Representative Cases & Projects


Represented a film distribution company assessed extraordinary penalties by the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board and NYS Department of Labor for failure to have workers’ compensation insurance, disability insurance and unemployment insurance respectively, over $200,000. Succeeded in having the penalties rescinded by showing that the company was not an employer within the meaning of the law.

Represented a homeowner who hired a babysitter to assist with childcare part time, not exceeding 50 hours a week, and who employed the services of a payroll company to process taxes and payroll on a bi-weekly basis. Succeeded in showing Board that penalty was inappropriate to extent that putative employee was not an employee under the statute notwithstanding the payment of taxes.

Assisted decorative arts construction industry employer with multi-million dollar contracts in New York and London become fully compliant. Employer, characterizing all employees as independent contractors based on the specialized nature of their job, risked enormous exposure under the expanded definition of independent contractor.


Represented a carrier where the claimant had been characterized as an independent contractor up until the date of accident when he was injured working on the insured’s personal property. The claimant was placed on payroll for the first time the day after the accident notwithstanding the fact that he had been working for the insured for 10 years. Successfully controverted the claim, arguing that it was not a covered event within the meaning of the law, that the NYS WCB did not have jurisdiction in the matter, and that the insured’s homeowner’s carrier was liable. After extensive litigation including underwriter testimony, the Judge, later affirmed by the Board, found that we had demonstrated proper cancellation of client’s policy under WCL Section 54. WCB G1836328, April 2020.

Catastrophic Claims

We specialize in handling catastrophic claims where the client is opposed by significant exposure. Each case is unique and requires a tailored approached in collaboration with the client. Typically, we work closely with the client’s risk team, select investigators and, when relevant,1B defense counsel, to ensure the groundwork for a thorough record is developed and that exposure is mitigated to the fullest extent possible from the outset.

Occupational Disease

After extensive litigation culminating in a finding in favor of the claimant, the Board granted our appeal and found that the claimant had failed to show that his condition was causally related to his employment as a glazier and further, that he had failed to produce competent medical evidence thereof where we had developed a record showing extensive evidence of a pre-existing degenerative process. G2470942, October 2020.

After extensive litigation culminating in a finding in favor of the claimant, the Board granted our appeal and found that the claimant had failed to show that his condition was causally related to his employment as a construction worker where we had developed a record showing extensive evidence of an idiopathic process. G2378775, February 2020.

Recent Accomplishments on behalf of our Clients

Upon development of an extensive record including expert depositions and testimony of multiple witnesses, the Judge found in claimant’s favor but was reversed by the Board, later affirmed by the Appellate Division, where the claimant, a manager at a 24–hour convenience store for approximately 29 years, which incuded annual conflict and security training, claimed that an encounter with a difficult and menacing customer caused a psychological injury. The Appellate Division found that claimant did not suffer a compensable causally-related mental injury. The Court elaborated that while a mental injury may be compensable, a claimant must demonstrate that the stress that caused the claimed mental injury was greater than that which other similarly situated workers experienced in the normal work environment. Casey v. United Refining Co, of PA., 194 A.D.2d 1300, 2021.

Claimant’s estate alleged that claimant, a building superintendent “in waiting” (he had moved into super’s apartment in an otherwise empty building in the final phase of construction or punch list stage in November of 2019) contracted COVID in March of 2020 “out of and in the course of his employment.” Upon development of an extensive record including several expert and provider depositions along with the testimony of multiple witnesses and a contact tracer demonstrating a lack of prevalence or contact with an infected individual, the Judge, affirmed by the Board, found in our client’s favor, that the claimant did not contract COVID “out of his employment.” The case is currently on appeal to the Appellate Division. WCB G2814747, August 2022.


We conduct targeted claims analysis at quarterly claims’ reviews with several of our larger self or quasi-self-insured clients where we identify cases warranting settlement, typically settling 70% of cases identified under WCL Section 32 or stipulations with a four-month turnaround from identification to settlement approval.

We show carriers how to identify files for expedited settlement based on a set of highly nuanced criteria exclusively developed by O’Connell Zavelo.

We recently settled a controverted death claim for a nominal amount, protecting our client from significant medical exposure exceeding $2 million dollars. We settled another claim involving a totalizing disability and significant lifelong medical needs for $500,000.00, a mere 2.5 years post-accident.