A Civil Action. The Rainmaker. Erin Brockovich. To Kill a Mockingbird. Nearly everyone has seen or heard of these popular movies heralding the tenacious fictional and real-life lawyers who battled against the greed and corruption of some of the most powerful civil and corporate entities on behalf of everyday people. And while he’d humbly shun the comparison, it’s not difficult to see in David Senoff a glimpse of the fictional Atticus Finch and more than a bit of Ed Masry, Jan Schlichtmann, and other passionate legal advocates who came before him, all of whom were driven by the sacred value that drives David—to fight the good fight for all. In an industry that keeps score on success through billable hours, the size of a case, or a celebrity client list, David measures “success” based on one simple but profound metric. “This is not a job for the money or the prestige. I view it as a calling, and I keep score based on the lives I’ve changed,” he says. For the people he’s represented and the causes he’s championed, there is no calculus to measure the immensity of the impact David has made.
Designated as a Super Lawyer for the last 16 years and recognized as a Best Lawyer by US News & World Report's "Best Lawyers in America" for the past eight, David has fiercely battled—and prevailed—against seemingly indominable behemoths, among them large health insurers, banks, and others. From representing people against health insurers to obtain coverage for lifesaving medical treatment, to serving as plaintiff’s co-lead counsel for victims in the infamous “Kids for Cash” cases, to acting as counsel for campaign committees and candidates and engaging in important public policy fights, to reigning victorious as lead class counsel for thousands of low-wage workers—this is what David lives for. And this is precisely what compelled the 30-year legal veteran to cofound First Law Strategy Group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Launched in 2019 with partner Hillary Weinstein, the boutique plaintiff’s litigation firm specializes in class actions and appellate advocacy, insurance bad faith, affirmative litigation for governmental entities, and campaign and election law problem-solving.
We had the distinct privilege to sit down with David to learn more about his practice, some of his most memorable cases, and what drives him to keep fighting the good fight.
David, let’s start with a personal question. What drives you keep fighting the “good fight” for people?
My sister was born with cystic fibrosis and was told she wouldn’t live past 16 years old. Now, she’s 48. For years, I watched my mom battle with the insurance company for her treatment and about the hospital bills. When I hear these types of stories from people fighting for lifesaving care or something like this, that’s what drives me. It reminds me of watching my mom having to do that for my sister. That’s why I was so interested in these kinds of cases. In my view, whether I’m fighting on behalf of an individual or a class of people, engaging in public policy issues, or representing political candidates, there is no gray area between right and wrong, and I’m driven by making sure the side of “right” prevails.
Let’s talk first about some of the class action cases and public policy battles that you’ve engaged in. Can you share a few examples with us?
I’m happy to. The “Kids for Cash” cases (Wallace v. Powell, et al.), which we started working on when I was almost 20 years removed from law school, challenged my trust in the entire “system,” and I was no naïve young lawyer then. When judges take money from entities with a financial interest in the privately run juvenile facility to which the judges are sending children who appear before them for what are, in large part, otherwise “minor” or “petty” offenses, to help the private facility earn money, it reflects negatively not only on those involved, but our entire system of justice. And that is not the worst part. The worst part was the tragic ways in which these acts by a handful of actors effected thousands of lives. Fortunately, we were able to resolve the cases and provide some compensation for the victims.
In our “Wage Debit Card” cases (Siciliano v. Mueller), I served as lead class counsel for a certified class of 2,380 low-wage workers, where we made new Pennsylvania law regarding the state’s Wage Payment and Collection Law by establishing that employers violated the law by paying employees solely by debit card. Ultimately, the employees got almost 100% of their transaction costs back.
Tell us about some of your most memorable medical insurance bad faith cases.
There are many that left an indelible mark on me, but I’ll briefly share just two. First, Robb v. HealthAmerica. I obtained an injunction against our terminally ill client’s health insurer ordering it to cover a lifesaving bone marrow transplant prescribed by his nationally recognized hematology-oncologists at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and who testified that the procedure was not experimental. Thereafter, the client received the treatment and recovered and lived longer than expected—in time to see the wedding of his daughter and birth of his grandson.
The second one settled confidentially, so without identifying it by name, I successfully challenged the denial of a pancreas transplant for a labile diabetic client whose nationally recognized endocrinologist and transplant surgeon had prescribed the treatment noting that without it she would die. I secured coverage for the transplant for the client, who went on to live a healthy and productive life.
Let’s end with another personal question, David. What do you enjoy most about your work?
What I enjoy is the problem-solving and strategic aspects of it. A lot of attorneys will say it’s the trial part of it. While I enjoy that and do not shy away from it, it’s the work leading up to it, trying to convince my opponent that not only am I right, but why.
David served by appointment of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to its Civil Procedural Rules Committee from 2016 to 2019. Since 2020, he has served by appointment of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Co-Founder and Managing Member — First Law Strategy Group LLC
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