Melissa represents insurance companies, financial institutions and corporations in commercial, business and regulatory litigation in the state and federal courts and before administrative agencies, with a focus on the defense of class actions and other complex matters alleging breach of fiduciary duty, violation of federal and state law, breach of contract and improper policies and practices. Melissa also specializes in contested trust and estate litigation in the probate and superior courts, on appeal and at mediation or arbitration, including will and trust contests, claims of fiduciary liability, disputes over distribution of trust assets and interpretation of instruments, trust reformations, accounting proceedings and claims concerning the exercise of discretionary powers. She further advises fiduciaries on trust administration strategies designed to avoid litigation.
A Providence native, Melissa joined PS&H upon graduation from law school in 1992. Melissa is a Mentor in the Firm’s Mentoring Program and co-founded a PS&H initiative designed to help women in business advance professionally. She is a frequent speaker on litigation risk management and best practices, insurance regulations and compliance and trust and estates disputes.
Melissa is the immediate Past President of the Rhode Island Bar Association. She has been actively involved in leadership of the Bar for more than a decade as a member of the Executive Committee and House of Delegates and for many years as Co-Chair of the Superior Court Bench/Bar Committee.
- Named Providence Business News 2016 Professional Services Industry Leader
- Ranked as a leading attorney in commercial litigation in Chambers USA, America's Leading Lawyers for Business
- Selected by her peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America in the areas of Litigation - Banking and Finance
- Named Best Lawyers' 2015 Providence Litigation - Banking and Finance Lawyer of the Year
- Recognized for three years as one of the Top 250 Women in Litigation, published by Legal Media Group
- Recognized as a Litigation Star by Benchmark: Litigation, a Guide to America's Leading Business Litigation Firms and Attorneys
- Selected by her peers as a Rhode Island Super Lawyer
- AV® Preeminent Rated from Martindale-Hubbell, highest possible rating on both legal ability and ethics based upon the confidential opinion of peers and judges
- Providence Business News 2005 40 Under Forty Honoree
- Defended insurance company in state-wide consumer class action in a unique case involving parallel proceedings in state and federal court resulting in favorable settlement.
- Obtained dismissal in precedent setting case involving the interplay between the jurisdiction of regulatory agencies and private contract claims.
- Advised insurance company in comprehensive regulatory investigation and examination.
- Obtained dismissal of 23-count complaint against title company alleging breach of fiduciary duty, civil conspiracy, negligent misrepresentation and obtaining money by false pretenses.
- Represented insurance company in rate hearing before administrative agency in which requested rate increases were approved.
- Successfully represented insurance company in administrative action challenging contractual relationships with auto body repair shops.
- Defended title insurance company in action alleging civil RICO violations in which all charges were dismissed.
- Represented insurance producers in a complex administrative license revocation proceeding resulting in favorable settlement.
- Defended insurance company in consumer class action alleging systemic violations of law and contract in the insurer’s claims settlement practices resulting in favorable settlement.
Trusts and Estates
- Negotiated favorable settlement for trustee in breach of fiduciary duty and breach of loyalty claims arising from financial markets collapse.
- Advised fiduciaries and secured court orders releasing them from liability in numerous complex trust accounting matters.
- Represented beneficiaries and obtained favorable settlement in claims against estate for improper distribution of tangible property.
- Secured court order confirming trustee’s authority over challenge by beneficiary.
- Obtained court orders allowing cy pres relief.
- Successfully settled several contested actions alleging trustee’s breach of fiduciary duties to beneficiaries (representing beneficiary in some instances and fiduciary in others).
- Obtained approval of comprehensive estate plan for guardians of incapacitated ward.
- Secured appointment of a guardian in heavily contested guardianship action.
- Secured approval for termination of a trust and distribution plan.
- Obtained reformation of trust department’s entire trust portfolio upon corporate restructure.
- Defended executor in companion cases to invalidate will and trust for lack of capacity and undue influence.
- Represented heirs in action to invalidate will and trust for lack of capacity and undue influence.
- Obtained favorable order on competing claims to a joint bank account.
- Represented estate in probate, state and federal court actions involving fraud and insolvency.
- As mediator, successfully settled breach of fiduciary action.
- Arbitrated breach of contract claims for foreign corporation resulting in a significant award that was upheld on appeal.
- Advised national corporation in complex receivership proceedings resulting in favorable settlement.
- Successfully defended corporation in claim to redeem shares.
- Advised corporation on contract rights and remedies under asset purchase agreement resulting in settlement.
- Served as arbitrator in matter alleging breach of numerous commercial laws.
- Obtained dismissal of suit on statute of limitations ground for large corporate entity.
- Obtained jury trial verdict for defendant national bank in case alleging forgery and fraud.
- Obtained bench trial verdict for defendant national bank in case alleging wrongful foreclosure.
- Represented financial institution in precedent setting cases involving core banking procedures.
- Reached favorable settlement for financial institution in action alleging conversion.
- Successfully defended numerous financial institutions in wrongful foreclosure and eviction actions in state, federal, district and housing courts.
- Defended national bank in breach of contract and deceptive trade practices claims.
- Represented national bank in six interrelated actions in federal district court, bankruptcy court and state trial and appellate courts brought by homeowner alleging wrongful practices and violations of state and federal banking and foreclosure laws.
- Insurer is not Liable for Prejudgment Interest
The Anchor, Case Law Notes, First Quarter 2017
- Emails and Text Messages: More Scary Than You Think
The Anchor, Fourth Quarter 2016
- Text Message Creates a Contract
The Anchor, Case Law Notes, Fourth Quarter 2016
- Insurer Can Challenge Arbitration Award Only Under Limited Circumstances
The Anchor, Case Law Notes, Third Quarter 2016
- Cyber Preparation Moves to Main Street
The Anchor First Quarter 2016
- Insurance for Sharing
The Anchor Fourth Quarter 2015
- Sexual Harassment Claims – An Ounce of Prevention Equals a Pound of Cure
The Anchor, Second Quarter 2015
- RI Supreme Court Establishes When Causes of Action Accrue under UM/UIM Policies
Case Notes, The Anchor, First Quarter 2014
- Federal Reform to Flood Insurance Impacting the Ocean State Case Notes
The Anchor, Fourth Quarter 2013
- Mediation Available for Hurricane Claims
The Anchor, Third Quarter 2013
- Things to Consider before Taking on the Role of Trustee
Partridge Snow & Hahn, Stepping Stones, September 2013
- 'Permission' vs. 'Entitlement'” - Questions Raised Under Automobile Policy Exclusions Where The Operator Is Not “Entitled” To Drive
The Anchor, First Quarter 2013
- Help Your Customers Avoid Misclassification of Employees as Independent Contractors
The Anchor, Fourth Quarter 2012
- Legislative Wrap-Up
The Anchor, Third Quarter 2012
- It’s Hurricane Season Again; Help Your Customers Ready Themselves
The Anchor, Second Quarter 2012
- Enforcement of Rhode Island Insurance Laws
The Anchor, First Quarter 2012
- Dual Agency: To Whom Do You Owe a Legal Duty
The Anchor, Fourth Quarter 2011
- Weigh Risks of Social Media in the Workplace
Providence Business News, August 2011
- Social Media in the Workplace: Why You Should Care
The Anchor, Second Quarter 2011
- There’s Still Time to Make that New Year’s Resolution: Get Your Records Retention Plan in Place
Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP Take Note E-Alert, January 2011
- Is Your Email Marketing CAN-SPAM Act Compliant?
The Anchor, Fourth Quarter 2010
- TGIF: Thank Goodness I'm the Fiduciary
Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP Take Note E-Alert, December 2010
- Protecting Your Customers’ Private Financial Information
The Anchor, Third Quarter 2010
- Flood Insurance – Protect Yourself from Errors and Omissions Claims
The Anchor, Second Quarter 2010
- Your Insurance Company Terminates Your Contract – What Can You Do?
The Anchor, First Quarter 2010
Representative Speaking Engagements
- “Decision Making with Elder Parents”
WAVE networking, July 2014
- “Ethics for the RI Chapter of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA)”
WAVE NETWORKING, JULY 2014
- “What’s in Store for the Mortgage Industry in 2014?”
New England Mortgage Expo, January 2014
RBS Citizens, October 2012
U.S. Trust Bank of America, October 2012
- “Creating Unique Client Experiences”
AWE, October 2014
- “Leading Women Breakfast, Entrepreneurs and Successful Business Women”
Moderator, January 2012
- “Daily Habits of Successful Business Women”
Leading Women SENE – 2011
- “Litigation Mitigation for Trustees”, TGIF Series (Thank Goodness I’m the Fiduciary)
Rockland Trust Company, Plimoth Investment Advisors – 2011, U.S. Trust/Bank of America – 2012
- “Legal Duties Owed by Agents”
Independent Insurance Agents of Rhode Island – 2011
- “Ethics in Negotiation”
Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP Annual CLE Ethics Seminar – 2011
- “Be a Mentor – Change a Life”
The Women’s Summit 2011, Bryant University
- “Social Media – Smart Business Strategies”
Leading Women SENE – 2010
- “Success: Holding the Ladder – Steps to Building Career Savvy”
Women’s Fund of Rhode Island – 2010
- “Ethical Issues in a Contentious Digital World”
Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP Annual CLE Ethics Seminar – 2010
- Rhode Island Bar Association
- Immediate Past President, Executive Committee, Member
- House of Delegates, Member
- Superior Court Bench/Bar Committee, Co-Chair (2003 - 2013)
- Annual Meeting Committee, Chair (2012)
- Rhode Island Bar Foundation
- Rhode Island Women’s Bar Association
- American Bar Association
- Litigation and Business Law Divisions
- Litigation Counsel of America
- Defense Counsel of Rhode Island
- Leadership Rhode Island, Class of 2000
- Providence ¡CityArts! for Youth, Inc.
- Former Secretary, Board Member
- Big Sisters Fund
- Former Secretary, Board Member
- Big Sisters of Rhode Island
- Leading Women
- Former Advisory Board Member
- Rhode Island Coalition for Minority Investment
- Former Counsel to the Board
- Founders Award (2004)
- Minority Investment Development Corporation
- Former Counsel to the Board
- Perishable Theater
- Influential Women in RI Award (2001)