Donald G. Derrico Partner




Don Derrico focuses his practice on defending complex, high-exposure claims. During his career, he has taken in excess of 100 jury verdicts in New York courts and in other jurisdictions across the country. Excess insurers and other clients often ask Don to step in on the eve of trial to try their high-exposure case when it hasn’t previously settled. He has obtained countless defense verdicts and has resolved many matters for significantly less than prior defense counsel’s recommended settlement amount.

While many of the cases Don has litigated involve New York Labor Law, premises liability and security, product liability and auto liability claims, he has been retained on cases in myriad other areas from real estate disputes to civil rights matters to contested matrimonial actions. Don also has significant experience defending clients in the sports and fitness area. He currently serves as primary outside counsel to a major East Coast health club chain, overseeing all claims and working closely with the client’s insurer on reserve setting and pre-suit resolution. In addition, he is the primary point of contact for several of the firm’s excess insurance company clients and frequently is called upon by these and other carriers to evaluate high-exposure cases being litigated by other defense counsel.

Regardless of subject matter, venue or adversary, Don is adept at evaluating potential exposure and liability and determining the best strategy for achieving a favorable outcome while keeping defense costs under control. He assembles a team of attorneys best qualified to execute the client’s chosen resolution strategy and provides hands-on supervision throughout the life of a matter to ensure clients receive quality legal representation.

Prior to joining Wilson Elser, Don was one of the attorneys of record at Atlantic Mutual Insurance Company.

Representative Matters

Rivera v. The County of Westchester: Retained on eve of trial in this case brought by the estate of two young children who were steamed to death when their drug-addicted father and mother fell asleep while the children were in the bathroom. The parents were being investigated by the department of social services for child neglect and abuse. The estate claimed that the County failed to conduct a proper investigation, resulting in the death of the children. The court denied the County’s motion for summary judgment. After being retained to handle the trial, we convinced the judge to dismiss the action based upon a qualified immunity defense. Plaintiff sought $7 million and had been offered $2 million.

Caldwell v. Cablevision: Retained two weeks before trial in this case in which plaintiff claimed she tripped and fell over a trench that defendant cable company had dug in front of her driveway causing her to sustain a compound tib/fib fracture that required surgical repair. While in the hospital, plaintiff contracted sepsis and nearly died. She was hospitalized for several months and was unable to return to work. Plaintiff’s demand was $3 million. We convinced the jury that plaintiff was not being truthful about how and why she fell and that defendant had completed its work weeks before plaintiff’s accident. Although the jury found that defendant was negligent, it returned a defense verdict finding that defendant’s work was not the proximate cause of the accident. Verdict affirmed on appeal.

Burke v. Johnson March Systems: Retained within two weeks of trial in this case in which plaintiff alleged that a 3,000 pound water sample panel manufactured by the defendant fell onto him while he was moving it and caused him to sustain devastating injuries, including a crushed pelvis that resulted in incontinence and impotence. Plaintiff, a bodybuilder and aspiring model, further alleged that he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and clinical depression. He demanded $14 million. Plaintiff claimed that defendant violated the New Jersey Products Liability Act because defendant failed to adequately warn plaintiff that the panel had an off-center of gravity and failed to provide appropriate instructions. At trial in federal court, we argued that the packaging on the panel could not be marked because it could shift during shipping and give a false impression of the location of the center of gravity. We further argued that defendant supplied the co-defendant purchaser of the panel with schematic drawings that clearly delineated the center of gravity. After a seven-day trial, the jury found that our client was not negligent and did not violate the New Jersey Products Liability Act. The jury did find the co-defendant negligent and awarded more than $12 million to plaintiff.

Van Norden v. Mann Edge Tool Company: Retained to try and vacate a default judgment and inquest award of $1.4 million against the manufacturer of a log splitting maul that broke and hit plaintiff in the eye with a piece of metal. We argued that defendant manufacturer had not been properly served and that the claim should be dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired. The trial court vacated the default judgment but would not dismiss the case. On appeal, we convinced the appellate court to reverse the trial court and dismiss the case.

McKenna v. 1400 Fifth Avenue: Retained one day before jury selection in this case in which plaintiff alleged he fell from a ladder while working at a construction site and sustained injuries that required a hip replacement and back surgery. Plaintiff sought $3 million for future lost wages and benefits. We convinced the judge that although summary judgment had been granted against our clients, the building owner and general contractor, we should go forward with a liability trial on the third-party claim. We were able to obtain a complete pass-through to the third-party defendant, which previously had refused to offer anything towards a settlement.

Doe v. Marriott: Represented defendant hotel in this case in which plaintiff alleged she was sexually assaulted in hotel’s parking garage in front of her children and demanded $19 million. Plaintiff claimed hotel knew the security camera on the floor where the assault occurred was broken, that security did not make routine patrols, and that hotel staff failed to report and investigate a suspicious man who had been in the garage for hours. During the course of discovery, we were able to undermine every theory of liability and effectively neutralize plaintiff’s experts. Two mock trials were conducted and both resulted in defense verdicts. On the eve of trial, plaintiff agreed to accept an amount significantly less than her original demand.

Vasquez v. Hunts Point: Retained one week before trial in this case in Bronx County, NY, which plaintiff alleged he slipped and fell as a result of a reoccurring condition on defendant’s premises and sustained back injuries that required spinal fusion, knee and shoulder surgery. Plaintiff demanded no less than $4.5 million. We uncovered some devastating collateral information about the plaintiff that undermined his credibility and addressed these issues at trial during a four-hour cross-examination of the plaintiff. Immediately following plaintiff’s cross, plaintiff’s counsel accepted the amount defendant had offered years earlier.

DeJesus v. Beer Gardens: Retained on the eve of trial in this case in which plaintiff sought a multi-seven-figure demand for permanent mental and physical injuries he sustained after he allegedly was stabbed outside defendant’s nightclub. Plaintiff and a group of friends got into a physical altercation with another group of patrons, and both groups were escorted out the same door at the same time and resumed fighting outside. Plaintiff alleged that he was stabbed immediately upon exiting the club. Although the incident had occurred more than five years before we were retained, we located a witness who was prepared to testify that the stabbing occurred two blocks away from the club. In addition, we located and secured the cooperation of the prosecuting ADA, whose notes and recollection of what transpired that night significantly contradicted plaintiff’s deposition. Plaintiff ultimately accepted a settlement well within the primary insurer’s limits.

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