The team at Sheff & Cook would like to congratulate our esteemed colleague and Senior Partner Douglas K. Sheff on his induction as part of the inaugural class of the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Hall of Fame.
View the full write-up in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (PDF). It is reproduced in part below.
This honor recognizes Doug’s work on some of the highest-profile cases in Massachusetts over the last several decades, including his representation of the families and victims of the 2018 Merrimack Valley gas explosions, including the family of Leonel Rondon, an 18-year-old Lawrence man who was the sole fatality of the disaster.
Doug’s work helped secure an aggregate $143 million settlement, including a confidential settlement for Rondon’s family. He takes particular pride in the changes that defendant Columbia Gas has made to their operations and procedures in the wake of the litigation, as well as passage through Congress of the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act, which protects people nationwide from similar accidents. “To have this law out there with my client’s name on the bill is just so reaffirming and wonderful,” he says.
Doug also represented Ursula Ward in her wrongful death case against former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez over the NFL star’s murder of her son. The case settled under confidential terms following Hernandez’s suicide in prison.
“Ursula was one of the best [clients] I’ve ever had,” says Doug. “Hernandez gets convicted of murder [in the criminal case] and her first words are, ‘I forgive you.’ To have the faith and grace to be able to forgive such a heinous act is a person I was honored to represent.”
A number of Doug’s cases, like with the Merrimack Valley gas explosion case, have resulted not just in substantial recoveries but changes to how businesses conduct their operations. His firm recovered $7 million for the family of an Exxon employee who was killed in the workplace. Exxon subsequently instituted greater measures to protect workers loading fuel tankers at its oil facilities.
“You’d be surprised how many of our clients care about making sure what happened to them doesn’t happen to anybody else and we make sure of that,” he says.
Meanwhile, Doug is a leader in the trial bar and the bar at large. In fact, he is the only Massachusetts attorney to have served as president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, president of the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys, governor of the American Association for Justice, and trustee of the National College of Advocacy.
When asked why he’s sought these positions, he says simply, “I love lawyers,” adding that such service has given him more opportunity to make change for the better in the Commonwealth and nationally.