Bill Vaslas is a trial lawyer with an extraordinary record of success defending physicians and healthcare institutions. Specializing in all phases of complex medical malpractice defense litigation and long-term care litigation, from inception through trial, Mr. Vaslas has been representing physicians in nearly every medical specialty in the courts of New York and New Jersey for more than 25 years.
An effective communicator, Mr. Vaslas possesses a thorough understanding of medicine and the ability to distill complex medical issues down to their core. Throughout his career, he has been successfully defending physicians and healthcare institutions against high-exposure multimillion-dollar claims. Testament to his reputation for excellence, Mr. Vaslas was selected by multiple defense firms to serve as lead trial counsel in litigation involving medical malpractice and pharmaceutical liability. He has also successfully represented physicians in disciplinary proceedings before the New York State Department of Health Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC). In addition, Mr. Vaslas has defended a wide range of matters in the areas of general liability, products liability, toxic tort and commercial litigation.
Mr. Vaslas’ expertise has been recognized by his peers as well as the judiciary, physicians, healthcare institutions and insurance carriers. He has been asked to speak before judges and court administrators who preside over and manage medical malpractice cases in New York State. In addition, Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Company has selected him to participate in presentations to physicians regarding medical malpractice risk reduction and the impact of litigation. A frequent CLE speaker, Mr. Vaslas has lectured to his peers in the area of medical defense litigation. He has discussed pretrial litigation from the defendant’s perspective and has spoken before the New York State Trial Lawyers on “Unique Aspects of a Medical Malpractice Trial.”
Mr. Vaslas has also been asked to share his insights and experience with a broad range of healthcare providers, including physicians, nurses, hospital administrators and risk managers. He provides in-service presentations to nursing home and long-term care employees from the perspective of a litigator and trial attorney in an effort to optimize care and effectively reduce risk.
Each year since 2007, Mr. Vaslas has been named to the New York Super Lawyers list as a top medical malpractice defense attorney. Only 5 percent of lawyers in New York State are named to the Super Lawyers list for their high level of peer recognition and professional achievement.
A 1982 graduate of Rutgers University and a 1985 graduate of Brooklyn Law School, Mr. Vaslas is admitted to practice in the state and federal courts of New York and New Jersey, as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the Third Circuit.
Richard Lepowsky heads the firm’s corporate practice. He is a talented attorney and negotiator who offers clients unique services generally not found in a medical malpractice defense litigation firm. Mr. Lepowsky has substantial experience with commercial transactions, corporate law, partnership agreements, employment contracts, complex real estate matters, trust and estate matters and regulatory issues.
After obtaining a B.S. with honors in economics from New York University in 1982, Mr. Lepowsky graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1985, where he was a member of the Moot Court Honor Society. He has been admitted to the bars of the State of New York and State of New Jersey since 1986.
Karen Hauss represents hospitals, nursing homes and physicians in all phases of medical malpractice litigation in state and federal courts. She represents physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers at state licensure inquiries, hearings and professional misconduct trials, and she also has extensive experience representing corporations and professional clients before governmental and quasi-governmental agencies, including the Commission on Human Rights, the Department of Health, IPRO and the NASD. Additionally, Ms. Hauss presents educational and risk management seminars and programs for physicians, nurses, hospital staff and nursing home staff regarding risk identification, risk prevention and the defense of medical malpractice claims.
Prior to her career in medical malpractice defense litigation, Ms. Hauss worked for several years as a registered nurse, holding the positions of staff nurse, head nurse and clinical coordinator. She graduated from the State University of New York at Downstate Medical Center with a B.S.N., magna cum laude, in 1978, and from Brooklyn Law School in 1984. Ms. Hauss is admitted to practice in the state and federal courts of New York and New Jersey and in the Supreme Court of the United States.
Paul J. Danke, Jr., is an experienced litigator and trial attorney with a long record of obtaining favorable results for clients by way of verdict, motion practice and settlement. Since entering practice, Mr. Danke has focused on the defense of physicians, hospitals and healthcare professionals in complex medical malpractice lawsuits. He handles all phases of litigation from inception through trial, representing a wide range of the firm’s medical, hospital and healthcare clients in state and federal courts. Mr. Danke’s other areas of practice include the defense of general liability actions, appellate practice, and the representation of healthcare professionals at disciplinary proceedings. He has also presented educational and risk management lectures for physicians and hospital staff regarding the defense of medical malpractice actions, risk identification and risk prevention.
Mr. Danke is a 1986 graduate of Manhattan College, where he received a B.S. in biology. He earned a law degree from St. John’s University School of Law in 1990. He is admitted to practice law in the state courts of New York and New Jersey, as well as in the United States District Courts for the Southern District of New York, the Eastern District of New York and the District of New Jersey.
In April 2016, Mr. Danke was selected as a member of the Nation's Top One Percent by the National Association of Distinguished Counsel. NADC is an organization dedicated to promoting the highest standards of legal excellence. Its mission is to objectively recognize attorneys who elevate the standards of the Bar and provide a benchmark for other lawyers to emulate.
Due to the incredible selectivity of the appointment process, only the top one percent of attorneys in the United States are awarded membership in NADC. This elite class of advocates consists of the finest leaders of the legal profession from across the nation.
William F. Mastro is a skillful litigator who successfully defends clients in medical malpractice, negligence and catastrophic personal injury cases. Defending physicians, hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities in all phases of litigation and appellate practice, Mr. Mastro has obtained many favorable dispositions and settlements for the firm’s clients. He has also been asked to speak on various topics and issues pertaining to the NY Medical Indemnity Fund before judges and court administrators who handle cases involving healthcare issues. Mr Mastro's other areas of practice include the defense of claims in general liability, products liability and the representation of physicians in licensing and disciplinary matters.
In 2015, Mr. Mastro was named by New York Super Lawyers magazine as a Rising Star in the Metropolitan New York area. No more than 2.5% of the lawyers in New York are named to the Rising Stars list.
Mr. Mastro served on the board of directors of the Richmond County Bar Association and is a member of the New York State Bar Association, Brooklyn Bar Association, Columbian Lawyers Association and New York State Medical Defense Bar. He is a 1998 graduate of the State University of New York at Albany, where he received a B.A. in philosophy, and he obtained a law degree from New York Law School in 2002. Mr. Mastro is admitted to practice law in the state courts of New York and New Jersey, as well as the United States District Court of New Jersey.
Kenneth M. Dalton has a proven track record of successfully defending physicians, licensed professionals, healthcare providers and general liability defendants in all phases of litigation, through trial and appellate review. An experienced trial attorney, he has written extensively in the field of civil litigation practice and has been published by West Publishing and the Practising Law Institute. Mr. Dalton has also presented continuing education programs to a variety of bar associations, professional healthcare organizations and insurance carriers on topics including civil procedure, trial practice and risk management.
Mr. Dalton is a past president and chairman of the board of the Defense Association of New York. He earned a B.A., magna cum laude, from Brooklyn College in 1976, and a law degree from Fordham University School of Law in 1980. He is admitted to practice in the state and federal courts of New York and New Jersey, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Edward F. Humphries is a highly successful litigator with 30 years’ experience in handling medical malpractice and personal injury litigation. He has handled all phases of medical malpractice and personal injury litigation from inception through trial and appeal in both the state and federal courts. Mr. Humphries has successfully represented physicians, health care providers and other defendants at the trial of complex medical malpractice and personal injury cases in the States of New York and New Jersey. By applying an in-depth understanding of the standards of medical care and the impact of medical records on litigation, Mr. Humphries is able to identify alleged departures from the standard of care and successfully address the validity of such allegations before and during deposition and trial. Through a thorough investigation of complex claims, including identification of disclosed and undisclosed theories of liability, Mr. Humphries has been able to successfully defend claims of medical malpractice and general liability.
Mr. Humphries was admitted to the New Jersey State Bar in 1984, the New York State Bar in 1985 and both the Pennsylvania and Hawaii State Bars in 1990. He is admitted to practice in the federal courts of New York, New Jersey and Hawaii and the Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. Humphries is a member of the New York State, New Jersey State and Hawaii State Bar Associations. He has lectured to hospital personnel regarding the appropriate keeping of medical records. After graduating magna cum laude, with a bachelor’s degree from Baruch College, City University of New York in 1981, he received a Juris Doctor degree from Fordham University, School of Law in 1984.
Kathryn Sweeney is involved in all phases of defense litigation, from inception through trial. A former assistant district attorney, Ms. Sweeney was involved in the prosecution and trial of criminal matters before joining VLHD to pursue a career in medical malpractice defense litigation. She obtained a B.A. from Le Moyne College in 1993 and a law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 2001. Ms. Sweeney is admitted in New York and New Jersey.
M. Maureen Klette was a practicing registered nurse before pursuing a career defending healthcare providers in medical malpractice actions. Ms. Klette handles all phases of medical malpractice defense litigation, from discovery to trial. She earned a B.A. from New York University in 1988 and a law degree from Rutgers Law School in 1992. Ms. Klette is admitted to practice in New York.
Ida A. Caputo focuses on the defense of hospitals, physicians, and nursing homes in complex medical malpractice litigation, working on all phases of pretrial discovery. She also has experience in successfully defending a vast array of general liability actions with an emphasis on premises liability, mass tort, labor law, elevator liability and property damage at the trial level.
Ms. Caputo earned a B.A. cum laude from New York University in 1995 and a law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1999. She is admitted to practice law in the state and federal courts of New York.
Ian Nerlfi focuses his practice on the defense of physicians and hospitals in medical malpractice actions, participating in all aspects of pretrial discovery. Mr. Nerlfi obtained a B.A. from the University of Vermont in 2005 and a law degree from Albany Law School in 2009. He is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey.
Graig R. Avino focuses his practice in the area of medical malpractice, representing physicians, hospitals and nursing homes in both New York and New Jersey State Courts. During his career, Mr. Avino has also represented attorneys, insurance brokers, real estate appraisers and engineers in civil defense litigation. Mr. Avino obtained a B.A. in politics from the Washington & Lee University in 2000 and earned a law degree from the Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania State University in 2004, where he also served as a Comments Editor for the Penn State International Law Review. He is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey.
Anila C. Gunawardana focuses her practice on the defense of physicians and healthcare providers in complex medical malpractice litigation, working on pretrial discovery and expert retention. Ms. Gunawardana graduated in 2009 from the Honors Program at Boston College with a B.A. in psychology and a concentration in neuroscience. She earned a law degree in 2013 from Emory University School of Law, where she received the Dean’s Public Service Award, the Dean’s Award in Human Rights Perspectives, and served as an Executive Board Member of the Emory Public Interest Committee. She is admitted to practice law in the state and federal courts of New York and New Jersey.
Michael Present is a member of the firm’s corporate and real estate departments. Mr. Present advises start-up and established private investment funds, investment advisors and broker dealer firms in connection with their formation, management and operation. Mr. Present has represented securities firms and individuals in industry and customer arbitrations before the NASD and New York Stock Exchange.
In the real estate area, Mr. Present represents businesses and individuals in the acquisition and sale of commercial and residential properties, construction financing and lease transactions.
Mr. Present serves as general counsel to hospital-based medical practices and other privately held businesses. Mr. Present also has extensive experience in Surrogate’s Court practice and has represented Executors and Administrators in Will contests, Accounting Proceedings and general Estate administrative matters.
Mr. Present obtained a B.A. from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1982 and a law degree from Hofstra University School of Law in 1985. He is admitted to practice in New York.
Neil F. Schreffler heads the firm’s appellate practice. An experienced trial attorney and litigator, Mr. Schreffler applies his expertise towards the defense of physicians, hospitals and nursing homes in all phases of medical malpractice defense litigation. He obtained a B.B.A. from the College of Insurance in 1970 and a law degree from Syracuse University College of Law in 1973.
Benjamin H. Haftel is a trial lawyer with more than two decades of litigation and trial experience. During his career, Mr. Haftel has handled a wide range of complex matters in the areas of medical malpractice, insurance coverage, general liability, commercial litigation, products liability (including pharmaceuticals), toxic tort, construction liability, municipal and police liability, defamation as well as select criminal defense matters. For nearly 25 years, Mr. Haftel has successfully defended doctors, nurses, hospitals, other allied health care providers and facilities at trial in the Superior Court of New Jersey. He has also successfully represented clients before the Appellate Division and Supreme Court of New Jersey. He has an exceptional record of success at trial. Mr. Haftel is Certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Civil Trial Attorney. The Supreme Court awards this designation only to those attorneys who have demonstrated advanced levels of experience, education, knowledge and skill in civil trial practice. Less than 3% of all New Jersey attorneys receive this designation.
Mr. Haftel also represents physicians and other healthcare providers at state licensure proceedings. Mr. Haftel has lectured on medical negligence issues, risk management, legal trends and a number of other health care related issues for various educational, professional and business entities, including physicians, nurses, residents, hospitals, physician associations, specialty practice groups and judges.
Mr. Haftel is a 1986 graduate of Union College and received his law degree from Emory University School of Law in 1989, where he was a Member of the Moot Court Board. He is admitted to the New Jersey Bar, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.