Rich Cassidy Law Debuts

by Rich Cassidy on November 21, 2016

rcl-001-logo_final_small1a-01With the unfailing support of my wife, Becky Cassidy, the assistance of my able associate, Matt Shagam, and the diligent efforts of our business manager, Linda Jackman, we opened a new law firm, Rich Cassidy Law on November 1, 2016.

Our new firm represents people, not businesses or institutions. The firm focuses on personal injury litigation and employment law. It represents people who have been injured due to the fault of others and employees in disputes with their employers or former employers.

Lots of lawyers take care of businesses and institutions, but not so many focus on individuals. Early in my career, I represented all sides in many kinds of disputes. I simply didn’t find it satisfying to represent insurance companies and big businesses. Business must pay attention to the bottom line. But many companies don’t seem to care about anything else. They just want to resolve claims as cheaply as they can. For them, peoples’ troubles are just balance sheet issues. Serving that narrow way of seeing the world is not how I want to spend my life. My colleague, Matt Shagam, and I, work for individuals who need our help.

I will also continue my work as a mediator and arbitrator.

Why go to the trouble and expense of opening a new firm in the 36th year of my practice and 27 years after cofounding Hoff Curtis? To build a law firm that focuses on the clients I want to represent and the cases that I want to do. A firm that supports my efforts to be active in improving the justice and fairness of the law, and makes a point of giving back to the community in which we live and work. If people who need justice can’t find lawyers to represent them, access to justice is a myth. We can’t fill the whole gap, even here Vermont, but we can do our share.

I must admit that it is sad to give up my public association with the names of my friends and mentors, Phil Hoff and David Curtis. But I know that our new firm shares the values that animated our efforts together in 1989.

We now begin day 21 of our new effort. Because we are organizing our practice and working our cases at the same time, the experience is bit like drinking directly from a proverbial open fire hydrant. Still, it is fun and exciting, and brings new energy to the work that I love.

The opportunity to start from scratch means we can begin with the most efficient technology. We are using a new practice management tool, Clio, and using cloud storage and virtually paperless filing. Our new web site is a work in progress. A new blog, to supplement, but not replace Onlawyering.com, is in development. Watch this space to see how it all works! 2013-12-21-14-05-21baxter-portrait-001

And Baxter, my dog, continues to come to work with me nearly every day. His calm and friendly demeanor helps keep us all on track.

So far, so good!

Rich

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The News Story

Burlington’s CBS TV affiliate, WCAX, Channel 3, covered the subject of my last post, “Mental Health Care Providers Have a Duty to Adequately Inform Caregivers About Dangerous Patients.” Reporter Kyle Midura took on the challenge of summarizing a complex problem in 2 minutes  and 39 seconds.

The story asks a fair question: Will the Vermont Supreme Court’s decision drastically affect mental health care in Vermont?

WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Breaking New Ground?

Former Vermont Bar Association President Dan Richardson’s comment, “”There’s new law being broken here,” seems to suggest that it will. And he is right that the decision “makes new law.”

Kuligoski v. Brattleboro Retreat obligates mental health care providers releasing mental health care patients who are known to be dangerous, to warn caregivers of the risk of violence and provide “reasonable information to enable them to fulfill their role” in maintaining safety.

This is progress, but hardly profound change.

For more than 30 years, Vermont mental health care providers have had an obligation to warn identifiable victims of the risk presented by dangerous patients. Kuligoski goes one short step beyond previously well-established Vermont law. It is hardly a revolution in personal injury or mental health law.

This is “making new a law,” but only in the classic way that judges interpreting the common law have always made new law: by applying existing principles to a particular factual setting.

Mental Health Commissioner Goes Over the Top

Vermont Commissioner of Mental Health Frank Reed’s comment on the decision is just over the top: “We’re seeing a number of folks who are probably staying in-hospital longer than they should be for their care needs[.]” His comment simply can’t be accurate.

The Supreme Court’s original decision was handed down only last May. Motions to reargue were filed and the revised decision was filed September 16, 2016. Motions to clarify the ruling have already been filed, and so the decision has not even become final yet.

To this date, no one has seen any effect from the decision. It is a narrow decision. Even Reed acknowledges that very few mental health patients present any danger at all. So the decision is applicable to few patients and is unlikely to have any widespread impact on mental health care.

The Commissioner’s comments reflect his unsupported belief that the mental health industry will practice overly defensive medicine instead of doing what the Court obviously intends that it do. That is to act reasonably to see to it that caretakers taking responsibility for bringing mental health patients known to be dangerous into the community understand the problems they face. All the Court mandates is that, in this particular way, mental health care providers take the interests of patients and the public into account.

This is not too much to expect.

Rich

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