The Best Lawyers in America© Honors Multiple HCC Attorneys; Two Others Selected as Best Lawyers®: Ones to Watch

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, LLP, is pleased to announce that James A. RuggieriPaul S. Callaghan, Stephen P. Cooney, and Gerald C. DeMaria, Sr. were recently recognized in the 2022 edition of The Best Lawyers in America©. The Best Lawyers in America features only the top 6% of private practicing attorneys in the United States for their outstanding professional excellence.

In Rhode Island, James Ruggieri was selected for Product Liability Litigation – Defendants and Employment Law – Management. Paul Callaghan was recognized for Litigation – Insurance. Stephen Cooney was named for defending Mass Tort Class Actions, Product Liability – Defendants, and Litigation – Insurance.

Gerald C. DeMaria, Sr. was recognized for Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants and received an additional accolade by being named “Lawyer of the Year” for that category. Only a single “Lawyer of the Year” designation is afforded a lawyer in any given location and practice area.

Best Lawyers® also honors attorneys for their accomplishments early in their careers. The “Ones to Watch” selected from HCC once again were Brian W. Haynes and Kurt A. Rocha. Brian Haynes was recognized in the areas of insurance law and Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants. Kurt Rocha was also selected for Insurance Law and Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants.

James Ruggieri, Paul Callaghan and Stephen Cooney are partners with the firm. Gerald DeMaria is Of Counsel. Brian Haynes and Kurt Rocha joined Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney as litigation attorneys from other regional litigation firms in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

The Best Lawyers in America is considered one of the leading peer-reviewed resources for choosing the best legal talent. The selection process begins when lawyers are nominated for consideration.

Those individuals who receive high peer reviews undergo an additional validation process. Only then can these attorneys be recognized by Best Lawyers. Recognition in Best Lawyers is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor, conferred upon lawyers by their peers.

August 23rd, 2021|

The General Assembly Enacts Tougher Changes to Defending Tort Claims

There have been some recent, dramatic changes in Rhode Island’s General Laws, benefitting plaintiffs, which relate to the defenses, claims allowed, and allocation of contribution among joint tortfeasors for many tort claims. The revised statutes are outlined below.

Feel free to contact any of the partners at Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney for more information about these developments or any pending matter.

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney has been a leading litigation law firm in this region for more than 70 years.

  • Sections 10-6-3, 10-6-4 and 10-6-7 of the General Laws in Chapter 10-6 1 entitled, “Contribution Among Joint Tortfeasors,” were amended.

This act now limits the credit received by a joint tortfeasor to the amount paid by the released tortfeasor without regard to finding of fault. Previously, this section of the law provided that a joint tortfeasor would receive the greater benefit of the sum paid by a released tortfeasor or the percentage of fault attributed to the released tortfeasor. This act applies to all claims pending at the time of passage or asserted thereafter; but it does not apply to, affect, or impair releases executed before the passage date. The change creates extra considerations in the resolution of a claim in multi-defendant cases given that Rhode Island is a pure joint and several liability jurisdiction and co-defendant fault is no longer a consideration for apportionment. This act was signed by the Governor on July 14, 2021.

  • Section 9-1-32 of the General Laws, “Effect of Alteration of Product after Sale,” was amended.

This amendment eliminates the defense of immunity for a manufacturer or seller due to a subsequent alteration or modification of a product in a products liability case. Rather, a defense that a substantial cause of the injury, death, or damage was a subsequent alteration or modification of the product would be determined by comparative negligence.

Any defense claimed by the manufacturer or seller that the person injured made a subsequent alteration or modification to the product that is found to be a significant contributing factor to the injury, death, or property damage shall be controlled by the comparative negligence provisions of § 9-20-4.

The statutory amendment applies to causes of action and claims arising after the effective date of passage. The change to the scheme is significant for product liability claims and repeals existing and longstanding common law, in addition to the statutory change. At a minimum, the question of a successful dispositive motion alleging this immunity is called into doubt. This act was signed by the Governor on July 13, 2021.

  • Section 10-7-1.2 of the General Laws in Chapter 10-7, “Death By Wrongful Act,” was also amended.

This act now allows for recovery of damages for the emotional distress, grief, and loss of enjoyment of life as a result of the wrongful death of a spouse, a parent or a son or daughter. The amendment applies only to claims resulting from injuries occurring after the effective date. Loss of consortium and loss of society were previously components of the wrongful death statutes but there was no specific reference for the recovery of the above. Now, there is clear statutory authority for such a damage assessment and award. This act was signed by the Governor on July 12, 2021.

August 3rd, 2021|

New R.I. Superior Court Mediation Program Offered

Counsel may now request that cases currently assigned to the trial calendar in Providence County be mediated by one of the justices who is currently assigned to the trial calendar.

Members of the bar who are interested in pursuing this option, should complete the COVID-19 Mediation Submission Form found on the Superior Court website.

The R.I. Superior Court has never ceased operations during the pandemic and in fact has undertaken significant measures to allow jury trials to continue on a limited basis in Providence County while the COVID-19 restrictions remain in place.

As a result of the pandemic, the court was forced to adapt quickly to a new set of social standards to protect and preserve the health, safety and welfare of court users and court employees. Specifically, this required implementing measures to restrict crowds, while at the same time safely providing necessary in-person access to justice for the most critical matters.

Given these limitations and the court’s current inability to schedule more than two jury trials at any one time, the court is offering this mediation program to assist counsel and their clients.

Superior Court Presiding Justice Alice Bridget Gibney authored the order implementing this new mediation program.

May 13th, 2021|

The R.I. Superior Court Announces New Initiative to Address Recent Backlog

The R.I. Superior Court has begun identifying cases for settlement or mediation that are assigned to the Trial Calendar to aggressively address the backlog of civil cases caused by the pandemic.

Presiding Justice Alice B. Gibney and Judge Maureen B. Keough, who is currently in charge of the Pre-Trial/Trial Calendar in Providence County, are spearheading this effort. Judge Linda Rekas Sloan will assist Judge Keough throughout this process. More information will follow.

The Defense Counsel of Rhode Island, of which HCC is a longstanding member, was active in its comment and support of this fledgling program. The firm continues to utilize all methods of ADR to successfully and efficiently resolve our clients’ litigation matters and looks forward to taking advantage of this new opportunity.

April 20th, 2021|

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.

March 31st, 2021|