Goldberg Segalla LLP

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Opioid Exposures

Opioids — a class of drugs dating back to some of history’s oldest medicinal practices — have again captured a critical spot in the popular consciousness. Proclaiming an epidemic, national and local media outlets race each other to release reports on the use, misuse, and misunderstanding of both legally prescribed and illegally obtained opioids, while policymakers debate, pass, and implement statutory and regulatory changes that complicate decades of established medical standards spanning multiple industries.

With over 400 attorneys and 22 offices spanning 10 states, companies and professionals have turned to Goldberg Segalla for the reassurance of a firm with a national reach, an interdisciplinary approach to legal services, and a commitment to the highest standards of cost-efficiency and professionalism.

Knowledgeable, interdisciplinary, agile, and adaptable, our Opioid Exposures team can handle virtually any litigated matter and advise on complicated opioid-related legal issues spanning the full range of our firm’s practice areas and industry-specific capabilities. These include:

  • Counsel on insurance coverage needs, policy wordings, exclusions, and more
  • Defense in all types of product liability, personal injury, commercial, and other types of litigation
  • Employment practices counseling and litigation
  • Medical malpractice and other professional liability matters
  • Pharmaceutical and life sciences concerns
  • Workers’ compensation defense and risk-management
Our clients include medical professionals and institutions, pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers, distributor, and others affected by opioid exposures. Our experience includes acting as trial, monitoring, appellate, and national coordinating counsel, as well as handling class actions and multidistrict litigation (MDL), increasingly common in this space.

Employment and Labor
Every decision an organization makes with respect to managing its workforce entails risk — and risks are especially high for decisions about employment policies and procedures involving opioids in the workplace. With a nationwide reach and soup-to-nuts capabilities spanning employment litigation, human resources advice and training, and labor relations for both the public and private sectors, our team has guided some of the country’s largest employers through high-stakes litigation and risk management initiatives involving opioids.

Attorneys on Goldberg Segalla’s Employment and Labor team view our representation as a strategic partnership aimed at protecting the enterprise and its leaders while helping to advance its management philosophy and maintain its company culture. We help businesses and their executives contextualize opioid-related employment decisions within the context of comprehensive employment practices — including the interplay of opioid-related laws and regulations with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and state and local laws covering sick leave — as well as other legal concerns spanning workers’ compensation, general liability, directors’ and officers’ (D&O) and professional liability, and insurance coverage needs. In addition, we offer innovative and adaptable training and risk management programs that aid our clients in developing this holistic approach. These include, notably, our Integrated Disability and Workforce Management Program, which has helped many major employers to reduce legal spending and other inefficiencies by coordinating legal strategies and actions spanning disability, leave, performance, workplace safety, and health management issues; employee training and compliance with state and federal regulations; workers’ compensation; and arbitrations and mediations, government agency proceedings, and employment litigation.

General Liability
The increasing prevalence of legally prescribed and illegally abused opioids has driven a variety of liability litigation in jurisdictions across the nation, including everything from transportation-related incidents involving drugged driving to premises liability cases. We defend cases involving personal injuries occurring to individuals while on the property of the owner or municipality, as well as in the workplace. We represent the insurers of major property owners, such as school districts, shopping centers and plazas, and other places where the public is accommodated. With a nationally-recognized litigation practice and a deep and experienced roster of general liability attorneys, Goldberg Segalla is well positioned to defend virtually any opioid-related liability claim.

Insurance Coverage
Within the context of opioid law and litigation, insurers and companies both need to be aware of the variety of different insurance and reinsurance options that may be required. Understanding how courts have addressed insurance coverage related to opioid litigation is a necessity. One of the premier practices advising and representing the international insurance and reinsurance industry, our 75-lawyer Global Insurance Services group defends insurers in coverage litigation and also advises businesses on coverage needs. Drawing on our extensive experience handling sophisticated and novel opioid-related coverage matters, we help to draft new policy wordings and exclusions, and identify and advise on emerging opioid-related coverage issues.

Medical Malpractice and Professional Liability
Health care providers such as physicians and pharmacies involved with the prescription of opioid products will become a focus of professional liability litigation involving claimed opioid-related injuries — whether directly by an addicted individual, or injuries alleged to be caused by the addiction of the addicted individual.

Goldberg Segalla’s Management and Professional Liability practice — nationally regarded for its bench strength and record of success in complicated matters — joins forces with the firm’s Health Care and Long-Term Care practices to defend all types of health care professionals and companies facing malpractice and other medical claims. Our attorneys have counseled and defended health care professionals and businesses through some of the most sweeping regulatory changes, advances in technologies and practices, and trends in individual and class action litigation to affect the industry in the last two decades — including matters related to the prescription, distribution, and administration of opioids.

Our team includes former in-house counsel for health care businesses and systems, hospital and emergency room advisory committee members, and a former paramedic. Combining deep and diverse health care industry experience, a collaborative and holistic approach to legal services, and relationships with the nation’s top expert witnesses, we consistently find the ideal resolution for the claims our clients face — whether through early settlement or dismissal, mediation, trial, or appeal. These clients have included physicians, administrators, nurses, physician's assistants, a wide variety of medical specialists, and other health care professionals; as well as hospitals, long-term care facilities, specialty medical practices, and health care systems.

Life Sciences and Product Liability
Goldberg Segalla has a nationally-recognized life science and product liability practice that has tried product liability cases on behalf of Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States and FTSE 100 in the United Kingdom. These cases have involved catastrophic personal injuries, multimillion-dollar property losses, and environmental damage, as well as injuries and wrongful death. Our attorneys have extensive experience in life science and other product liability exposures for medically related products, and are steeped in medical and scientific issues that are at the heart of almost all of the opioid-related litigation.

Goldberg Segalla also delivers comprehensive transportation litigation services and counsel focused on helping clients keep their income-producing assets moving, delivering, and reloading. We are experienced in representing regional and national trucking, rail, automobile fleet, aviation, and other transportation-focused companies. We are particularly well-qualified to advise on the interplay of opioid-related employment policies and personnel decisions with the ADA and other statutes, as well as Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations and guidance, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR).

Workers’ Compensation
The prescription, over-prescription, and misuse of opioids increasingly affect workers’ compensation matters — both as contributory factors leading to injuries and as sources of rising claims and settlement costs. Because of this, we offer a comprehensive Opioid Impact Program (OIP) that helps claims professionals to reduce claimants’ use of prescription medications and to identify and mitigate claims that have the potential to spiral out of control in terms of cost and exposure. Our OIP employs an early-identification strategy to educate claims professionals on the key indicators of potentially problematic cases involving opioids and prescription drugs. It also sets forth a specific protocol to limit new prescriptions for new and older cases, along with a detailed blueprint on how to isolate, identify, and reduce claims with high prescription medication costs. The OIP is backed by the full force and national reach of the firm’s over 100-lawyer Workers’ Compensation practice, which has an extensive record of successfully defending private and public clients in a broad range of sectors and industries across the country. We have handled cases involving both major and minor injuries, in both the accident and occupational disease contexts.

Comprehensive Counsel, Stronger Defense
These are just a handful of the areas in which Goldberg Segalla can assist businesses, owners and executives, insurers, and professionals affected by the rapidly evolving landscape of opioid litigation and related issues. No list could be complete, because our attorneys continuously develop and apply new services and strategies to meet the fresh challenges that our clients face.

The group’s co-chairs have long been recognized as leaders in opioid-related law and litigation. Caroline J. Berdzik, also chair of the firm’s Health Care and Employment and Labor practices, draws on previous experience as in-house counsel to New Jersey’s largest privately held long-term care company, as well as her experience defending some of the country’s most prominent employers and providing them with ongoing risk avoidance counsel. Michael D. Shalhoub, who also serves as chair of the firm’s Life Sciences practice, is a nationally recognized authority on product liability, pharmaceutical/medical device, and medical malpractice defense, with a record of leadership in these areas at the highest levels of major legal and professional organizations. Beyond our leaders, other Goldberg Segalla attorneys have published and presented widely on issues at the forefront of the national discussion about opioids, and lawyers in our offices across the country are positioned and equipped to defend clients in opioid litigation, and advise on employment practices, and offer counsel on workers’ compensation claims-handling.

Home to true leaders in litigation and risk avoidance, Goldberg Segalla is also distinguished by a collaborative culture that allows us to make the most of our diverse practices for clients with complicated needs. “Putting the client first,” for us, means that our work begins with a concentrated effort to understand both the client’s industry and individual concerns and goals, and offer proactive legal counsel always aimed at long-term success. With a footprint stretching from Los Angeles to London, our attorneys have counseled clients across the U.S. and abroad, earning a reputation for outstanding work and stellar service. We did this by listening to our clients, appreciating their specific business philosophies and needs, and respecting their desire for efficiency. These values allow us — and our clients — to excel.

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  • 5.0/5.0 Review for Michael Rubin by a Partner on 05/28/15 in Civil Litigation

    Mike is an excellent attorney, a strong client advocate and worthy adversary.

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    Mr Brown served as a law clerk at the Appellate Division, Fourth Dept., one of New York's intermediate appellate courts while I was Presiding Justice of that Court. His work was outstanding.

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Both within our own firm and across the wider business and legal communities, Goldberg Segalla’s commitment to diversity is strong, sincere, and a critical component of our firm’s mission and culture. Our philosophy has always been that we hire people who are excellent at what they do, and even better human beings. Period. We feel we would be doing a disservice to our firm and to our clients if we didn’t include contributions from every available resource.

We are extremely proud that our commitment has received regional and national recognition for the innovative programs we have developed and the results we have been able to achieve. The following is a sampling of the firm-wide or individual honors we have received for implementing initiatives that make a difference:

  • George B. Vashon Innovator Award, Minority Corporate Counsel Association
  • MCCA Firm Affiliate Network
  • Vault/MCCA Commitment to Diversity
  • Community Service Award, Defense Research Institute
  • Good Works Award, American Bar Association Section of Litigation
  • Outstanding Committee Chair, ABA Section of Litigation
  • Diversity Trailblazer Award, New York State Bar Association
  • Legal Service Award, Minority Bar Association of Western New York
  • Lawyer of the Year, Bar Association of Erie County
  • Legal Community Leader Award, National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York
  • Diversity Excellence Award, Buffalo Niagara Human Resource Association
  • Value Award for Diversity, Leadership Buffalo
  • Western New York Game Changers, Buffalo Spree magazine

What we are most proud of, though, is that our efforts have shown significant results and continue to make a lasting impact on the lives of many.

Leadership and Action

To put our philosophy and commitment into practice, we have a Diversity Task Force, which includes our managing partner, in place to conceptualize and implement diversity-focused programs as well as give diversity a voice in our decision-making at the highest level. The individuals on this task force share the firm’s strong commitment to increasing diversity, and they use their unique experiences and backgrounds to support and advance that goal. The team meets regularly to create programs, schedule events, establish diversity initiatives both inside and outside of the firm, set long-term goals, and develop the strategy to recruit and retain people from diverse backgrounds.

The chair of our Diversity Task Force, Joseph M. Hanna, has spearheaded numerous diversity initiatives in various organizations and outreach programs, serves on several diversity-related committees, and is a frequent author and speaker on diversity. Among other positions, he is co-chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Young Lawyer Leadership Program, former chair of the association’s Minority Trial Lawyer Committee and its Special Committee on Human Rights, and former editor-in-chief of the ABA’s Minority Trial Lawyer; a 2014 fellow of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD); a past president of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York (MBAWNY) and the MBAWNY Foundation; and the Diversity Liaison for several committees at the 22,000-member DRI.

For more than a decade, Goldberg Segalla has proudly supported the ABA’s Judicial Internship Opportunity Program, which provides racial and ethnic minority law students, along with members of other groups underrepresented in the legal profession, opportunities to serve as an intern with a judge during the summer after their first or second year of law school. Joe Hanna — an alumni of the program himself — acts as a mentor and leader in the program, through which he has conducted more than 100 interviews for students across the country.

In 2017, Goldberg Segalla participated in the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program, the New York City Bar Association’s flagship pipeline program for high school students. As a participating legal employer, we hosted high-achieving inner-city students for the summer and collaborate with the NYC Bar to provide them with additional programming before, during, and after the summer designed to help them prepare for a legal career.

Each summer, Goldberg Segalla proudly welcomes interns through a formal Diversity Clerkship Program that was conceived by Joe while he served as president of the MBAWNY. The program was developed in collaboration with the MBAWNY and the SUNY Buffalo Law School to provide opportunities for minority UB Law students to gain firsthand experience in the legal system. Since it was launched in 2011, the program has placed more than 100 students in clerkships in area courts as well as in several area law firms, with more judges and law firms asking to participate every day. It provides participants with an in-depth look at the legal process and the interaction between the bench and the bar that they would not otherwise get. At our firm, a dedicated team of partners monitors the work of these law clerks and ensures they obtain valuable experience to help develop important legal research, writing, case management, and client service skills critical to their long-term success. Our program earned the firm the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s 2012 George B. Vashon Innovator Award.

We also have sponsored Success in the City, an annual diversity networking and mentoring event developed by Joe that brought together students, legal and business professionals, educators, nonprofits, and political leaders to make lasting partnerships. Many employment, business, and mentoring relationships resulted from this event. Past events have drawn more than 500 political and business leaders, legal professionals, and students. Success in the City has influenced the development of similar programs in Baltimore, Cleveland, Birmingham, Dallas, and elsewhere.

Our firm is committed to spreading the message throughout the broad legal and business communities that embracing diversity contributes to greater overall success. We conduct training sessions for in-house counsel at Fortune 500 corporations on increasing and promoting diversity. Our attorneys have authored articles and delivered presentations on diversity for various legal organizations, including DRI and the ABA, and our efforts and accomplishments in this area have been profiled in publications such as Law360, the New York State Bar Association’s State Bar News, Business First of Buffalo, the Buffalo Law Journal, and others.

In one example of our work to provide inspiration and raise awareness of diversity and women’s issues in the legal community, Caroline Berdzik, chair of our Employer and Labor Practice Group, spoke to Law360 for the publication’s “Female Powerbrokers” series. In the interview, Caroline discussed her career, the challenges of being a woman at a senior level at a law firm, the work-family life balance, and the importance of taking risks. She also offered guidance to female attorneys on moving their careers forward and advice to law firms on both increasing the number of women partners and retaining top female talent. Her longtime advocacy for women (at her previous firm, she served on the Women’s Business Development Committee and was a member of what became the national Women’s Presidents Organization) helped earn her a spot on the 2015 NJBIZ list of New Jersey’s Best 50 Women in Business.

Joe Hanna also was featured by Law360 in its “Minority Powerbrokers” series, in which he shared his perspective on breaking the glass ceiling in the legal industry, the challenges of being a lawyer of color at a senior level, how law firms can increase diversity in their partner ranks, and Goldberg Segalla’s core commitment to diversity.


Goldberg Segalla is proud to be a member of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association Firm Affiliate Network, which was created by the MCCA to assist and acknowledge law firms that are committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

We are also a member of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD), a national organization of leaders in law firms and corporate legal departments dedicated to creating a truly diverse legal profession. As noted earlier, Joe Hanna was a fellow of the LCLD in 2014. In this position, he played a critical role in organizing the first-ever New York City LCLD Fellows Roundtable event, and he was instrumental in establishing a mentorship program in Hartford for local diverse first-year law students.

We support the diversity efforts of numerous organizations, including:

  • American Bar Association
  • Asian American Bar Association of New York
  • Columbian Lawyers Association
  • Defense Research Institute
  • Federal Bar Association
  • Korean American Association of Greater New York
  • League of First Nations
  • Minority Bar Association of Western New York
  • National Bar Association
  • Native American Rights Fund
  • National Association of Asian American Professionals
  • National Congress of American Indians
  • New York State Bar Association
  • Seneca Free Trade Association
  • SUNY Buffalo Law School
  • Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York

Our outreach efforts led to the creation of a comprehensive database of more than 500 minority law organizations throughout the United States. Contact between these organizations takes place in anticipation of bringing CLE and legal programs together. This group of minority bar associations includes both local and national organizations, such as:

  • National Association of Women Lawyers
  • National Association of Muslim Lawyers
  • Hispanic National Bar Association
  • National Asian Pacific American Bar
  • Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles
  • South Asian Bar Association of Philadelphia
  • Vietnamese American Bar Association of North Carolina

A Talented and Diverse Team

Diversity is further evident within our firm through the many languages and dialects spoken by members of our team, including Albanian, Arabic, Croatian, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Malayalam, Mandarin, Marathi, Norwegian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, and Urdu.

Goldberg Segalla’s culture is one that values team-spiritedness, collegiality, and interpersonal harmony within our working community. We are a firm that believes in diversity in the workplace, and we are proud to offer a professional and positive work environment for each and every member of our team.

On these values, and on our commitment to diversity, we will never waver. We are proud of what we have accomplished thus far, but we also realize that this is a long-term mission. We will continue to innovate and to improve diversity in law and business — both within Goldberg Segalla and across the communities in which we live and work.

Diversity Matters — Join the Conversation

If you have questions regarding any of the firm’s diversity initiatives or would like to discuss ideas regarding increasing diversity in the legal profession, please contact Joe Hanna (716.566.5447; [email protected]) or another member of our Diversity Task Force:

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