On the Pulse…A Profile of Our Westchester, New York Office

By James P. Connors, Esq.*

Marshall Dennehey’s newly formed Westchester office is located in Rye Brook, New York, just east of White Plains, the Westchester County seat. Staffed with five accomplished attorneys and outstanding legal support professionals, the Westchester office is strong in experience and serves as home base for the defense of some extremely significant cases, including the federal litigation arising from the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks.

I am honored to be the managing attorney of this office, which serves clients throughout Westchester County and the entire New York tri-state region, providing access to jurisdictions as far north as Albany and the important counties of Rockland, Duchess and Poughkeepsie. By background, I am a “Bronx Kid,” whose career path began at New York Law School, where I earned a J.D., and later at the New York University School of Law, where I earned an LL.M. I honed my litigation skills at the largest medical malpractice defense firm at the time, Bower & Gardner. I then served a brief stint at INA/CIGNA before joining the firm of Jones Hirsch & Bull, where I later became a named partner. I remained there for 33 years, trying matters ranging from slip and falls to brain-damaged infant cases. Yet it was not until meeting Tom Brophy at a DRI conference in 2012 that I realized there was another firm where I could be happy and expand the client opportunities I had developed over many years. Thus began our journey to Marshall Dennehey.

I am proud to be a part of the World Trade Center defense team, comprised of some of the finest litigation firms in the nation. This case presents as one of the most significant in United States jurisprudential history, and it required me and several other attorneys in the firm to obtain Sensitive Security Information clearances from the United States Justice Department in order to analyze discovery which is still deemed classified. My litigation experience also includes the defense of the estate of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr., who was tragically killed in a plane crash, and which required sensitivity beyond similar cases I have handled.

In addition to me, the staff who are currently serving out of the Westchester office, or will soon join it, include Thomas Vaughan, senior counsel; Charles Gura, shareholder; Daniel Corde, shareholder; and Angela Evangelista, special counsel.

Tom Vaughn, who is temporarily working out of the firm’s New York City office, has 40 years of litigation experience, which began as an Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Through the years, Tom has handled many significant product and premises liability matters in both state and federal courts, and he is well-known and respected throughout the New York judicial system. A graduate of St. Lawrence University and the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, he is expected to join the Westchester office at the end of 2014.

Charles Gura comes to the Westchester office with nearly two decades of experience devoted almost entirely to the defense of medical malpractice cases. Charles attended New York Law School while working for Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Company, one of the largest medical malpractice insurance carriers in the country, and this experience provided a strong foundation for his successful legal career. Charles remains very active in his law school’s mentoring program, and he is highly regarded, both professionally and personally.

Daniel Corde services multiple jurisdictions, with admissions in both New York and Connecticut, where he has already been called upon to represent Marshall Dennehey clients. Dan’s skills and hard work have been appreciated by both carriers and self-insureds alike, and, in addition to handling product liability cases, defending such clients as IKEA and Hyatt Corporation, he is currently representing a global security company in a high-profile assault case. Dan and I are both FAA-licensed pilots, and he spent a considerable number of years managing claims for a major aviation insurer. Such exposure has given him perspective from the “other side” of the litigation spectrum as he was charged with not only monitoring the work of local counsel, but acting as liaison between local counsel and claims management.

Angela Evangelista joins the Westchester office while also actively involved in teaching law at Fairleigh Dickinson University and Montclair State University. Her classes include Tort Law, New York Practice and Procedure, as well as the Jury System in America. Angela has 23 years of civil defense litigation experience in New York, and she serves as a font of knowledge when questions arise regarding tricky New York procedural issues. In addition to her litigation prowess, her attention to detail and depth of knowledge of the more intricate rules and regulations make her a valuable asset—not only in Westchester, but among all of Marshall Dennehey’s New York offices.

The Westchester office also is fortunate to have a dedicated and diverse support staff comprised of three administrative assistants, Kathleen Tully, Pearlene Martell and Cassandra Riddick, and one office assistant, Trontel Brown. Kathleen, having been an employee of Marshall Dennehey’s New York City office, happily relocated to Westchester to benefit from a much improved commute. She brings extensive litigation experience, and we are thrilled to have her with us. Pearlene, who has been my assistant and “right arm” for the past 31 years, serves as secretarial coordinator/legal administrator. She has an extensive knowledge of New York civil litigation, which she utilizes to manage day-to-day activities of secretarial and attorney work product. The office further benefits from the skills and efficiencies Cassandra and Trontel bring to their respective positions.

On a somber note, I would like to acknowledge the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Bill Brown, who would have joined us in Westchester. Bill was an accomplished attorney in the areas of aviation and maritime law, and he practiced in New York for more than 35 years. I know I speak on behalf of the staff of the Westchester office, Bill’s former colleagues at Jones Hirsch and his new friends from Marshall Dennehey in wishing Bill’s family our sincere prayers and condolences. He will be missed.

In closing, the first six months at Marshall Dennehey have been invigorating, and I look forward to developing the Westchester office into a site that will extend the firm’s reach throughout the tri-state area and beyond. Our office is located at 800 Westchester Avenue, Suite 700-C, Rye Brook, New York 10573. Our main number is 914-977-7300, with my direct line being 914-977-7310, and our facsimile number is 914-977-7301. When the opportunity presents itself, please make sure you stop by and say hello.

*Jim is a shareholder and the managing attorney of our Westchester, New York office. He can be reached at 914.977.7310 or jpconnors@mdwcg.com.

Defense Digest, Vol. 20, No. 4, December 2014

Defense Digest is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent legal developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship. Copyright © 2014 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, all rights reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm.