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.
The Defense Counsel of Rhode Island (DCRI) sponsored a continuing legal education program on August 1, 2018 titled, “Mindfulness for Lawyers.” The program focused on improving personal and professional development within the stresses and demands of everyday life including time constraints, work volume, competition, family obligations, and personal health.
HCC partner Stephen P. Cooney developed and moderated the program and was one of the featured speakers along with The Honorable Alice B. Gibney, Presiding Justice of the Superior Court. The seminar also concentrated on understanding basic techniques for work-life balance and building more ethical lawyering, civil communications, emotional intelligence, equanimity, and best practices. The evening program was held at the Harbor Lights Marina and followed the organization’s annual golf outing.
DCRI is the state association of attorneys defending the interests of business and individuals in civil litigation. Members of DCRI include lawyers engaged in private practice, corporate counsel and insurance company counsel. DCRI serves as a forum for exchanging ideas on current issues of importance to defense lawyers, corporations and insurance companies.
Stephen Cooney’s practice focuses primarily on civil litigation, including defense of products liability, toxic tort, premises liability, transportation litigation and insurance claims. He recently and successfully defended a leading manufacturer in a product liability lawsuit in federal court that Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly called one of the most important cases of 2018.
(In the photograph above, Presiding Justice Alice B. Gibney addresses the audience as Judith Hoffman, Executive Director of Coastline EAP, and HCC partner Stephen P. Cooney listen. Ryan McGowan, founder of Laid Back Fitness, also served on the panel.)
Paul S. Callaghan was recently featured in social media publications produced by ALFA International, the premier global network of independent law firms.
In a wide ranging interview, Paul was asked to address one of the highlights of his successful career as an attorney. He said prevailing in a highly contested jury trial where the plaintiff was seeking a multi-million dollar verdict after he had been forced to cancel a family vacation due to the trial date selected by the presiding justice.
His client was a major national construction company, and the case arose out of an unwitnessed construction site accident with no evidence to the contrary. He found this win particularly appealing because he had been forced to cancel that family vacation, and the plaintiff’s attorney, a senior member of the plaintiffs’ bar, was especially overconfident throughout the proceedings.
The jury deliberated for more than two days and then came back with a question. The question led the plaintiff’s attorney and his partner to believe that they had won the case, to the point where they were literally boasting to colleagues that they had done so even before the jury returned a verdict. Afterwards, Paul was delighted to receive a personal, handwritten letter from the company’s chairman and CEO thanking and congratulating me on the victory.
HCC law clerk Kelsey Peck recently won the award for Best Overall Oral Advocates at the UCLA Cyber Crimes Moot Court Competition in Los Angeles.
UCLA School of Law Cyber Crimes Moot Court Competition is an annual moot court competition open to law schools across the nation, exploring cutting-edge issues in the field of cyber law.
Kelsey and her teammate Allison Regan are second-year law students at Roger Williams University School of Law. Kelsey (pictured at right) has been serving as a law clerk at HCC for the past year and will continue her work at the firm as a summer associate.
This UCLA Moot Court Competition featured an esteemed panel of renowned cyber law experts to judge competitors’ oral advocacy. In addition to the Competition, participants and judges heard from thought provoking speakers identifying new developments in the practice of cyber law, according to the UCLA School of Law website.
On April 20th, Higgins Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP employees (past and present) came out to celebrate the life of Gianna Cirella and to raise funds for the Gianna Cirella Memorial Fund.
On October 13, 2017, 16-year old Gianna developed a sore throat that turned into pneumonia and, ultimately, a life-threatening blood infection known as sepsis. Despite the heroic efforts of doctors at Hasbro Children’s Hospital to save her life, Gianna lost her battle to sepsis on November 1st.
The Gianna Cirella Memorial Fund was established to raise funds for pediatric sepsis research and provide financial assistance to children and families affected by sepsis. In honor of Gianna’s love of soccer, the fund will also provide scholarships to local soccer players.
Hundreds of people attended the gala at Crowne Plaza in Warwick to honor Gianna’s memory. Eyewitness News Reporter Kim Kalunian and Rhode Show host Will Gilbert hosted the event which included a night of dinner and dancing.
Tara Cirella, Gianna’s mother, is a longstanding and highly regarded HCC staff member. She is the firm’s billing and accounts receivable coordinator.
Tara serves as the parent advocate on a committee at Hasbro Children’s Hospital to work on sepsis awareness. She told the reporter: “It means Gianna made a difference. I’m going to carry that on.”
Information about the Gianna Cirella Memorial Fund can be found at www.gistrong.org.