephone and video conferences and remote hearings, largely in business calendar proceedings and other civil matters.
Each Family Court judge has a YouTube channel in which audio and/or video have been available to the public in domestic relations cases.
The Workers’ Compensation Court has heard more than 2,500 cases remotely since March 17 and disposed of 1,268 cases during that period.
More information about the developments can be found here.
If you have any questions about any legal matter or the status of a particular case, please do not hesitate to contact any of the partners at Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP.
Source: Rhode Island Judiciary
The issues and legal concerns that employers face in this new COVID-19 world are numerous and ever-changing in this uncharted environment. Here are a few of the most common issues that we’ve encountered so far.
- Health insurance and COBRA
- OSHA obligations
- Wage and hour considerations
- Employment policies and practices
- Reductions in workforce
- Tailored employment contracts
- Employee handbooks
- Families First Coronavirus Response Act
- Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act
- R.I. Superior Court Business Recovery Plan
Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney is well-positioned to assist employers with comprehensive workplace representation as the state embarks on a new pathway to reopening the economy.
My colleague, James T. Hornstein at firstname.lastname@example.org (401-490-3952), continues to address a number of related workers’ compensation questions from our clients. A copy of a recent article that he published can be found here.
The attorneys at the firm are also closely monitoring Governor Gina M. Raimondo’s executive orders as well as all other applicable orders issued by the state’s courts.
Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney has remained opened, and responsive to clients’ needs during the pandemic, and will continue to do so.
Please do not hesitate to contact me or any of my colleagues in helping employers, insurance carriers, or third-party administrators navigate the various employment laws or workers’ compensation issues impacting businesses today.
James A. Ruggieri, a longstanding partner with the firm, has maintained a broad-based litigation practice for more than 30 years.
His employment law practice covers a range of issues relative to wage and hour disputes; employment contracts; OSHA compliance; FLMA; hiring, discipline, and terminations; harassment and retaliation; and discrimination claims.
James A. Ruggieri can be reached at email@example.com (401-490-3914).