David B. Willis
David Willis, a trial attorney with more than 29 years of litigation experience, focuses his national practice in the defense of corporations in the areas of complex tort, commercial, and employment law. He represents both public and private corporations in the areas of health care, hospitality, specifically the food and beverage industry, franchise, transportation, and environmental law. David also handles professional liability matters in the defense of health care providers and national and regional health care institutions. He has extensive multi-jurisdictional trial experience and has tried to verdict over 100 cases in state and federal courts. He is also experienced in conducting corporate investigations, including those involving sexual harassment and gender and racial discrimination.
Utilizing his extensive legal background and business acumen to partner with his clients, David develops custom models that focus on reducing litigation costs. This approach enables clients to focus on the core aspects of their business while David and his team effectively and cost-efficiently manage their litigation. The national network of battle-tested experts that David has assembled is a key element to his approach. Areas of expertise represented in this network include accident reconstruction, bio-mechanics, human factors, vocational rehabilitation, economics, and medicine. This network is readily available to provide clients with a response team capable of conducting investigations of catastrophic incidents within the critical initial 24 hours. This emphasis on early assessment allows clients to make informed strategic decisions while the team approach ensures a comprehensive and consistent investigation, including proper document retention protected by work-product and attorney-client privileges. Another crucial part of the program is a coordinated discovery approach, which achieves consistency across multiple jurisdictions. Early investigations and streamlined discovery have saved his clients millions of dollars.
David previously served as national counsel to a Fortune 500 company, where he was responsible for all phases of litigation – from pre-suit investigations through appeals, as well as in-house counsel for a Fortune 500 corporation. Prior to serving in-house, he worked for a prestigious law firm concentrating in personal injury and labor law. He also previously served as a special assistant attorney general for Rhode Island for more than four years, during which he tried nearly 50 jury trials involving arson, sexual assault, armed robbery, DUI, and burglary.
- Serves as national coordinating counsel to the world’s largest restaurant company.
- Serves as general counsel to a premier East Coast yacht manufacturer.
- Serves as general counsel to Willis Marine Inc., in Stuart Florida.
- Represents public and private corporations in the areas of hospitality, specifically the food and beverage industry, franchise, health care, transportation, and environmental law.
- Previously served as national coordinating counsel to Fortune 500 corporation, where he had responsibility for all phases of litigation, from pre-suit investigations through appeals.
- Tried to verdict over 50 cases in state and federal courts throughout 25-year career as litigator.
- Represents clients before the First Circuit Court of Appeals and the Rhode Island Supreme Court.
- Has significant experience in maritime matters and maintains a United States Coast Guard Master, 100 Ton License.
- Handles environmental disputes involving multiparty multistate toxic torts, white collar criminal defense, and the defense of manufacturers and suppliers.
- Served as in-house counsel for Fortune 500 corporation, where he was responsible for handling claims with significant risks and conducted investigations for the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). Tried numerous cases to verdict involving such matters as arson, fraud, and personal injury. Received individual service awards (1999 – 2002) and Bronze Medal Award for outstanding trial performance/success.
- In private practice at a prestigious law firm concentrating in personal injury and labor law, represented numerous clients before both state and federal courts and various boards and commissions. Successfully tried numerous cases, negotiated contracts, arbitrated disputes, and recovered significant sums for personal injury clients.
- As special assistant attorney general for Rhode Island, he tried numerous felony cases and assisted in drafting legislation regarding domestic violence. In addition, served as legal counsel to the Rhode Island House of Representatives, Minority Office, and drafted various legislative bills involving banking issues after the collapse of the credit unions in Rhode Island.
- Federal Bar Association
- Rhode Island Bar Association
- Massachusetts Bar Association
- National Association of Dealer Counsel
- Rhode Island Association of Trial Defense Counsel
- International Luxury Hotel Association
- The Risk Management Society (RIMS)
- National Retail Restaurant Defense Association
- Associate Member of RIHCA
- Harbor Management Commission (Jamestown, Rhode Island), Former Commissioner
Awards and Recognition:
- John F. Mulvaney Environmental Scholarship Recipient, American Hoechst Corporation
- Bronze Medal Award, Allstate Insurance Company
- Individual Service Award 1999 – 2002, Allstate Insurance Company
- Selected for inclusion in Who’s Who 2000
News and Insights
- “Casino Slip and Fall Accidents: How Not to Gamble With Safety,” American Gaming Lawyer, Spring 2017.
- “Franchise Agreements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: What restaurant franchisees need to know about these business deals,” co-author, Full Service Restaurant Magazine, February 2017.
- “Impact of Marijuana Legalization,” presented at the National Retail Restaurant Defense Association Annual Meeting, February 2020.
- “Employment Law Update: How Have Employers Fared Under the Trump Administration, Resulting Administrative Activity, Court Decisions and What Tweets to Expect in 2018,” panel presentation at the National Restaurant Retail Defense Association’s Annual Conference, March 2018.
- “Luxury Surfaces Can Make for a Slippery Business,” Hospitality Insurance and Loss Prevention Summit Forum, Hospitality Law Conference, Houston, Texas, April 2017.
- “Trouble in Las Vegas: A Case Study,” Gallagher Bassett Services seminar, August 2016.
- “Capturing Value: How to Control Skyrocketing Litigation Costs,” Eckert Seamans’ Continuing Legal Education Seminar, August 2016.
- Alternative Fee Agreements, panelist (Las Vegas), 2011.
- Managing Outside Counsel, panelist (Hollywood, Florida), 2011.
David maintains a Master, 100 Ton License, with the U.S. Coast Guard. This is the highest credential available to mariners in the United States commanding small commercial vessels. To qualify, one must demonstrate at least 230 days of service on any vessel.
David is also a licensed scuba diving instructor.