Attorney Spotlight: Sherri L. Warfel

Sherri L. Warfel is a partner in Pellettieri Rabstein & Altman’s Nursing Home Malpractice Department. She represents plaintiffs who have suffered abuse and neglect in New Jersey nursing homes and medical facilities. It is a calling that she found early in her career, soon after joining the firm as an associate in 1999. “Like all young associates,” Ms. Warfel reflects, “I spent a lot of time meeting with new clients and learning how to make choices about what cases to take. I started seeing cases about injuries suffered in nursing homes and, at first, I would decline to take them on.” The legal requirements for pursuing nursing home cases are notoriously complicated and cases often take years to resolve, if you can even meet the requirements to file a case at all. “But one day,” Ms. Warfel continues, “A client brought in a photo of a bed sore that shook me. ‘Bed sore’ is a nice term for a huge hole in your body. No one should suffer that type of injury. I decided to take that case and we built our success in this practice area from there. PR&A got a reputation as a firm that cares about nursing home abuse and neglect cases and victims found their way to us because they knew we would listen.”

Pellettieri Rabstein & Altman represents only plaintiffs in New Jersey nursing home abuse and neglect cases, never the companies that run nursing homes. “This allows us to stay focused on the patient and their family,” Ms. Warfel asserts. “I work almost exclusively on New Jersey nursing home abuse and neglect cases, and that’s allowed me to develop a really deep expertise in this area of law.” Over the course of more than a decade fighting for these patients, Ms. Warfel has seen some gains. “We’ve made some strides in curtailing mandatory arbitration clauses, which impinge on your right to sue if you are the victim of abuse or neglect in a nursing home. But, we have more work to do. Due to legislative restrictions, it’s getting harder for plaintiffs to litigate claims, it takes longer, and it’s harder to be successful at trial.”

In fact, some corporations that run nursing homes will actually pay their attorneys to drag out the litigation process in the hopes that plaintiffs will give up or the process will become too expensive. These companies will propose unusual settlements like installment plans. And, recent case law is chipping away at attorneys recouping the fees they incur for the years of work they put into a case before a settlement is reached. These realities have made many law firms shy away from taking nursing home cases. But not PR&A. “PR&A is committed to nursing home abuse and neglect cases because helping injured individuals has been the foundation of our practice since 1929. We are a plaintiffs and petitioners practice. We stick up for the little guy. It’s all we do,” Ms. Warfel states.

Ms. Warfel earned an undergraduate degree from The College of New Jersey and a Juris Doctorate from the Rutgers School of Law, where she received the Richard L. Barbour award for her public service work during law school. “For as long as I can remember,” Ms. Warfel remembers, “I wanted to be a lawyer. I love to read, write, and speak and I enjoy the pressure of hard work and the feeling of winning a case.” That attitude has helped her build a reputation as a skilled litigator and negotiator of settlements in nursing home cases. “This area of the law is a real specialty,” says Ms. Warfel. “It’s a small community of attorneys who do this and I am fortunate to be at a firm who believes in fighting for injured nursing home patients. We have a system in place to handle these cases and we know the intricacies of the law. We are winning settlements for people who deserve that money as compensation for what they have endured. I’ll take cases that other attorneys won’t because I can see something there. It may have gotten harder to win, but that makes me fight harder for that patient and their family.”

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