Heather Isringhausen Gvillo Nov. 12, 2014, 9:25am

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) – Senior Partner Paul Napoli of the Napoli, Bern, Ripka & Shkolnik law firm has resumed responsibilities in the firm’s asbestos docket after being cleared by doctors from leukemia.

Napoli 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 while he is on travel restrictions from his doctor.

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 letting 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.

However, Bern’s sentiments towards Napoli at the company’s meeting contrast significantly from an alleged feud between the two partners.

According to a New York Post article published on its website early Sunday, a “power struggle” between Napoli and Bern developed when Bern claims he noticed some irregularities in the firm’s operations after Napoli was diagnosed with cancer.

Bern did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

However, Paul and his wife Marie Napoli provided a statement in response to the article saying “the Post captured only part of the story and twisted the claims to make tabloid news.”

It went on to say, “As many of you know, Marc for inexplicable reasons, decided once I got sick to try and take over the law firm I have built over the last 20 years. He quietly waited until I went under the knife for my transplant before firing key employees who worked for me in running the firm. At the same time, he fired my 72 year old father (the biggest earner in the office in personal injury). While in ICU Marie had to leave my side and rush to Court to get the Court to order him to cease.

“Despite the fact we were best friends, that I was the best man at his wedding, and identified at the morgue the body of his neglected son who died of heroin, he did not visit me once in the hospital, nor call or even email.  All my attempts to connect to date have been met with utter silence. While I always wondered after five wives whether him and I would have any issues I never imagined the lengths of the deception or the lows a single person could go to.  I heard a great quote today about friendship: ‘everyone wants to ride with you in a limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down’.  True friends help in times of adversity and times when you are sick, they don’t abandon you and they certainly don’t choose to hurt you.

“While Bern’s litigation tactics are deplorable, this does not change the fact that our family is stronger than ever and the firm continues to operate as usual.  While our marriage went through a hard time, like many do, but that is behind us now.  My wife has been nothing but loving in my time of need—taking care of me every night and day while I recover from this terrible cancer. I love her deeply.”

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 (a devout Catholic) 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 leukemia, Napoli’s wife, Maria Napoli, ran in the New York City marathon, raising about $50,000 for cancer.

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

From Legal Newsline: Reach Heather Isringhausen Gvillo at asbestos@legalnewsline.com

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