Attorney at Law - Law Firm of the Month: Napoli

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NAPOLI SHKOLNIK PLLC Taking on Tough Opponents in the Interest of Justice BY VICKI HOGUE-DAVIES


hen two young and dynamic attorneys, both second-generation plaintiff ’s lawyers, met in a courthouse hallway, it was the start of a merging of lives that would lead not only to marriage, but also to the formation of a formidable, national plaintiff ’s litigation firm. Even early on, the pair—Marie Napoli and Paul Napoli—worked with future Partner Hunter Shkolnik, as co-counsel, recognizing his legal skills and acumen. In the beginning, the firm worked to bring justice to their personal injury and other clients out of an office on Broadway in downtown New York. Over more than two decades the firm has grown exponentially and today it has two principal offices in New York—one in Midtown Manhattan and the other on Long Island. It also has 10 other locations throughout the country, including in the major metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, Miami and Washington D.C. It was during this time of exceptional growth that Hunter Shkolnik officially joined the firm. Today he, Marie and Paul oversee, guide, develop and lead 15 partners, over 100 attorneys and 80+ legal staff at Napoli Shkolnik PLLC and its affiliated Puerto Rico law firm. ATTORNEY AT LAW MAGAZINE · DIGITAL· VOL. 2 NO. 4


C The firm’s teams have the skills and experience to handle a wide variety of mass torts, class actions and individual cases related to personal injury, environmental litigation, pharmaceutical litigation, the opioid crisis, medical malpractice, and civil rights violations. They advise and assist local and state governments in litigating cases against pharmaceutical, big oil and other companies whose negligent actions have devastated communities. They also represent clients in complex litigation cases, arbitration proceedings and mediations. “We were successful at a young age because we were born and bred into the legal profession,” Marie Napoli says. “There was no learning curve for us. We were off and running.” SHAPING THE FIRM An early case that exemplified the firm’s dedication to fighting for its vulnerable clients and cemented the firm as a powerhouse in the mass torts arena, was that of the notorious diet drug fen-phen. In that landmark case, the firm achieved a billion-dollar settlement for victims of the drug, which was believed to cause heart-valve and other problems. “The fen-phen litigation really got us into difficult mass tort litigation,” Paul J. Napoli says. At the time it was not only legally challenging, but also hard to handle because of the size.” The sheer number of clients involved in the case and located all over the country, resulted in the firm implementing improved computer technologies to update attorneys and clients on the status of cases. A nationwide database helps the firm maintain strong communication, so people involved in cases knows what is going on at any given time. Additionally, the firm’s marketing team sends out email blasts with litigation updates and holds community open

One thing that all our lawyers and staff at the firm constantly remind ourselves of is that our clients are usually plaintiffs because they have had something horrible happen to them in their lives.”

Make it possible they did. The firm’s landmark 9/11 settlements to help first responders and others who suffered illnesses or injuries because of the attacks and their residual impacts include the following settlements that were wins for the firm, but most importantly, for the victims:

We were successful at a young age because we were born and bred into the legal profession,” Marie Napoli says. “There was no learning curve for us. We were off and running.”


• $816.45 million settlement for injuries from toxic dust sustained by police officers, firefighters and construction workers at Ground

4,000 Pradaxa users whom the drug injured. Another was a $100 million settlement for women harmed by the NuvaRing birth control device. Cases are currently ongoing related to the devastating water contamination issue in Flint, Michigan, and a large opioid case in Cleveland that is currently going through the deposition phase. According to the firm’s dedicated founders, no case is too big for them to take on. “We are also good partners in working with counsel in other areas in developing cases that they would like to bring, but are unable to do themselves,” Paul Napoli says. “We have the financial and technical resources to go toe-to-toe with the biggest firms.” While the complexities of mass tort cases are different than smaller, individual cases because of the sheer number of people involved and logistical issues, the passion and expertise Napoli Shkolnik’s attorneys bring to their smaller cases is no different than in high-stakes mass tort and class action cases. While Napoli Shkolnik has a large-firm nationwide reach it recognizes that each and every client matters and still brings a small firm’s hands-on sensibility to cases. The attorneys and staff never forget who they are working for.

houses to keep people who are expeZero. riencing some of the most difficult circumstances of their lives informed • $24.5 million, $28 million and $47.5 million settlements for injuabout what is being done in the fight ries to rescue and recovery workers to bring them justice. from toxic dust at Ground Zero. HELPING 9/11 VICTIMS Led by Paul J. Napoli, the firm also Community communication was especially key in the wake of the avidly lobbied the U.S. Congress to horrific September 11, 2001, attacks pass the James Zadroga September on the World Trade Center in New 11th Health and Compensation York. The firm has handled multiple Act of 2010. The law provides cases related to the attacks, winning a fund for health monitoring compensation for first responders, and financial aid to 9/11 vicbystanders and cleanup workers who tims including survivors, first have suffered from cancer, pulmonary responders, volunteers and problems, respiratory diseases and nearby residents and workers. other debilitating illnesses caused by It is named after a New York the toxic gases, poisonous dusts and Police Department officer whose death from a respiratodebris the attack left. “We took on these cases that at first ry illness was linked to his help blush seemed impossible,” Marie Na- in rescue and recovery operapoli says. “In the 9/11 cases you had tions following the attacks. sick and injured firefighters and police ADDITIONAL HIGHofficers who were losing their homes PROFILE CASES and dying. There was one firefighter The firm is no stranger to client who was living in his garage pursuing and winning multiand renting out his house because he million-dollar settlements for could no longer work. No other firm their clients. Several landmark would take these cases on because awards in recent years include they didn’t have the ability or thought a defective drug case with a they were impossible. But with hard settlement amount of $650 HUNTER SHKOLNIK | ALBERT CHEUNG PHOTOGRAPHY work you can make it possible.” million to resolve the claims of ATTORNEY AT LAW MAGAZINE · DIGITAL· VOL. 2 NO. 4

“One thing that all our lawyers and staff at the firm constantly remind ourselves of is that our clients are usually plaintiffs because they have had something horrible happen to them in their lives,” Marie Napoli says. “When you handle these cases on a regular basis, attorneys and judges can become callous, but we have to remember that for each individual client this may well be the one biggest thing that has happened to them in their lives. We must remain compassionate as if it is happening to us or our sister or other family member.” CLIENT-FOCUSED PHILOSOPHY Empathy for people and their problems is what the firm was founded on and that feeling and focus on personal attention is instilled in all the firm’s employees when working with clients. The reception desk fields hundreds of phone calls every day. Priority is placed on them to make sure that each and every call is answered and to make sure that the calls are directed to the right people. A variety of languages are spoken at the firm including Spanish, Russian, Mandarin and Korean in order to serve a widely diverse client base. The firm strongly believes in bring-

ing in whatever resources are required to understand the unique needs of its clients in order to best represent them. “To that end, we employ doctors and nurses so they can talk to them about medical status and what went on,” Paul Napoli says. “We have client liaisons on the ground who are dedicated to working with clients. We always work to try and ensure our clients are up-to-date and knowledgeable about their cases.” A PARTNER’S PERSPECTIVE The law firm’s multiple departments are structured to enable attention and expertise is devoted to a wide SHAYNA E. SACKS | MARIA HAYASHI PHOTOGRAPHY range of legal issues. One of the Partners whose role speak at industry conferences to inhas evolved as the firm has grown is form and educate the legal communiShayna E. Sacks. Ms. Sacks began as ty on the developments and progress an associate focusing on pharmaceu- of this large, multi-state mass tort. tical and product liability cases. Her “This litigation has been the most tenure at the firm has included man- rewarding in my career. Fighting for agement roles in the Pharmaceutical our communities is an honor.” Department as well as multiple fedMs. Sacks recently created a new eral court appointed leadership posi- department at the firm focusing on tions. In recognition of her legal skills food allergies. An interest in this and hard work, she was promoted to area of law began at home. Her son Partner in June 2016. is allergic to various foods including While she still oversees nuts and sesame and her husband is multiple litigations in the allergic to peanuts. Her experiences pharmaceutical department, with her son have encouraged her to she is now also actively in- advocate for proper food handling and preparation in the food industry. She has worked within her son’s “The fen-phen litigation school to create a safer environment really got us into difficult for both him and others but also to mass tort litigation,” Paul advocate for safer policies and procedures across the country. “They are Napoli says. “At the time a huge part of why I do what I do. I it was not only legally look at my own family and know that challenging, but also hard to I would want a firm like mine to be on their side if it were ever necessary.” handle because of the size.”


volved in the nationwide opioid litigation. Ms. Sacks often travels across the country to meet with both prospective and current clients to explain the litigation process and the case’s current status. She is also frequently invited to

COMMUNICATIVE, OPEN-DOOR CULTURE The firm’s open-door culture encourages communication and career growth. A sensitivity to the firm’s changing priorities and how they may affect people’s jobs and lives is also of the utmost importance to the founding attorneys.

FIRM At A Glance NAPOLI SHKOLNIK PLLC 360 Lexington Avenue, 11th Floor New York, NY 10017 (844) 230-7676 OTHER LOCATIONS Melville, Long Island, New York Los Angeles, California Edwardsville, Illinois Wilmington, Delaware Miami, Florida Marlton, New Jersey Austin, Texas Flint, Michigan Cleveland, Ohio Kansas City, Kansas Washington D.C. PRACTICE AREAS Personal Injury Pharmaceutical Litigation Environmental Litigation Aviation Accidents World Trade Center Cancers Consumer Litigation Consumer Class Actions Medical Malpractice SAMPLING OF RECENT HONORS U.S. News & World Report 2019: Best Law Firms in New York City for Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions – Plaintiff 2019 Super Lawyers® includes 15 firm attorneys COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT Bone Marrow Foundation Breast Cancer Research Foundation Columbus Citizens Foundation Long Island Go Red for Women Mental Health Association of Nassau County National September 11 Memorial and Museum The N.Y. Firefighters Burn Center Foundation Save the Children

“With mass torts, the firm has to grow and then contract as we need staffing for different projects,” Marie Napoli says. “We are very sensitive to that.” In spite of changing priorities, opportunities to develop and grow within the firm are very strong. Partner Chris LoPalo has been with the firm since the beginning, starting as an intern. He now manages the Pharmaceutical and World Trade Center departments. Like LoPalo experienced as a young associate, new associates to the firm are provided many opportunities for learning and growth, including shadowing their more experienced attorney peers. The focus on growth serves to keep talented people at the firm, along with its nurturing and friendly culture. Marketing Director Maria Hayashi points out that as an example, she is beginning her ninth year at the law firm. “There are many other people with longevity here,” she says. “We like to develop from within.” “We partner with St. Johns and other law schools to take in new lawyers who are interested in the field and help develop them to practice,” Paul J. Napoli adds. GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY In addition to the firm’s empathy for its clients and its nurturing internal culture, great importance is placed on the needs of people within the community. Paul Napoli serves on the Board of the National September 11th Memorial Museum. Together the couple established the Marie and Paul Napoli Foundation in 2001, which supports a variety of charitable causes. Marie Napoli also served on the board of The Bone Marrow Foundation. Napoli Shkolnik also support a wide range of other national and local charitable and community organizations, as does the entire legal team and staff. From sponsoring the St. John’s University President’s Dinner—where both of the Napoli’s graduated law school from—to holding annual food drives in every office to sending cards as part of the Holiday Mail for Heroes program to armed service members, veterans and their families, the importance of giving back is never overlooked. “I think the firm is based on the core values to help others,” Marie says. “Paul and I were brought up in similar communities with similar values. Helping communities and others is a primary goal of ours.” FOR THE FUTURE What do the founders of Napoli Shkolnik envision for the future? “We will keep leading the fight far into the future,” Marie Napoli says. “We will continue helping people who can’t help themselves. We find satisfaction in being their voice and being there for them. That is what our firm is truly about, and it extends far beyond local boundaries. The environmental cases, for example, are important to all communities throughout America. The way our country and its laws are based has unfortunately allowed contaminations to occur nationwide. We are the gatekeepers to prevent these, and other, harms.”