Are You Considering Filing Physician or Educator Sexual Abuse Charges? We Have Your Back.

We understand that coming forward in a sexual abuse case and pursuing legal action is one of the most difficult and painful experiences anyone can go through. We applaud your bravery.

If you are a victim of physician or educator sexual abuse or sexual assault, you may feel confused, embarrassed or ashamed and we know that you may be hesitant to share your experience. Our place is not to judge. We are here to listen to your story and answer any questions you may have about the process of filing a claim, what happens next and what is involved in moving a lawsuit forward. You will not have to pay us out-of-pocket for any confidential conversations or our legal services.

When you decide the time is right for you to pursue legal action, we are here to help you understand your options and choose the one that’s right for you. We pursue civil actions against the individuals involved, as well as the affiliated institutions that failed to prevent or stop the abusive behavior. You will speak with a female attorney who is empathetic, compassionate and experienced in working with victims of trauma. Together, we will determine your comfort level and where we go from here.

“One of the most important things I can do for victims of sexual abuse is to listen to their experience and support them through the process,” says attorney Erika O’Donnell. “Whether they are ready to fight, or want to proceed at a more cautious pace, I will meet them where they are. My job is to be by their side while we seek justice for their life-changing trauma.”

If you choose Shepard O’Donnell as your legal partner to hold those individuals who flagrantly breached your trust accountable for their actions, you will work with the same attorney for the duration of your case. While some firms might pass you around a team of lawyers, we value your privacy and understand that a single point of contact can be comforting. Whether you prefer virtual or in-person meetings, or if you’d rather text or call, we will tailor our communication to fit your needs. 

We are empathetic yet fierce defenders of your honor and promise to do everything in our power to hold sexual offenders, and the institutions that employed them, accountable for the harm they’ve inflicted. At this time, we are actively evaluating claims of sexual abuse against Dr. Richard Kauff, Dr. Derrick Todd, and faculty members at Miss Hall’s School in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, including former teacher Matthew Rutledge. 

Please call us at (800) 451-4471 if you’d like to have a confidential, no obligation conversation about filing a potential physician or educator sexual abuse lawsuit. We are here to help.


Three Shepard O’Donnell Attorneys Recognized in the 2023 Edition of Massachusetts Super Lawyers

Shepard O’Donnell, one of the top asbestos personal injury law firms in Massachusetts for 25 years, announces that three of its attorneys were selected for inclusion in the 2023 edition of Massachusetts Super Lawyers, with two included on the Super Lawyers list and one on the Rising Stars list.

Founder Michael Shepard and Co-Managing Partner Erika O’Donnell were recognized on the 2023 Massachusetts Super Lawyers list in the Personal Injury – Products: Plaintiff practice area. 

Partner Michael McCann was recognized on the 2023 Massachusetts Rising Stars list in the personal Injury – Products: Plaintiff practice area. The Rising Star designation recognizes lawyers under the age of 40 years old or those in practice for less than ten years. Each year, no more than 2.5% of lawyers in each state are selected for inclusion on the Rising Star list. 

Super Lawyers is a research-driven, peer-influenced rating service for lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The mission of Super Lawyers is to bring visibility to attorneys who exhibit excellence in practice. The selection process, as detailed on the Super Lawyers website, is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and evaluations that identify a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.


Plaintiffs Liaison Counsel

What is it and why does it matter?

The roles of Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel and Defendants’ Liaison Counsel have existed in the Massachusetts State Court Asbestos Litigation Docket for over 30 years. The Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel, sometimes called Lead Plaintiffs’ Counsel or Lead Counsel, helps determine what cases get trial dates, ensures the Judge has everything needed to get cases through the system, and liaises with defense counsel.

Roles and responsibilities

The attorneys appointed to serve as Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel by the Court are responsible for working with the Court and the Special Master on global docket management issues, including establishing and implementing pre-trial orders, setting cases on yearly trial lists, communicating the Court’s directions to the many litigants on the Plaintiff and Defense side, and managing the needs, expectations, and complaints of the lawyers who practice in the Asbestos Docket. In short, Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel is responsible—especially post-covid—for managing the backlog of cases and ensuring that things run smoothly.

Why it’s important

The Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel is crucial to the management of the Massachusetts Asbestos Litigation docket and is a central player in the organization and timeliness of the docket. They communicate on behalf of plaintiffs and coordinate all necessary discovery requests, motions, and subpoenas on a case. In a case such as a class action, this plays an important role in keeping the Plaintiffs and appropriate parties organized and on schedule. The Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel also manages the complexity of collaborating with the Defendants’ Liaison Counsel and works to find common ground to keep the docket on track.

How Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel is selected

The Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel can be court-appointed or selected by the plaintiffs. In many cases, each court or docket has appointed a Lead Counsel who should be available in the event of a case where they are needed. Typically, the attorney appointed is committed to their cases and the local and national court systems.

Benefits to our clients

Shepard O’Donnell team members have held the role of Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel for the Massachusetts Asbestos Litigation docket since 2017, positioning the firm as a leader in asbestos litigation in Massachusetts. Knowing that someone on your side will be there to represent the case within the court system should serve as peace-of-mind.

Mike Shepard – 2017-2022
Erika O’Donnell – 2022-present


Erika O’Donnell Receives 2023 “Top Women of Law” Honor

Shepard O’Donnell, one of the top asbestos personal injury law firms in Massachusetts for 25 years, announces that Co-Managing Partner Erika O’Donnell has been named to the 2023 Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly “Top Women of Law” list. This highly competitive honor celebrates the exceptional accomplishments of women attorneys as leaders, educators and mentors. The award also recognizes attorneys for their pro bono, social justice, advocacy and business efforts.

O’Donnell’s practice focuses on asbestos litigation, management of the firm, and more recently, her position as Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel in the Massachusetts Asbestos Litigation (MAL) docket. Throughout her nearly 20-year career, she has achieved numerous multi-million-dollar settlements and verdicts in cases involving mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases, smoking-related cancers and pharmaceutical drugs and devices. Additionally, O’Donnell is a role model and mentor to other attorneys and paralegals at the firm. In recognition of her many contributions, O’Donnell was named co-managing partner in 2023, and the firm rebranded to Shepard O’Donnell. 

“Erika has been an instrumental component of our success, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this prestigious honor,” said Founder Michael Shepard. “For the many years I have known her, Erika takes initiative and dives into the complexity of asbestos and toxic tort litigation without hesitation, all while mentoring the next generation of legal professionals. She is everything you want a personal injury lawyer and a partner to be. Congratulations on this amazing achievement!”

As an active member of the Boston legal community, O’Donnell is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Worcester Bar Association, the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys and the American Association for Justice. O’Donnell is a founding member of a prestigious national group of female toxic-tort litigators, Women of PALS. In addition to her recognition as a “Top Women of Law,” she has been recognized by Massachusetts Super Lawyers and The Best Lawyers in America.

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly reports decisions issued by all the state and federal courts in Massachusetts, as well as changes to court rules, verdict and settlement reports, bar-discipline notices, and all other news vital to attorneys in the commonwealth. It also covers hundreds of rulings from state and federal trial courts in Massachusetts.


Shepard O’Donnell’s Erika O’Donnell Presents at Women of PALS Trial Academy

Shepard O’Donnell’s Erika O’Donnell Presents at Women of PALS Trial Academy

Shepard O’Donnell, one of the top asbestos personal injury law firms in Massachusetts for 25 years, announces that the firm’s Co-Managing Partner Erika O’Donnell presented on the panel, “Negotiation and Mediation Tactics,” at the Women of PALS (Plaintiffs Asbestos Litigation Seminar) Trial Academy in Las Vegas on May 9. The seminar featured speakers from across the country and covered numerous asbestos-related litigation topics. The firm was also an event sponsor.

O’Donnell serves as co-managing partner of Shepard O’Donnell. An accomplished litigator, she has achieved numerous multi-million-dollar settlements and verdicts in cases involving mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases, smoking-related cancers and pharmaceutical drugs and devices. Most notably, O’Donnell successfully represented the Summerlin family in Summerlin v. Philip Morris USA, et al. (No. 1581CV05255, Mass. Super., Suffolk Co.), a case that brought co-defendants from an asbestos product company and a cigarette manufacturer to trial before a jury. After a five-week trial before the Suffolk Superior Court in Boston, Shepard O’Donnell secured a $43 million verdict on behalf of their client.O’Donnell is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Worcester Bar Association, the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys and the American Association for Justice. She has been recognized by Massachusetts Super Lawyers since 2012.


Shepard Law Announces New Firm Leadership and Changes Name to Shepard O’Donnell

Shepard Law Announces New Firm Leadership and Changes Name to Shepard O’Donnell

Shepard Law, one of the top asbestos personal injury law firms in Massachusetts for 25 years, announces that longtime firm attorney, Erika O’Donnell, was appointed co-managing partner to run the firm alongside founder, Michael Shepard. In conjunction with the leadership change, the firm also rebranded to Shepard O’Donnell. 

O’Donnell has been a key member of the Shepard Law team since 2005, when she joined the firm as an associate. Over nearly two decades, she has achieved numerous multi-million-dollar settlements and verdicts in cases involving mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases, smoking-related cancers and pharmaceutical drugs and devices. Additionally, she is a role model and mentor to other attorneys and paralegals at the firm. In recognition of her many contributions, O’Donnell was elevated to equity partner in 2019. 

“Erika has worked beside me for many years, helping to build a talented, compassionate legal team,” said Shepard. “She is a fearless advocate for our clients and is a tireless fighter for them and their families. Erika is everything you want a personal injury lawyer to be, and I’m thrilled to have her lead the firm with me.”

O’Donnell’s roots growing up in a blue-collar family from Worcester, Massachusetts steered her toward a career helping sick and injured workers get the compensation they deserve for their illnesses. The opening of the firm’s second office in Worcester in 2017 allowed O’Donnell to return to her hometown and help other local families in that community. She is active in the Worcester Bar Association and is a founding member of a prestigious national group of female toxic-tort litigators. O’Donnell is highly respected by both colleagues and adversaries in the litigation field. 

“As the firm celebrates its 25th anniversary, it is an honor to take on this expanded role,” said O’Donnell. “I’ve always believed it is important to hold large corporations and businesses accountable for their wrong-doings. And, with the personal injury legal sector in Massachusetts becoming more crowded with so-called ‘national firms’ looking to take mesothelioma cases, it’s equally important for clients to understand that having responsive, compassionate and sincere counsel that understands the local court system and who lives and works in the same state is crucial to success. At Shepard O’Donnell, we treat our clients the way we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes.”

Shepard Law made headline news in October 2018 with its victory in the Summerlin v. Philip Morris USA, et al. case (No. 1581CV05255, Mass. Super., Suffolk Co.)—a notable case that brought co-defendants from an asbestos product company and a cigarette manufacturer to trial before a jury. After a five-week trial before the Suffolk Superior Court in Boston, Shepard Law secured a $43 million verdict on behalf of their client. O’Donnell was involved in representing the case on behalf of the Summerlin family.

In addition to the Summerlin case, O’Donnell was involved with an asbestos mesothelioma case involving a chemical engineer who was exposed to asbestos at a large plant in Springfield, Massachusetts. That case was notable in that she was able to successfully identify and bring suit against many defendants that had never been sued before in Massachusetts for their asbestos-containing products. In 2018, O’Donnell also successfully litigated a case involving a client who worked spraying asbestos insulation in buildings as a teenager, and later developed mesothelioma as an adult in his 60s.

O’Donnell is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Worcester Bar Association, the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys, and the American Association for Justice. She has been recognized by Massachusetts Super Lawyers since 2012.

Connect with Our Team

Erika O'Donnell Featured in Super Lawyers Article

Erika O’Donnell was recently quoted in Super Lawyers’ article discussing the actions you must take, and when, if you or a loved one fall ill from asbestos.

YOU HAVE 3 YEARS TO FILE A MESOTHELIOMA LAWSUIT IN MASSACHUSETTS
The actions you must take, and when, if you or a loved one fall ill from asbestos

Read the full article

Exposure Spotlight: Paper Mills

Written by: Erika O’Donnell

Massachusetts has a proud tradition of paper-making. In fact, there was a time that Holyoke was the world’s largest center for papermaking. Generations of families worked at local paper mills and many communities were erected to support the mills. Work in a paper mill could be grueling. Mills were generally hot, dusty, and demanding. Many paper mills also utilized asbestos in the paper they processed and in their facilities. A person working in a paper mill could have been exposed from asbestos from:

Asbestos used in the paper: We know that many specialty papers utilized asbestos as an ingredient of the paper. The asbestos would be added into the pulp and anyone in the vicinity while the asbestos was being poured into the pulper or who came into contact with the raw asbestos would certainly have been exposed to asbestos fibers. Likewise, anyone who either slit the asbestos-containing paper or was in the vicinity when the paper was being slit would have been exposed to asbestos fibers.

  • Asbestos-containing insulation: Paper mills were generally older buildings and utilized steam to heat the facility and to run the paper-making equipment. Millwrights, welders, insulators, and pipefitters may have come into contact with asbestos-containing pipe insulation while performing their duties. Disturbing or replacing the insulation would have exposed a worker to asbestos fibers from that insulation.
  • Asbestos-containing dryer felts: Depending on the type of paper being made at the paper mill, asbestos-containing dryer felts may have been utilized on the paper machine. Cutting the dryer felts, changing the dryer felts or disturbing the dryer felts in any manner may have caused exposure to respirable asbestos fibers.
  • Asbestos-containing component parts: A paper machine and its componentry are just some of the equipment in a paper mill. There are many other types of equipment such as pumps, valves, and steam traps that are needed for the paper mill to run. Millwrights and maintenance mechanics are routinely exposed to asbestos from asbestos-containing packing and gaskets utilized in the pumps and valves in the mill.

Shepard Law has represented a number of individuals with exposure to asbestos from their work at various paper mills throughout New England and New York. We have had great success getting compensation for clients who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma from their work at the following paper mills:

  • Mead Specialty Papers — Lee, MA
  • Mohawk Fine Paper — Cohoes and Waterford, NY
  • Erving Paper — Erving, MA
  • Hollingsworth & Vose Co — Walpole, MA
  • Strathmore Paper — Russell, MA
  • Kimberly-Clark/Schweitzer — Lee, MA
  • Westfield River Paper Company — Russell, MA
  • Mountain Mill Paper Co. — Lee, MA
  • Rising Paper Co — Housatonic, MA
  • Crane Paper — Dalton, MA
  • St. Regis Paper Mill — NY

Because of the nature of mesothelioma, many individuals who worked in paper mills in the 1960s–1980s are only experiencing symptoms now. If you or a loved one worked with or around asbestos-containing products at a paper mill, monitor your health closely. And if you have further questions, feel free to contact our firm.


Assisting Families Affected by Mesothelioma: Quick and Meaningful Tips

Written by: Erika O’Donnell

A diagnosis of mesothelioma is extremely difficult on the whole family. There are so many questions to be answered, so many appointments to keep track of, and so many difficult decisions to be made. However, there are things that you can do to assist a family who is dealing with a diagnosis of mesothelioma:

Set up a meal train.

  • Patients with mesothelioma and their families have many appointments to go to and preparing healthy meals after a day filled with doctors’ appointments and/or treatments is easier said than done. Organizing a meal train is a helpful way to make sure the person diagnosed with mesothelioma and his/her caregiver is getting the nutrition they need.
  • There are many websites that can help you organize and participate in providing meals to the family in need such as https://www.mealtrain.com/ or https://www.takethemameal.com/.
  • Some friends and family may prefer to purchase a gift card rather than cooking a meal. Make a list of eateries that the person being treated for mesothelioma may like a gift certificate from. Good places to suggest are eateries in the area of the hospital and/or treatment facility and take-out places close to home.

Set up a care schedule.

  • Between doctor’s visits and treatments, a person diagnosed with mesothelioma has a lot to organize and a lot to consider when choosing where to treat for their disease. In Massachusetts, we are lucky to have some of the best hospitals in the world for the treatment of mesothelioma right in Boston. For many, the choice to be treated at these hospitals brings the stress of traveling into Boston. In some cases, having someone volunteer to drive a person with mesothelioma into Boston would provide great relief.
  • A person undergoing treatment will have a variety of needs (a ride to a doctor’s appointment, an appointment to get their glasses fixed, new socks, etc.). A care website will allow the person with mesothelioma to schedule the assistance they need. Friends and family can then volunteer through the site to provide the assistance. One such site is http://lotsahelpinghands.com/.

 

Providing family meals is a small but meaningful way to help out families.

Spend time.

  • Mesothelioma can be a very painful and debilitating disease. Many people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma also struggle with depression as a result of their diagnosis. Spending time with a person diagnosed with mesothelioma is a wonderful way to support them though their diagnosis. Remember, the patient may be suffering and is not there to entertain you. You are there to comfort them and provided some much needed respite for their caregiver.

Take care of technological needs.

Many people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma are older and not technologically advanced. There are many apps and websites that may benefit them greatly but they may not be aware of. Take some time to help that person:

  • Skype with a grandchild who lives far away
  • Set up a Netflix queue so when they have difficulty sleeping due to pain, they don’t have to watch infomercials
  • Show them how to play Candy Crush so that they have something to pass the time while getting chemotherapy treatments

Support their lawsuit.

  • Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products knew of the hazards of exposure to asbestos but continued using asbestos and did not warn persons coming into contact with it to take any precautions. For that reason, many patients diagnosed with mesothelioma choose to pursue a lawsuit against the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products that they came into contact with during their career. Asbestos can take between 15 and 60 years to cause disease in your body. Which means that in order to be successful in a lawsuit, a person with mesothelioma needs to prove the types of asbestos they were exposed to 15 – 60 years earlier. This is no easy feat. Many times, people with mesothelioma must reach out to co-workers to help them remember the products they worked with or the people they worked around. It is easy to brush off those inquiries for fear of being involved in litigation but taking those phone calls could mean a great deal to that family. Supporting the person’s lawsuit can set them up for financial assistance which will greatly help their family when paying for all the medical bills and other costs associated with treatment for mesothelioma.

For a family dealing with the consequences of mesothelioma, doing even just one of the above activities will be a great help to them. Don’t think that your small act of kindness and friendship won’t be appreciated by the family.


During Asbestos Awareness Week, Let’s Remember Caregivers Too

Written by: Shepard Law Firm Staff

With Global Asbestos Awareness Week approaching (April 1–7), we want to not only raise awareness of asbestos, but also the effects that a diagnosis of lung cancer or mesothelioma has on the family and caregivers of someone with lung cancer or mesothelioma. Therefore, let’s use this week in April as a reminder to support the individuals who spend their time and energy caring for others.

When someone is diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease their family typically rallies around that person to provide support, comfort, and care. Caregivers tend to get wrapped up in caring for their loved one and don’t always take the time to take care of themselves and deal with their own grief and loss due to the diagnosis. A caregiver spends their time driving their loved one to appointments, making sure that their loved one is taking all of the correct medicines, eating properly, and is as comfortable as possible, all while maintaining a home, paying bills, and educating themselves and their family on their loved one’s diagnosis and prognosis. This is extremely taxing on any one person and caregivers may feel stressed out, alone, or depressed. As difficult as it seems, caregivers need to remember to take care of themselves too!

If you are a caregiver, remember to:

    • Take Frequent Breaks: Although it may not seem possible to take breaks away from providing your loved one with your full attention, steal away time when you can. If someone comes to visit your loved one, do not feel that you have to entertain them. Take that time for yourself.
    • Accept Offers of Help: When friends and family offer to help, they mean it! It’s difficult to know how to help in situations where someone has been diagnosed with a serious disease, so don’t be afraid to tell trusted friends and family what they can do to help out. It can be as simple as asking them to bring over a meal, driving your loved one to an appointment, or coming over and making you laugh. They will appreciate knowing how to help you and you will have some much needed help.
      • A great tool that helps with this goal is a website like http://lotsahelpinghands.com/. This website helps you specify the assistance that you need and allows people in your circle of trust to sign up to provide that assistance for you. The site also provides you with a means to communicate directly with those in your private “community” to get information out.
    • Exercise: Taking time to do something for yourself is important. Take a walk around the block to clear your head or take a class that you enjoy.
      Create a Way to Get Information Out: Taking care of a loved one is a full time job and the constant calls asking for updates can be exhausting if you try to keep everyone informed. Create a way to update your friends and family without having to continually call each and every one of them. Options include:

      • Private group on Facebook: Setting up a private group will allow you to send private information to only those who you would like to have that information.
      • Create a blog: A blog allows you to communicate with anyone that wants information on you and your loved one. They are easy and free to set up using the WordPress website – https://wordpress.com.
      • Start a telephone tree: Give each person in your group a person to call when there is news. Call the first person on your list and ask that they call their contact person to share the news and contact the next person in line.
    • Join a Support Group: There are many local support groups for caregivers which allow a caregiver to get the support that they need to continue on with their very difficult support role. Check with your local hospitals or see the list below:
      • Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA
      • Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA
      • UMass Medical Center, Worcester, MA
      • Bay State Hospital, Springfield, MA
      • SouthShore, Norwell, MA

At Shepard Law, we are fortunate to meet many wonderful clients and their supportive caregivers. We recognize that a diagnosis of mesothelioma doesn’t only affect the person being diagnosed with the disease. During this week, we wanted to take the time to thank the tireless caregivers that show such amazing strength, resilience, and compassion while taking care of their loved who have been diagnosed with lung cancer or mesothelioma.

If you or a loved one is an undergoing treatment for lung cancer or mesothelioma and would like to learn more about your rights please call us for a free, confidential consultation at (617) 451-9191.