Donald G. Derrico
Office Managing Partner
Don Derrico primarily 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 Mr. Derrico to step in on the eve of trial to try their high-exposure case which could not be settled before trial. He has obtained countless defense verdicts and has resolved hundreds of matters for significantly less than prior defense counsel’s recommended settlement amount.
Prior to his legal career, Mr. Derrico worked in construction which is why many insurance carriers retain him to defend their insured’s in construction related litigation. He has litigated and tried hundreds of cases involving wrongful death, catastrophic accidents at construction sites, product liability, auto & trucking accidents and premises liability & security claims. In addition, Mr. Derrico has litigated complex commercial disputes, class actions and land use and zoning disputes. He has been retained in a myriad of other areas from real estate disputes to civil rights matters to complex matrimonial actions.
Mr. Derrico has more than 20 years of experience defending clients in the sports and fitness field. 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, Mr. Derrico 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.
Hodzic v M. Cary, eta al: Don obtained a directed verdict after an eight-day trial in Queens, New York. The plaintiff, a sales associate at JP Morgan/Chase alleged that she tripped and fell at work as she was exiting a printer room at the bank. The firm's client, the general contractor, was hired by JP Morgan/Chase to renovate the bank which included the installation of a raised floor. The client hired a carpentry subcontractor to perform the work. The client supervised the work which was performed over the weekend while the bank was closed.
The building plans, which were prepared by JP Morgan/Chase’s architect, did not include raising the floor in the printer room which created a three inch step down into the printer room. On Monday, when the plaintiff returned to work she tripped and fell as she was exiting the printer room. The plaintiff alleged that our client violated the NYC Building Code and had been warned by one of the subcontractors that leaving a three inch step without a ramp was dangerous. Further, the plaintiff’s expert testified that the step in question did in fact violate the applicable building codes and the contractor should have built a transition ramp. The plaintiff sustained injuries to both arms and neck which resulted in a two level fusion to her neck and two elbow surgeries. The plaintiff claimed that as a result of her elbow surgeries she developed complex regional pain syndrome and was no longer capable of working.
At trial, Derrico was able to establish that our client as well as the carpentry subcontractor built the raised floor pursuant to the architectural plans and that the plans did not include a ramp into the printer room and/or any work in the printer room. After eight days of trial the plaintiff rested. Without putting on any witnesses, Derrico moved for a directed verdict. Derrico successfully argued the client followed the building plans and did not owe a duty to the plaintiff. After three and half hours of oral argument the court granted the motion for a directed verdict. The plaintiff demanded $7 million to settle the case. No offer was made.
Shepard v. Esak: The plaintiff alleged that as the result of a rear end collision in 2013 she sustained injuries to her neck and back. Ultimately, the plaintiff had a lumbar discectomy and was recommended to have a cervical discectomy and fusion. After the plaintiff was granted summary judgment on liability, the carrier contacted Derrico and asked that he try the damages aspect of the case. The plaintiff’s doctor who performed the lumbar surgery testified that the plaintiff would require a lumbar fusion and revision and cervical fusion and revision in the future. The doctor opined that the cost of these four future surgeries would be $1.1 million. The plaintiff alleged that as a result of her injuries and surgery she could no longer work. The plaintiff was previously employed as a Home Health Aid. The plaintiff asked the jury for $6.1 million. The jury deliberated only 25 minutes and returned a defense verdict based upon their finding that the plaintiff had not sustained a “serious injury”.
Scott v. Logan Bus: The defendant was in the process of making a right turn when the plaintiff, who was riding a hybrid electric bike, struck the right front fender of the bus. The defendant driver admitted that she knew the plaintiff was riding his bike behind her in a designated bike lane and that she didn’t see him when she turned because he was in her blind spot. The defense argued that the bus driver properly signaled her intention to turn and that the plaintiff failed to see the turn signal and was riding too close to the bus.
The plaintiff claimed that as a result of the accident and injuries his private equity fund had to shut down which resulted in the loss of millions of dollars. The plaintiff called numerous experts including an accident reconstructionist, neurologist, orthopedic surgeon, orthopedist, neuro psychologist, a vocational expert and a life care planner. All of the plaintiff’s experts opined that he sustained a serious head injury with brain damage which caused him psychological injuries which prevented him from continuing as a private equity fund manager.
The defense called a neuropsychologist, orthopedic surgeon and a neurologist. The defense experts opined that the plaintiff’s complaints at the emergency room and subsequent treatment were inconsistent with having sustained any head injury and that an MRI of his brain and his neuropsychological tests failed to confirm any brain damage. With regard to the lost earnings claim ($18 million), Derrico argued that his tax returns for the past five years showed a decline in income each year prior to the accident and that the plaintiff had numerous federal and state tax liens against him. The plaintiff asked the jury for $38.5 million in damages for pain and suffering, past lost earnings, future lost earnings, past and future medical expenses. The jury deliberated for four and half hours and returned a verdict wherein they found the plaintiff was 50 percent at fault and they only awarded the plaintiff $1 million which was reduced to $500,000 for his comparative fault. Derrico was brought prior to trial by the excess carrier.
Landa v. Town Sports International: The plaintiff, a professional guitar player alleged that during a complimentary personal training session the personal trainer taught him an advanced plyometric “jump up” exercise onto a flat bench. Several weeks after the complimentary personal training session while performing the exercise on his own the plaintiff lost his balance and fell. Plaintiff asserted that the exercise was an advanced exercise specifically designed for professional athletes and not appropriate for a novice. In addition, the plaintiff asserted that a flat bench was not the properly equipment and the exercise should have been performed on either a step or plyometric box. As a result, plaintiff sustained a fractured elbow to his dominant arm which required surgical repair. Plaintiff asserted that the accident and injury caused permanent damage to his elbow which resulted in an inability to play guitar as he did prior to the accident. Plaintiff called an expert in personal training who opined that the exercise was not suitable for a novice gym patron and a flat bench should never been used for this type of advanced exercise. Derrico was able to establish on cross that the plaintiff had varied the exercise he had been taught and that he used an incline bench not a flat bench. Further, Derrico undermined plaintiff’s expert by establishing that he never actually discussed the accident with the plaintiff, never visited the gym to inspect the equipment and was unable to positively identify the bench that was utilized. The defense called Dr. Shawn Arent a professor of Exercise Science at Rutgers University who opined that not only was a “step up” a suitable exercise but that a flat bench is commonly used to perform this exercise. In addition, Dr. Arent opined that plaintiff was performing a “jump up” exercise not a “step up” when he was injured and that a “jump up” was in fact an advance plyometric exercise. Dr. Arent further opined that a “jump up” exercise would never be taught during a complimentary personal training session. The plaintiff demand 1.5 million dollars. The jury deliberated 20 minutes and returned a unanimous defense verdict.
Gomez v. The County of Westchester, et al.: Plaintiff alleged that as she was crossing the street, in the crosswalk, the defendant’s bus struck her and knocked her to the ground. As a result, she alleged that she sustained injuries to her neck and lower back. Plaintiff ultimately had neck and lower back surgery. Plaintiff’s doctor testified that she would require 2 additional surgeries in the future to her neck and lower back. The plaintiff claimed that as a result she was no longer able to work. Prior to being retained by the County to try the case, plaintiff was awarded summary judgment on liability. Derrico was brought in by the County’s excess carrier who attached after 1 million to try the damages aspect of the case after summary judgment was awarded. Prior to the trial plaintiff had been offered and rejected 1.2 million to settle. Plaintiff asked the jury for 5 million dollars for past & future pain and suffering, past & future lost wages and for past & future medical expenses. Plaintiff called the surgeons who performed the neck and lower back surgery, a radiologist and a life care planner who opined that the plaintiff would incur 1.5 million in future life care expenses. The defense called a radiologist and orthopedist. Both opined that plaintiff’s neck and lower back conditions which necessitated the surgery were pre-existing and that the need for surgery was unrelated to the accident. The experts further opined that the plaintiff’s neck and back issues were resolved by the surgery. The jury awarded plaintiff $800,000 for past lost earnings, past medical expenses and past & future pain and suffering. There was no award for future medical expenses.
Hannigan v. Inland Western Saratoga Springs Wilton, LLC, et al.: Plaintiff, a Federal Express driver, alleged that ice outside a Staples store in an upstate New York shopping center caused him to slip and fall. Plaintiff alleged that the condition existed for at least 48 hours prior to the accident and that the property owner and snow removal contractor failed to remediate the condition. As a result, the plaintiff sustained several lumbar herniations which resulted in three (3) back surgeries. The plaintiff did not return to work after the accident and demanded $12.5 million to settle the case. While both the plaintiff and his co-worker testified that he slipped and fell on ice, Derrico was able to undermine the credibility of the plaintiff by showing that his version of the accident differed from his co-workers in terms of how and where the accident occurred.
The plaintiff called an expert meteorologist who opined that the ice existed for at least 48-50 hours prior to the accident and was the result of improper piling of snow and ice against the building which resulted in a melting and refreeze across the sidewalk. Derrico countered the plaintiff’s expert by successfully offering into evidence the snow removal contractor's extensive records which established that 10 hours prior to the accident he had applied calcium chloride to the sidewalk in question and that it had been snowing for at least 10 to 15 minutes before the accident occurred. After 45 minutes of deliberations the jury returned a unanimous defense verdict. Don was asked to step in and try the case 1 month before trial.
Anthony DePalma v. C& S Wholesale Grocers: Retained after the pre-trial mediation failed. Plaintiff alleged that he sustained severe injuries to his head, neck, lower back and shoulders when the cranking mechanism for the landing gear of a trailer snapped back and struck him in the face. As a result, plaintiff was rendered unconscious and had several surgical procedures. Plaintiff claimed that as result of the accident he could no longer work and would require extensive medical treatment in the future. Plaintiff rejected the offer of $750,000 and mediation and stated her would not accept less than $2,200,000. Mr. Derrico tried the case and obtained a unanimous defense verdict.
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.
Solórzano v. Skanska: Mr. Derrico was asked to step in three weeks before and try this matter which involved an asbestos worker who fell from a scaffold and sustained numerous injures which resulted in multiple surgeries. Plaintiff claims that the building owner and the general contractor violated section 240 of the labor law (scaffold law) in that the scaffold did not have the proper railings and was defective. Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment for strict liability under section 240 was denied. Mr. Derrico argued to the jury that the scaffold was safe and that the plaintiff was the sole proximate cause of the accident in that he failed to properly secure the removable handrail after he climbed onto the scaffold. Plaintiff demand $4.5 million to settle and had rejected several 7 figure offers. The jury returned a defense verdict 25 minutes after beginning deliberations.
Wilson v. The County of Westchester: Plaintiff claims that she was struck by defendant's bus while crossing a road in the crosswalk. As a result plaintiff sustained numerous severe injures which resulted in hip and back surgery. Mr. Derrico and his team were retained 1 month before trial. In that short period they were able to track down a non-party witness and obtained several other items of crucial evidence. The Prior defense counsel's motion for summary judgment was denied based upon the affidavit of the non-party witness who stated that the plaintiff was in the crosswalk when the impact occurred. The Police report stated that she was 30' from the crosswalk. The court denied the motion as a question of fact. When Mr. Derrico and his team met with the non-party witness the witness disavowed the affidavit and advised that he only met with plaintiff's investigator and only signed a piece of paper which he was told would confirm that the investigator spoke to him. He was adamant that he never signed an affidavit. The non-party witness advised Mr. Derrico and his team that the plaintiff was not in the cross walk and in fact was 30' from the cross walk and walked into the side of the bus. Plaintiff demanded $4 million to settle. The jury was out 45 minutes and returned a unanimous defense verdict. Mr. Derrico also handled the post-trial appeal and the Appellate Division unanimously affirmed the verdict.
U.S. District Court, Eastern and Southern Districts of New York
New York State Trial Lawyers
Westchester County Bar Association
Bronx Bar Association
Columbia Lawyers Bar Association
Mr. Derrico is a Little League coach, a youth lacrosse coach and soccer coach.