Attorneys Dave Damico, Dan Donahoe and Nina Gusmar successfully preserved favorable trial court rulings and a minimal federal jury award for a plaintiff who sued the railroad following a train derailment and subsequent release of vinyl chloride in New Jersey. The plaintiff claimed that as a result of the derailment, he experienced physical ailments, as well as emotional distress from the fear he would develop cancer. Following a week-long trial led by Dave Damico, the jury awarded plaintiff $500 for pain and suffering and emotional distress. Plaintiff appealed the award arguing that the trial court erred in excluding his medical expert and granting summary judgment to the railroad on his medical-monitoring and fear-of-cancer claims. The Third Circuit rejected plaintiff’s contentions and upheld the verdict, holding that the lower court properly found that his expert witness did not proffer reliable evidence that his cancer risk increased.
Sixteen Burns White attorneys were selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2019. The firm’s honorees, which have practices spanning commercial litigation, construction litigation, insurance litigation, legal malpractice defense, mediation, medical malpractice defense, personal injury defense litigation, railroad law and workers’ compensation defense include:
- Lawrence J. Baldasare, Member, for Workers’ Compensation Law—Employers
- John A. Bass, Member, for Medical Malpractice Law—Defendants
- David A. Damico, Executive Committee Member, for Railroad Law
- Robert E. Dapper, Jr., Member, for Commercial Litigation, Insurance Law, and Personal Injury Litigation—Defendants
- David H. Dille, Member, for Workers’ Compensation Law—Employers
- Daniel B. Donahoe, Member, for Railroad Law
- Andrew Fylypovych, Member, for Construction Law
- David R. Johnson, Member, for Medical Malpractice Law—Defendants
- Brian S. Kane, Member, for Litigation—Insurance Law
- T.H. Lyda, Member, for Railroad Law
- Joseph A. Macerelli, Member, for Medical Malpractice Law—Defendants
- Patrick L. Mechas, Member, for Medical Malpractice Law—Defendants
- D. Scott Newman, Executive Committee Member, for Workers’ Compensation Law—Employers
- Mary-Jo Rebelo, Member, for Commercial Litigation
- James R. Schadel, Member, for Legal Malpractice Law—Defendants
- David B. White, Executive Committee Member, for Mediation
First published in 1983, Best Lawyers® is based on a peer-review survey where more than 52,000 attorneys cast nearly 5.5 million votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their practice areas and geographic locations.
David Damico was installed as President of the National Association of Railroad Trial Counsel (NARTC) during its annual conference on July 29th in Chicago. With more than 900 members, NARTC includes top railroad trial and in-house attorneys from the United States and Canada. The organization’s mission is to provide educational and social avenues for members to learn about issues that affect the rail industry and their craft as railroad trial lawyers.
Mr. Damico brings more than 30 years of railroad trial experience to the position. He has a long history of representing Class 1, regional, and short line railroads, has a keen understanding of the challenges facing the railroad industry, and serves as National Trial Counsel to multiple railroad companies.
Mr. Damico is the co-chair of Burns White’s Railroad Law Practice Group.
The Pennsylvania Defense Institute (PDI) named Burns White the Civil Defense Law Firm of the Year. The award was presented on July 12th at the 2018 PDI Annual Conference, and recognizes Burns White as the top civil defense firm that “best exemplifies the qualities of professionalism, dedication to the practice of law, promotion of the highest ideals of justice in the community and has a demonstrated commitment to PDI and its members.”
The Pennsylvania Defense Institute is one of the largest organizations of its kind in the United States. Founded in 1969, it now boasts a membership of approximately 600 lawyers, executives of insurance companies, self-insurers, and independent adjusters from across the state. Burns White attorneys Brian Kane, Joe Macerelli, and Dan Twilla are active participants in this important organization.
Attorney Mary-Jo Rebelo started her three-year term on the Judiciary Committee of the Allegheny County Bar Association (ACBA), effective July 1st, 2018. Ms. Rebelo was elected to serve in this role by the general membership of the Bar Association, and joins a group of 23 other members responsible for rating, recommending and supporting qualified members for judicial offices and appointments in Allegheny County. These recommendations are based on a thorough review of potential candidates’ character, temperament, professional aptitude and experience.
“It is an honor to be elected onto the ACBA Judiciary Committee,” notes Ms. Rebelo. “I look forward to working with my fellow Committee members to help insure the continued integrity of our region’s legal system.”
The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has appointed Burns White attorney, Joseph C. Romano, to a three-year term as a Hearing Committee Member for District IV. His appointment will take effect on July 1, 2018. There are 150 Hearing Committee members in the State of Pennsylvania who conduct hearings and act as a formal reviewing body to determine if a case might require discipline.
“I am honored to take on this role for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania,” said Mr. Romano. “Maintaining the integrity of our state’s legal system is critical to insuring justice and public trust in our courts. I am happy to be a part of this process.”
Attorneys James R. Schadel and Kenneth N. Schott, III earned a defense verdict after successfully trying an underlying civil rights action that formed the factual and legal basis for a legal malpractice action filed by a large insurance company against the firm’s clients, a lawyer and his law firm. Burns White attorneys negotiated for and reached an agreement with opposing counsel to try the underlying civil rights action in summary fashion over three days and before a retired judge sitting as special master. By way of contrast, a traditional jury trial would have lasted at least two weeks. The efforts of the Burns White attorneys in negotiating for this summary trial format resulted in a significant cost savings to the firm’s clients.
The underlying plaintiffs asserted deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of an inmate at a county jail in purported violation of the inmate’s Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. The insurance company alleged that the lawyer, hired to defend the company’s insured, mishandled the underlying civil rights action thereby causing the case to settle for more money than it was worth. The insurance company filed a complaint against the firm’s clients praying for $1,700,000.00 in damages and asserting three causes of action: (1) negligence, (2) breach of contract and (3) vicarious liability against the law firm.
A legal malpractice plaintiff in Pennsylvania must prove – by a preponderance of the evidence – that a judgment would have been recovered in the underlying case “but for” the attorney’s alleged conduct before any evidence of legal malpractice may be introduced. With a victory in the underlying civil rights action in hand, Burns White attorneys filed a Motion to Enter Judgment as a Matter of Law in the instant legal malpractice action on behalf of the firm’s clients arguing that Plaintiff could not introduce sufficient evidence of causation and damages. The United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania agreed and entered judgment in favor of the firm’s clients as a matter of law.
Burns White LLC announced today that four partners from Cleveland-based Gallagher Sharp LLP have joined the firm, effective June 4, 2018. The addition of attorneys Kevin C. Alexandersen, Daniel J. Michalec, Colleen A. Mountcastle, and Holly M. Olarczuk-Smith expands Burns White’s existing Railroad and Mass Tort practice areas, and brings a new Maritime practice offering to the firm.
“Over the years, I have had the pleasure of working with these highly-regarded attorneys, and have enormous respect for their legal talent and reputation,” said David A. Damico, Executive Committee Member. “Their addition aligns well with our firm’s continued strategic growth initiatives—reinforcing our presence in Cleveland and extending our reach within the Great Lakes region.”
All four attorneys join the firm as members, and will remain in Cleveland. Mr. Alexandersen chairs Burns White’s newly created Maritime practice, and co-chairs the Mass Tort Practice with Burns White attorney, Daniel Donahoe. “The opportunity to join this growing and dynamic firm allows us to expand our service offerings to a broader base of clients,” noted Mr. Alexandersen. “We look forward to working with the many talented attorneys at Burns White as we continue to provide innovative, thoughtful legal solutions to our clients.”
Burns White’s Cleveland office is located in the US Bank Centre, 1350 Euclid Avenue.
T.H. Lyda and Edwin Palmer received another defense verdict on behalf of a Fortune 100 railroad client after a two-week long jury trial in Erie County, Ohio. Plaintiff was a 51-year old machinist claiming that exposure to noise from retarders in a large classification yard led to his development of hearing loss and unbearable tinnitus, or ringing in his ears. The defense team asserted that:
- the railroad provided plaintiff with a reasonably safe place to work
- noise level monitoring at the yard complied with all federal health and safety requirements
- the plaintiff was included in defendant’s hearing conservation program and provided adequate hearing protection, and
- the plaintiff’s hearing problems and tinnitus were the result of unprotected exposure to gunfire
The jury agreed and returned a verdict in favor of the railroad, finding that it was not negligent.
This result is the latest in a series of five straight defense verdicts obtained by the Burns White railroad team since the first of the year.
Daniel Cerrito is the inaugural recipient of Burns White’s Diversity in the Law Scholarship, awarded to a first-year, diverse law student at Duquesne University’s School of Law. Mr. Cerrito, a graduate of the University of Arizona Honors College, was selected from a competitive pool of qualified applicants.
“Burns White is extremely pleased to support Daniel in achieving his legal aspirations through, not only funding, but practical work experience and mentoring,” noted David White, Executive Committee Member. “The goal of this scholarship is to provide academic and practical opportunities to deserving individuals in underrepresented groups to diversify the composition of the legal profession. Daniel is an extremely qualified candidate who embodies the spirit of this award.”
The annual $10,000 Burns White Diversity in the Law Scholarship is awarded to a qualified candidate who adds diversity to the incoming class, and includes a paid summer clerkship at the firm following the successful completion of the recipient’s second year of law school. In addition, a mentor from Burns White will work with Mr. Cerrito for the duration of his legal education.
“I am so honored to be selected for this award,” said Mr. Cerrito. “The Diversity in the Law Scholarship will allow me to focus on my legal studies by assisting me financially, academically, and professionally. I appreciate the opportunity, and am eager to start my law school career at Duquesne with the support of Burns White.”