Napoli returns to asbestos litigation practice after leukemia battle

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Nov 11, 2014

Senior Partner Paul Napoli of the Napoli, Bern, Ripka & Shkolnik law firm resumed responsibilities in the firm’s asbestos docket after being cleared by doctors from leukemia.

In an interview Monday, Napoli said he will begin working with the firm’s other asbestos attorneys on preparing cases for trial and is planning to assume 100 percent of his former responsibilities by early December.

However, his work will be limited to New York until next June because he is on travel restrictions from his doctor, he said.

Napoli said he is excited to be back in the full swing of things, saying he expects his work to help him complete a full recovery.

“Some people go to work to make money and some people enjoy work,” he said.

Napoli said he didn’t have any plans to make changes to the firm’s asbestos department, but reiterated that the firm has made a commitment to reduce the number of cases it takes, focusing instead on the quality of cases.

However, he added that the firm will continue to file as many cases that are necessary as clients continue to bring appropriate claims.

At a September meeting in St. Louis, the firm talked with local asbestos attorneys to discuss past mistakes, specifically with the firm’s initial approach to filing asbestos lung cancer cases, when it announced that it intended to file less cases after thoroughly conducting complete evaluations and reviews of the cases.

At the St. Louis meeting, fellow senior partner Marc Bern praised Napoli’s strength, saying he did not let his diagnosis get in the way of his work as he continued to be involved in the firm’s asbestos department as much as possible.

Calling his diagnosis a “tipping point,” Napoli said catching his disease was a close call.

He began feeling ill on a Friday and by Tuesday, his mother-in-law told him that she knew something was wrong with his blood. He agreed to go to the hospital the next morning when he was admitted immediately. He said doctors informed him that if he had waited just hours longer, he would have suffered major organ failure and would not have survived the cancer.

After bone marrow transplants from his younger brother (the only match they could locate) and other cancer treatments, he said he has been in remission since July, but it was confirmed on Oct. 7.

In support of his overcoming leukemia, Napoli’s wife, Maria Napoli, ran in the New York City marathon, raising about $50,000 for cancer research, he said.

Napoli said much of the donations came from asbestos plaintiffs and defense lawyers.

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