Rochelle M. Fedullo Partner

     

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Rochelle M. Fedullo concentrates her practice on the defense of product liability actions along with a broad variety of other complex civil litigation. Her practice areas include general liability, professional liability, mass tort multidistrict litigation and class action matters. Shelli has significant experience defending product manufacturers and distributors in fire cases involving substantial property damage, catastrophic injuries or death. Her diverse experience also has included the defense of insurers against allegations of bad faith, copyright infringement litigation and employment matters.

A seasoned litigator, Shelli tried her first jury trial to a defense verdict in 1983. In the years since then, she has tried a variety of cases in both state and federal court with a strong record of defense verdicts or other favorable results. Shelli's trial experience includes claims as varied as prisoner civil rights, product liability, premises liability and professional liability. A teacher for close to a decade, Shelli uses her communication skills from the classroom to benefit her clients in the courtroom, recognizing that if a jury cannot understand her client's case, it will not be persuaded by it.

Shelli's direct litigation experience is complemented by her experience as national coordinating counsel for a manufacturing division of a Fortune 500 company. Shelli had responsibility for all aspects of litigation management, including supervising local counsel, formulating and coordinating defense strategy, participating in trials nationwide and advising senior company management. These experiences provided Shelli with deep insight into the impact of litigation from the client's perspective and the critical importance of strategic, purposeful and efficient case handling along with sensitivity to the client's goals and respect for its resources.

Leadership and Service Roles
Shelli has been deeply involved in the professional community since her law career began, culminating in her election as 2017 Vice Chancellor  of the 12,000-member Philadelphia  Bar Association, which she will lead as Chancellor in 2019. In the late 1990s, she was elected to the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Board of Governors, serving as vice chair in 2000 and chair in 2001. In 2007 she returned to serve two additional years as the representative of the State Civil Litigation Section, and she held cabinet positions in 2014 and 2016. She also has served as co-chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s State Civil Committee (creating and implementing a mentoring program) of the Women in the Profession Committee, of the Lawyer Information and Referral Service and of the Medical-Legal Committee. Shelli was deeply involved in the Philadelphia Bar Association’s diversity initiatives, serving on its inaugural Diversity Committee. She also has served on the Philadelphia   Bar Association’s Nominating Committee, The Sandra Day O’Connor Award Committee and the William J. Brennan Distinguished Jurist Award Committee. In 2011, Shelli served as co-chair of the annual Bench-Bar Conference, an event offering two days of CLE programming, which was attended by approximately one hundred members of the judiciary. She served as sole chair of this event in 2014. Shelli was a delegate to and presenter at the 2014 Conference of World City Bar Leaders, and served on the conference’s planning committee. 

Shelli’s contributions also include service on the  board of Philadelphia VIP (Volunteers for the Indigent Program), which serves as the hub of pro bono legal services in Philadelphia, and as a  trustee of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation, which provides funding to various pro bono legal services agencies. In addition she serves on the board of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia. In 2016, Shelli co-chaired the annual fundraising event for the SeniorLAW Center, a public interest agency that provides pro bono legal services to Pennsylvania senior citizens. She was a member of the Special Committee to Review the Recommendations of the Pro Bono Task Force, and was a member of the Special Committee to Coordinate Bar Response to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Racial and Gender Bias Report. 

Shelli also serves on the association’s Judicial Commission, which is tasked with investigating and evaluating candidates seeking election to Philadelphia trial courts and, in certain circumstances, those seeking state-wide election to appellate courts.

Shelli has served on the executive committees of the Philadelphia Association of Defense Counsel and the Temple University Law School Alumi/ae Association.

In addition, Shelli has served as a mentor to an inner-city high school student (now a college graduate) through The Philadelphia Futures Sponsor a Scholar Program.

Background
Before joining Wilson Elser, Shelli was a chief assistant city solicitor with the Major Trials Unit of the City of Philadelphia Law Department, where she defended the City and its employees in a variety of personal injury and civil rights claims. Prior to that, for close to a decade, Shelli taught language arts, writing and literature at a Philadelphia inner-city public high school and mentored and tutored students on a volunteer basis outside of school hours. She earned her law degree at Temple University School of Law successfully combining full time employment as a teacher with her law studies as an evening division student.

Areas of Focus

Product Liability
The wide range of products Shelli has defended includes, but is not limited to, power tools, industrial machinery and components, generators, gardening and yard maintenance equipment, household appliances, protective gear, bicycle components, light fixtures, furniture, cosmetics and hair dye, pharmaceuticals (including mass tort and multidistrict litigation) and cell phones (class action).

Fire-Related Matters
Shelli has defended manufacturers and distributors of a variety of consumer products alleged to have caused fires. These claims typically involve substantial property damages and sometimes involve death or catastrophic injury. In addition to product liability fire claims, she has defended matters involving fires that were claimed to have resulted from her clients’ negligence. 

General Liability
Shelli has defended general liability matters, including representing commercial property owners and managers in premises liability actions ranging from claims of negligent security resulting in sexual assault to claims of negligent property maintenance and claims of defects in property design or construction. She has defended an elevator maintenance company against claims arising from elevator and escalator accidents. Shelli has defended contractors and property owners in construction accident claims and demolition companies in property damages claims. She also has defended motor vehicle accident claims, including claims against trucking companies.

Professional Liability
Shelli’s experience defending professional liability matters includes claims against insurance agents and brokers, nurses, architects, pharmacists, and providers of mental health and related services.

Mass Tort / Class Actions
Shelli’s experience handling mass tort / multidistrict litigation and class action matters has included claims against manufacturers and distributors of pharmaceuticals, latex gloves, cell phones and beryllium-containing products.

Representative Matters

Defense verdict in $2.3 million indemnity claim brought against our client, the manufacturer of a motorcycle helmet, by the product distributor. The distributor resolved the claim with the plaintiff, and prosecuted plaintiff’s case against our client resulting in a defense verdict. In response to contentions that the product was defectively designed, we demonstrated to the jury that the helmet was two sizes too large for the plaintiff. This allowed it to shift position during the accident sequence leaving the impact location at the base of her skull exposed.

Defense verdict in a claim brought by a plaintiff with serious leg injuries (severed tendon) who claimed that our client’s product, a chain saw, was defective on multiple bases. Plaintiff also sought punitive damages.

Defense verdict in claim brought by a plaintiff who sustained a partial amputation of his foot who alleged that a lawn mower manufactured by our client was inadequately guarded.

Defense verdict in claim brought by a plaintiff who sustained very significant facial scars who claimed that our client’s product, a chain saw, was defective because it did not have a chain brake.

Defense verdict in claim brought by a plaintiff who sustained serious hand and arm injuries who claimed that our client’s product, a chain saw, was defective on multiple bases.

Favorable settlement during trial of wrongful death claim brought by estate of 18-year-old who died as the result of massive head injuries in a motorcycle accident. The decedent’s protective helmet, manufactured by our client, flew off his head before he hit the ground. The estate claimed this was due to a defective fastening device on the helmet strap. The defense denied this and claimed that the decedent failed to fasten the strap. Although she did not see him the morning of the accident, the mother of the decedent claimed that she had observed her son fasten the strap each time he donned the helmet and therefore it was his habit to do so. The case settled on very favorable terms following the defense opening statement.

Favorable verdict (less than 5% of demand) in claim in which plaintiff was struck by a metal part of a chain saw that flew out of the engine while the product was being repaired. Plaintiff claimed to have sustained disabling RDS of his arm

Nominal settlement during trial of a claim involving a chain saw accident. The plaintiff had permanent scars on his face that he claimed were the result of our client’s failure to include a safety device included on later product models. The plaintiff owned two chain saws, one of which included the safety device at issue. Plaintiff initially provided the newer saw for inspection (with the safety device removed) then contended that he had made a mistake and the older saw was involved in the accident. After vigorous cross-examination on this issue, the trial judge recessed and advised plaintiff’s counsel that his client would be wise to accept whatever amount, no matter how nominal, was offered by the defense and in turn urged the defense to resolve the case on this basis.

Favorable settlement through mediation of claim brought by co-president of a motion picture distribution company who suffered a permanently disabling CVA following use of our client’s OTC cold medication, which contained an ingredient that was alleged in nationwide litigation to cause stroke. The plaintiff’s future loss of earning capacity claim would have exceeded $15 million. Our aggressive defense included retaining a premier neurosurgeon who opined that the plaintiff sustained a rupture of a preexisting condition (AVM) that would have happened whether or not she ingested the product. We made painstaking efforts to track the lot number of the product package that was produced to us and were able to determine that the product hit the shelf in a NY drugstore while the plaintiff was on a business trip to Europe and could only have been purchased on the day she returned. This was very significant because the plaintiff was already experiencing severe headaches and other symptoms associated with the rupture of the AVM on the last day of her European trip and while on the plane ride back. Therefore, we contended that the rupture was inevitable before she took the cold medication.

Favorable verdict in action against insurance broker in claim brought by commercial property owner who claimed to have an uninsured fire loss of approximately $3 million due to broker’s alleged failure to place proper coverage. The verdict (under $200,000) was the exact amount of the recognized exposure from the case inception and the amount that our client was prepared to offer to resolve the case at mediation. Plaintiff’s lowest demand was approximately five times the amount of the verdict.

Favorable resolution of defense of manufacturer of portable gas-powered pump claimed to have caused the death by carbon monoxide poisoning of two teenaged boys due to allegedly inadequate product warnings.

Favorable resolution of claim against manufacturer of helmet which allegedly failed to adequately protect the 21-year-old rider of a motorcycle involved in an accident who sustained massive head injuries putting him into a permanent vegetative state.

Favorable resolution though mediation of claim against manufacturer of computer monitor which allegedly caused a fire resulting in excess of $2 million damage to a radio station transmitting tower.

Favorable resolution of claim against of pharmacist who was alleged to have negligently dispensed a prescription medication resulting in the death of a 22-year-old.

Favorable verdict in negligent demolition case in which plaintiff’s adjacent property was severely damaged and in turn required demolition. The plaintiff claimed he intended to convert his property to rental units and asserted a claim for lost income. In addition, the value of the property was in dispute. The jury rejected plaintiff’s lost income claims and accepted the defense property evaluation.