Master of Disaster
When the unthinkable happens, Daniel Gallucci helps make things right
Published in 2006 Pennsylvania Rising Stars magazine
By Pat Olsen on November 27, 2006
If you pass Daniel Gallucci’s office at the RodaNast law firm in Lancaster, you’ll likely find him on the floor. Not stretching his back or searching for a contact lens. Working.
“I’m cross-referencing standard operating procedures and medical protocols with other documents, such as pre-trial statements,” he explains as he sits amidst an Everest of files. The cases are often overwhelmingly technical, and the best way he knows of getting at the truth is to get all the information he needs and build the case — quite literally — from the ground up.
Take the work he did last year on behalf of the family of a man who died after he ingested ephedra. The man’s wife had gone to a popular retailer and asked for a diet pill that would not contain that particular drug. The clerk said, “Take this. It doesn’t have ephedra; it has ephedrine.” The wife thought the clerk knew what he was talking about, so she gave the pills to her husband. Shortly afterward he had a fatal heart attack, leaving behind three children. An autopsy found ephedra in his body.
Gallucci uncovered a document, likely while on all fours, which proved devastating to the retailer. It said that in the 1990s the company had sold the drug to the armed services, which gave it to soldiers during boot camp. After military doctors sounded a warning, the top brass sent the retailer a memo requesting that no more ephedra be sold to military stores. Gallucci found the memo, which included a directive from the retailer to stop selling and shipping the product to consumers. The company settled before the jury could determine damages.
Law is a natural fit for Gallucci. He certainly didn’t have to look far for role models in the industry: His stepfather and mother are the Roda and Nast of his current employment.
Joseph Roda pegged Gallucci as a star many years ago. “Dan was always well liked, even as a kid,” he says, adding that he had “street sense” from an early age. “He’s very good at reading people, and an expert negotiator.”
He also displayed an affinity for the disadvantaged from a young age. He volunteered to work with mentally challenged students in high school, playing hoops or taking walks with them. He downplays his role, saying “it was a win-win situation,” but it forecasted a desire to help those in need that would manifest itself later in life.
Gallucci went on to Gettysburg College, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1994. He was planning to get his master’s and go on for his doctorate when a professor, noting how Gallucci likes to argue, suggested law school. Liking that idea, he attended Penn State Dickinson School of Law, where he was the articles editor of the Dickinson Law Review. He graduated in 1998 as the winner of the Conrad A. and Rocco C. Falvello Memorial Award for outstanding achievement.
His first job out of law school was clerking for the Hon. Michael A. Georgelis of Lancaster County. Gallucci enjoyed his experience, but was eager to start practicing law. In 1999 he joined RodaNast. His mother, Dianne Nast, who married Roda in 1980 and joined him in practice in 1995, was, of course, thrilled. “Dan could have gone any place, but he elected to join us,” she says.
One of his first big cases involved a family torn apart when its SUV rolled over after being broadsided. Two children in the third-row seat were killed, and another sustained a traumatic brain injury. Gallucci and Roda were co-counsels on the case.
“Halfway through the pre-trial work I called Dianne and said, ‘In case I get hit by a truck, I want you to know Dan’s doing a magnificent job,’” Roda says.
It was the first case involving this type of SUV to go to a jury. The key was proving that the company had rejected an alternative, safer design. “We had documents showing they were trying to cut costs on safety equipment on the third-row seat,” Gallucci explains. The car manufacturer removed the headrests, which meant that in an accident a passenger could hit metal instead of soft material. When Gallucci played a video that showed how a person’s head would rebound and slam into the metal pillar on the door, the jurists’ mouths dropped open.
“From that point on, it was a measure of damages,” he says. The car manufacturer smartly decided to settle for a confidential amount.
Not everything was a home run in those early years. Like all lawyers, Gallucci had to gain some savvy in sizing up cases. His first solo case provided a learning experience.
It seemed to be a promising product liability lawsuit. His potential client had been in an accident involving a car with a known defect. He could barely talk because of an alleged brain injury and even brought someone with him to tell his story. Gallucci pursued the case aggressively for two weeks — until he learned the story was a lie.
“I called the ‘victim’ to tell him I was rejecting the case because it wasn’t worthwhile to pursue it,” he says. All of a sudden the man went from incoherent and braininjured to articulate and extremely aggressive.
“I learned very quickly that you need to check out your client’s story,” he says. “I like to trust people, but in some cases people on both sides will do things that are disingenuous.”
When things like that happen, he knows just where to go to brighten his mood: his summer house in Sea Isle City, N.J. Surrounded by wife Kimberly and daughters Olivia, 5, and Ava, 1, that’s where he is most relaxed, and as a result, does some of his best legal thinking. It’s when he can step back a bit that he often gets to the “a-ha” moment. And that’s what he lives for. Yet even during moments of exhilaration he never forgets that he is working with clients who have experienced a devastating loss.
“The downside of a personal injury case is sitting down with a family and saying, ‘This is what your husband is worth,’” he says.
Last June, Gallucci became a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an organization of attorneys who have won million- and multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements. That same month he won the third-largest jury verdict ever in a Lancaster County wrongful death suit — $2.08 million, with delay damages totaling almost $2.5 million.
While racking up such impressive results Gallucci has also carved out a reputation as an expert on complex pharmaceutical cases. “He has a niche practice within the firm — he’s the only one who handles pharmaceutical personal injury cases,” Nast explains.
He is so well thought of in this area of law that other firms seek out his specialized knowledge (he’s an expert on beta-blockers, which are used to treat hypertension, for example). He’s been brought in on such major mass-tort cases as Baycol, fen-phen and Vioxx. His role in the fen-phen class action was particularly memorable.
“I was thrown right in,” he says. RodaNast was subclass counsel for the plaintiffs in the massive tort case, and Gallucci, just one year out of law school, was asked to step in. His role was to work with experts to help ensure that the settlement was fair.
“I flew around the country for weeks on end taking depositions,” he explains. “Few lawyers get to participate in a case like this in their lifetime, let alone take part in the day-to-day process. I learned a lot on the front lines.”
The experience has paid off. Today he is the firm’s chief rainmaker of new business, according to Roda.
“Dan’s got a maturity beyond his years,” says Arnold Levin of Levin Fishbein in Philadelphia, who litigated the ephedra case with him. “He rights wrongs for people who don’t have muscle. His strength is his stick-to-it-iveness.”
That and a willingness to get down on the floor.
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