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.

March 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.

February 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.

January 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.

January 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.

December 11th, 2020|