New COVID 19 Superior Court Administrative Order

Mike Bottaro

Did you know that on August 28, 2020, the Rhode Island Superior Court issued a new Order updating its prior COVID 19 orders? As a personal injury attorney who regularly appears in our superior courts, this Order (named “Administrative Order 2020-08”) has special interest for our firm and clients. In today’s blog, I will attempt to make some sense of the language. The full Order can be found on the Court website.

RI Personal Injury Hearings During COVID 19 At This Time

Our personal injury clients are most concerned with the Superior Court’s Civil Calendar, most typically the civil motion calendar in each County.

As an aside, the motion calendar in Providence County has been quite backed up since March, with little action and considerable confusion.  Now that we have had six (6) months to come up with a plan, we really need the Superior Court to step up its game and help our injured citizens keep their cases moving. This Order states that the calendar is “open” with language stating that “Matters that cannot be handled remotely shall be conducted in person.” This seems to me to mean that the Court is not really “open” in the traditional sense, but will continue to prefer to schedule the “web ex” remote hearings that it has recently favored. This is not ideal in its current form. For the day to day, thousands of motions on the civil calendar, this Order does not address the specifics of web ex scheduling for busy practitioners and clients. Recently, many practitioners have grumbled that the Providence motion calendar (the busiest and being handled by just one judge) was ordering lawyers to keep our web ex on all day and wait to be called, if we were called at all. Hopefully, these remote hearings will be communicated with better specific dates and times. It would also help if more than one judge was assigned to this calendar.

Personal Injury Law During COVID 19: Is There A Plan To Resume RI Civil Jury Trials?

As above, this Order has some general language about trials, but not really specifics. Access to the courtroom is a cornerstone of our democracy! The civil right to trial by jury is guaranteed by state and federal constitution.

Right now, we have not had any jury trials in Rhode Island since March. This means that over 6 months of trials have been backed up, with more back-ups happening every day. In personal injury law, insurance companies are reaping record profits this year (you can refer to our past blogs and news articles for the details) due to this delay. Simply put, our injured citizens are being victimized a second time by closed courts – the fat cat insurance companies have no incentive to resolve cases, because our courts are paralyzed. We pray that the Superior Court finds a way to re-open for jury trials soon – and provide us with more specifics than the general language in this order.

What Does This Mean For My RI Personal Injury Case During COVID 19?

If you have suffered a personal injury due to the negligence of another, call or text me at the Bottaro Law Firm, LLC (401-777-7777) 24/7.  My team and I are staying up to date on the latest happenings at the Superior Court and can provide more information. Unfortunately, at this time, the bottom line is that your personal injury case may be backed up and delayed due to the court system for the foreseeable future. In the absence of more specific leadership and action by our Superior Court, all we can do is to continue to prepare your case while prejudgment interest will accumulate in your favor. But having practiced personal injury law for two decades, the courts serve an important purpose to keep cases moving along and that is just not happening right now. The Bottaro Law Firm, LLC remains committed to our work to get you the settlement you deserve, while keeping you as safe as possible. We continue to remain up-to-date on the courts protocols, and will advise you of any changes in your case.

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