James A. Ruggieri: COVID-19 Employment Law Update

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 jhornstein@hcc-law.com (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 jruggieri@hcc-law.com (401-490-3914).

May 4th, 2020|

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.

May 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.

April 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.

April 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.

April 15th, 2020|