Des concentrates his practice in mass tort and complex aviation and product liability litigation.
Chambers USA America’s Leading Lawyers for Business has described him as “an internationally renowned aviation and product liability law practitioner.”
He has been selected each year since 2004 as a New York Super Lawyer in the field of Aviation Law and is listed as a Leading Aviation Attorney by Aviation Expert Guides 2017. The Legal 500 United States 2014 edition made special mention of Des for his “excellent” work in representing American Airlines in the multibillion-dollar property litigation arising from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack against the United States. As one prominent New York litigator stated in Law 360: “Des combines legal smarts and terrific judgment with a strong practical streak. That mix makes him an excellent lawyer and advocate.”
Des has been honorably mentioned in Who’s Who in America (1990-2016), the International Who’s Who of Product Liability Defense Lawyers (1998-2016), the International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers (2009-2016), Chambers USA America’s Leading Lawyers for Business (2005-2016), and the Guide to the World’s Leading Aviation Lawyers. Des has also been recognized in The Best Lawyers in America (2014-2016). In Who’s Who Legal: Transport 2015, Des was “recognized as one of the leading lawyers” for his “unrivalled expertise in complex aviation and product liability litigation” and is considered a “hugely respected” figure in the aviation transportation field.”
He has published and lectured extensively on aviation law and trial practice. During the period from 1967 to 1970, he served as a decorated combat officer in the United States Marine Corps. His past associations include: Trustee, Canterbury School, New Milford, CT (1970-1980); Member, Fordham Law School Advisory Committee.
Des was counsel for American Airlines in the multibillion-dollar litigation arising from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In addition, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York appointed him Defense Liaison Counsel on behalf of more than thirty aviation defendants initially named in the 9/11 Litigation.
Des also has been lead counsel for airlines in numerous major aviation accident litigations, including the November 2001 American Airlines Flight 587 accident, the September 1998 Swissair Flight 111 accident, the June 1992 COPA Flight 201 accident and the October 1989 SAHSA Flight 414 crash.
Des is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He is a Court Appointed Mediator for the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. In 1997, Des was elected as a member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Defense Counsel (“IADC”) and has been a faculty member at the IADC National Trial Academy, Dean of the IADC Corporate Counsel College (2003) and Chairman of the Aviation and Space Law Committee. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the IADC Foundation from 2001 to 2008.
Des also is a member of the Defense Research Institute, the Association of Insurance Attorneys, the Association of Defense Trial Attorneys, the American Arbitration Association, The Association of the Bar of the City of New York (Member, Aeronautical Committee, 1986- ), the New York State Bar Association and the American Bar Association (Chairman, Aviation and Space Law Committee, Tort and Insurance Practice Section, 1996-1997).
Newsletters and Bulletins
Published Works and Presentations
“The September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack and Litigation Aftermath.” IADC Defense Counsel Journal, v.86, no.2 (April 2019). (co-author Evan M. Kwarta).
Speaker, presenting a series of lectures on “The September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack and Litigation Aftermath.” These lectures were given to clients of the firm, the Legal Committee of the Royal Aeronautical Society, JLT Insurance and The Insurance Institute of London at Lloyd’s. (2018).
Speaker, “Tactical and Strategic Considerations for Litigation and Settlement,” International Association of Claim Professionals, Seventh Annual European Conference, Paris, France (April 21-22, 2016).
Speaker, “The 9/11 Litigation: A Retrospective,” Southern Methodist University, Law School, 50th Annual Air Law Symposium (2016).
Speaker, “Defense and Settlement of United States Litigation,” Aon Client Seminar (September 11, 2014).
Speaker, IATA World Financial Symposium Abu Dhabi, UAE “The September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack and its Litigation Aftermath” (September 17-18, 2014).
Panelist, “Legal Developments from Around the World.” IATA Risk and Insurance Mangers (RIM) Working Group meeting, London (May 22, 2014).
Speaker, “Tactical and Strategic Considerations for Litigation and Settlement,” Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Aviation Law & Insurance Symposium (January 8-11, 2014).
“Litigation Hold Notices: A Minefield for the Unwary.” Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Aviation Law & Insurance Symposium (January 8-11, 2014).
Contributor, The Liability Reporter, published jointly by IATA and Condon & Forsyth LLP (15th ed., February 2012).
Panel Moderator, Fireside Chat – “A Walk Down Memory Lane – Air Crash Litigation during the Past 40 Years,” Blue Angels Air and Transportation Law Conference (November 8-12, 2011).
“The Tripartite Relationship and Joint Defense Agreements: Benefits and Pitfalls.” Speaker at the ABA Aviation and Space Law Litigation Seminar, Washington, DC (October 21, 2011).
Contributor, The Liability Reporter, published jointly by IATA and Condon & Forsyth LLP. (14th ed., February 2011).
Contributor, The Liability Reporter, published jointly by IATA and Condon & Forsyth LLP. (13th ed., February 2010).
Speaker, Aviation Litigation Topics. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide Aviation Law & Insurance Symposium, Orlando, Florida (January 9-11, 2008).
“Ethics in the Media; The Lawyer’s Perspective.” Speaker at the ABA Aviation Litigation Seminar, New York (2003).
“Liability Issues in a Codeshare Environment.” Speaker at the ABA Aviation Litigation Seminar, New York (2001).
“Legislative Response to the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack on the United States: The Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act.” IADC Newsletter (Nov. 2001). (co-authors, Stephen R. Stegich, III and Noreen G. Carroll)
Recent Cases Under Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention Defining “Accident” and Bodily Injury. IADC Newsletter (July 2001).
“Handling the Media When Litigating A Major Aviation Disaster: The Defense Perspective.” Speaker at the ABA Aviation Litigation Seminar, New York (2000).
“The Pretrial Discovery Process: What to Expect and How to Protect Your Company.” Speaker at the DRI First Annual Conference for European Manufacturers and Insurers, Brussels, Belgium (1999). (co-speaker Christopher R. Christensen)
“Litigating the Aviation Case From Pretrial to Closing Argument,” Second edition. American Bar Association, 1998. (editor)
“Recent Changes in the Warsaw Convention and Their Likely Effect on Airline Liability Claims.” American Bar Association (1998).
“Recoverability of Pre-Impact Fear Damages in Aircraft Disaster Cases.” Defense Counsel Journal (April 1998).
“Unlimited Liability: The New Ball Game in International Transportation By Air.” 64 Defense Counsel Journal 381 (July 1997). (co-author Thomas Whalen)
“A Practical Guide to the Ins and Outs of Multidistrict Litigation.” 64 Defense Counsel Journal 58 (Jan. 1997).
“Liability Evidence Issues in Aviation Trials.” Speaker at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s 10th Annual Aviation Law and Insurance Symposium, Daytona Beach, Florida (1997).
“Aviation Insurance.” New York Insurance Law (Chapter 46: 1995).
“100 Ways to a Better Closing Argument.” The Defense Research Institute Damages Seminar (March 1995).
“Recoverable Damages in Wrongful Death Actions Governed by the Warsaw Convention.” (Feb. 1995).
“A Trial Lawyer’s Tips on Dealing with the Suffering Client: A Defendant’s Perspective.” Speaker at the ABA National Institute on Litigation in Aviation, Washington D.C. (1995).
“Foreign Corporations: Forum Non Conveniens and Change of Venue.” 61 Defense Counsel Journal 543 (Oct. 1994).
“Forum Non Conveniens: The Arguments for and Against Dismissal/ Transfer of the Foreign Corporation.” International Association of Defense Counsel (July 1994).
“Certain Particulars of Article 8 of the Unamended Warsaw Convention and the Particular Specter of Potential Unlimited Liability” (June 1994).
“The Proof of Foreign Damage Law Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” The Defense Research Institute Damages Seminar (March 1994).
“Legal Issues Involved in Litigating with Foreign Corporations: A Defendant’s Perspective.” ABA National Institute on Litigation in Aviation (Oct. 1993).
“The Defense Perspective on Handling Domestic and Foreign Claims Against an Airline.” Speaker at the Aviation Law Insurance Symposium, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (1993).
“Conducting Depositions and Other Discovery in Foreign Jurisdictions.” Speaker at 15th Annual Aviation Law Seminar, The Florida Bar Trial Lawyers Section and Aviation Law Committee (November 1991).
“Legal and Practical Considerations Involved in Conducting Foreign Discovery.” International Association of Defense Counsel, Open Forum Program (1991).
“Punitive Damages in Domestic and Foreign Mass Disaster Cases — The Defense View.” Speaker at the ABA Aviation in Litigation Seminar, Washington D.C. (1990).
“Punitive Damages in Domestic and Foreign Mass Disaster Cases: The Defense View. ABA National Institute on Litigation in Aviation (October 1990).
“The Defense of Airlines in Major Air Crash Litigation.” Association of Defense Trial Attorneys (April 1989).
“Solving Choice of Law Problems in Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act Cases.” Defense Counsel Journal (July 1988).
“The Evolution of Warnings: The Liberal Trend Toward Absolute Product Liability.” 20:1 The Forum (Fall 1984).