Joe Fontak heads Leader & Berkon's Philadelphia office. He has extensive experience in a variety of litigation areas, including toxic tort, product liability, securities, commercial, real estate and insurance. Joe applies his mathematical and actuarial background to complex cases, including federal securities law cases involving pension fund allocations, improper accounting procedures and stock parking practices. He is admitted to practice before the state and federal courts of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Joe has tried cases to verdict, and has participated in trials in California, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.
Product Liability/ Toxic Tort
In addition to being lead trial lawyer on a number of active cases, Joe also supervises attorneys and paralegals in the firm’s role as national coordinating counsel for an asbestos defendant and for a manufacturer of cutting, welding and gas solutions. Joe works with local attorneys in jurisdictions around the country in coordinating the defense of these clients. Joe began his career at Leader & Berkon as a key member of the defense team for our client, a chemical manufacturer, in the IBM Semiconductor Litigation involving over 200 cancer and 50 birth defect claims in New York, California and Minnesota courts.
Joe obtained summary judgment for several equipment manufacturer clients in cases pending in New Jersey and Pennsylvania state and federal courts. In several of these cases, Joe has successfully asserted the "bare metals" defense, allowing the Court to dismiss his client where Joe has demonstrated that the plaintiff failed to submit evidence to show that his client manufactured, sold or supplied the component product that caused plaintiff's injury.
Joe obtained a favorable settlement for five plaintiffs in a suit against a large banking institution, claiming they had been induced to participate in a private stock transaction through false and misleading statements. The bank settled the case at the Courthouse steps after losing motions to dismiss and for summary judgment. Joe’s recital of his planned opening statement in a pre-trial conference with the trial judge and the bank’s in-house counsel convinced the bank to settle shortly before trial began. Joe has obtained summary judgment in numerous asbestos lawsuits pending in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. He was lead trial counsel of a Leader & Berkon trial team that obtained a favorable defense verdict following a one-week trial in a construction site personal injury case.
Joe recently obtained complete reimbursement, with interest, of more than $1.5 million owed to his client by a former vendor. By obtaining a preliminary injunction against the vendor and successfully freezing the vendor's bank accounts, Joe had the leverage to reject the vendor's attempts to resolve at a reduced repayment.
Joe is an active volunteer in community and alumni activities. He is on the board of Temple Beth David’s Men's Club, in Gladwyne, PA. He is a member of the executive committee of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law alumni association. He served on the Intensive Trial Advocacy Program at Cardozo for ten years. Joe moderated a continuing education panel at the Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School entitled, "Two Hot Ethics Topics for Litigators: Social Media and Soliciting Witnesses." He also authored an article for the Cardozo Law School alumni magazine, entitled: "A Life Lesson from Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad."
- Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Law Review, Criminal Law Clinic, J.D. (1991)
- Binghamton University, B.S. (1985)
- New York
- New Jersey
- U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York
- U.S. District Court Southern District of New York
- U.S. District Court District of New Jersey
- U.S. District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania
- U.S. Supreme Court
- Cardozo Law School Intensive Trial Advocacy, Faculty
- Defense Research Institute
- New York State Bar Association
- American Bar Association
- New York Super Lawyers (2010-2017)
- Pennsylvania Bar Association
- Rated AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell