On the Pulse…Westchester, New York: Powerhouse in the Hudson Valley

Defense Digest, Vol. 25, No. 1, March 2019

By James P. Connors, Esq.*

The Westchester County, New York, office is among the newest at Marshall Dennehey, having opened in July of 2014. At the time, it was staffed with five attorneys, two administrative assistants and one paralegal. The office location is serene, nestled within the park-like atmosphere of Rye Brook, New York, yet “sophisticated,” in that we lie fifteen miles north of the Great White Way. Since opening, this small, yet mighty, office has been running on all four cylinders and has almost tripled in size, with 15 current attorneys. We have achieved 100 percent compliance with productivity goals while continuing to handle some of the most high-profile, challenging litigation, including putting to rest the single largest casualty property loss in U.S. jurisprudential history, The World Trade Center case, formally known as In Re Terrorist Act of September 11, 2001. In 2018 we were chosen to handle the second largest civil action arising out of a terrorist act, the Terrorist Acts of October 31, 2017, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries caused when a truck, driven by a young terrorist, mowed down innocent victims on the bike path located adjacent to the Hudson River Park in Manhattan, New York. This case was acquired after an open vetting of major defense firms in New York City by the client itself, with whom the firm had no prior dealings. Certainly, this is a notable accomplishment for a small satellite office outside the City of New York.

The office is housed in one of Westchester County’s largest buildings, the 300,000 square foot, former world headquarters of General Foods, which serves as an elegant yet highly functional base, providing access to major thoroughfares running north, south, east and west. The office handles cases as far west as Buffalo and as far north as towns adjacent to the Canadian border and numerous jurisdictions in between. Among the attorneys on staff, four are admitted to practice in Connecticut and two of these attorneys, Dan Corde and myself, are FAA licensed pilots. The unique skillset we bring to aviation litigation has led us to handle numerous cases in Connecticut that involve multiple-fatality aviation incidents. The office also handles a significant number of cases for some of the largest security companies in the United States, defending them against allegations of false arrest, malicious prosecution, failure to provide appropriate guest security and more. In the hospitality arena, we represent two of the largest hotel chains in the world, providing counsel in a wide range of matters. We continue to grow, and our vision is to expand the office by at least two attorneys in 2019.

The Westchester office is devoted almost entirely to serving the needs of the Casualty Department, with the exception of Charles Gura, who primarily focuses on medical professional liability yet also handles and tries casualty matters in New York and Connecticut. The nature of the cases handled by the Westchester office is quite eclectic. While a significant percentage of time and effort is devoted to the defense of security cases as mentioned above, the office is also deeply involved in the defense of one of the major national school bus operators, and a variety of concrete manufacturers, matters that are handled directly or supervised by Harold Moroknek. Harold maintains his sanity by continuing his avocation of coaching AAU girls basketball where he practices the true art of “oral argument.”

Attorneys Gail McCallion and Angela Evangelista devote much of their time to the defense of a large international hotel chain, as well as the litigation needs of one of the largest clothing retailers in the nation for whom we provide representation not only in litigated tort claims, but also in issues before the New York State Human Rights Commission and other regulatory boards. By way of background, Gail McCallion is a former professional ballerina, having danced many years with the New York City Ballet Company. Angela, when not handling litigation, serves as a professor at a local college and as an in-house authority for all of the New York offices, as well as the Erie, Pennsylvania office, concerning all aspects of New York practice.

Shareholder Jay Rava serves as a leader of the New York Construction and Labor Law Practice Group, defending contractors, owners, and subcontractors in the vast and complicated field of New York Labor Law. Working with him in that area of specialty is Matthew Rice. Jay and Matthew spend most of their time with the tradesman sitting in the cranes that dot the city skyline.

For almost 40 years, Bob Connor, Of Counsel, has focused his practice on admiralty and maritime law. Throughout his career, he has participated in numerous complex litigation matters, many of which have involved cargo claims and subrogation. As well, Bob has been involved in matters in the aviation industry and represents a major airline in defending cargo claims, as well as baggage and ticket disputes.

Jennifer Meyers and Nadia Niazi are two associate litigators who, in the last four years, have moved from “mentoree” to “mentor” to our younger attorneys, such as Difie Osborne, Caroline Kelly and the most recent addition to the legal staff, Nicholas Taylor, former captain of the University of Albany hockey team. Associate Steven Saal, who works closely with Harold Moroknek, has grown professionally in 2018, having served as second seat in a major federal court trial in Brooklyn that spanned six weeks.

None of the challenging work done here in Westchester could be accomplished without the help of some of the finest paralegals, Lorie Valletta and Bernice Velazquez. Nor would any of us manage through the day without the aid of three excellent office assistants, Troni Brown, Rosemary Delgado and Anthony Rodriguez. The office’s growth and productivity would simply not be possible without the extraordinary effort of our unique and talented administrative assistants who process all of the work we generate in a most impressive manner. We cannot thank enough Desiree Robinson, Deanna Polygerinos, Damaris Moreno-Elder, Nadine Reynolds-Billy, Stacey Artis and Annette Corchado. The entire Westchester operation is kept functioning in as smooth a manner as one could want (did I mention the office has zero attrition over the last four-and-one-half years?) only through the magic, skill and personality possessed by the office’s assistant manager, Kristine Carrizzo. Since 2014, Kristine has managed, with the guidance of Eva Colon in our New York City office, to essentially grow an office from a small outpost to what has to be one of the most “productive,” “efficient” and “happy” offices in the firm. Oh, by the way, did I mention “she has managed zero percent attrition in four-and-one-half years?” (Last time. I promise.) All kidding aside, that accomplishment, in and of itself, in this current work environment is a testament to Kristine’s management skills and “give a damn attitude.” Each member of the support staff strives to enhance the productivity of Westchester, and they are owed enormous credit for its success.

As you now know, I am extremely proud of the accomplishments we have achieved in the short time that the Westchester office has been in existence. Objective evidence of our office’s accomplishments exists in its purest form, ranging from the vibrant support of clients both old and new to the loyalty shown by the office’s attorneys and staff. I expect the Westchester, New York office to continue to expand and to represent Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin well in its “northern outpost,” proving itself worthy and a crucial part of the finest defense litigation firm in the United States.

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



Defense Digest, Vol. 25, No. 1, March 2019. 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. ATTORNEY ADVERTISING pursuant to New York RPC 7.1. © 2019 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm. For reprints, contact tamontemuro@mdwcg.com.