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A. Fiorella, lawyer in Agent Orange case, dead at 82

Albert Fiorella, an attorney who specialized in malpractice and product liability cases and who represented Vietnam veterans suing the manufacturers of Agent Orange, has died.

The longtime Northport resident died of bladder cancer Saturday at Huntington Hospital. He was 82.

During a 56-year career, Fiorella mentored several generations of lawyers and was "probably one of the best cross-examiners that I have ever seen," said Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota.

Frank Andrea, a partner at Andrea and Towsky in Garden City, where Fiorella was an attorney for the past 11 years, called him "one of the last, old, famous trial lawyers.

"He was a senior legal statesman, one of the last old-school guys left," Andrea said.

Fiorella was one of hundreds of attorneys representing thousands of veterans who believed their medical ailments were caused by Agent Orange, a defoliant used during American bombing raids in Vietnam.

For a time, Fiorella chaired a committee of attorneys coordinating legal strategy in the class action suits against seven chemical companies. An out-of-court settlement in 1984 created a $180-million fund for veterans and their families.

Born on Jan. 23, 1927, Fiorella grew up in East Harlem, the oldest of four children, said his son, Douglas, of Northport. He graduated from Fordham Preparatory School in 1944, then enlisted in the Army, but did not see action in World War II.

He re-enlisted during the Korean War, but a foot ailment kept him in Okinawa, Japan, Douglas said. He graduated from Fordham University and earned a degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1953. He joined Allstate Insurance Co. and was responsible for the company's litigation in Nassau and Suffolk, said his sister, Christine Fiorella Russo, of Fort Salonga. He went into private practice in the late 1960s.

He was married in 1975 to Cheryl Gray. They divorced in 1990, his son said.

Douglas Fiorella said when he was a child, his father would dress him in a Brooks Brothers suit and take him to court to meet the judges. His father shared legal advice with shopkeepers who repaid him with free services.

"He would go to the bagel store and he would go to the market and he wouldn't pay for anything," Douglas said.

Spota said Fiorella could tell when a person was lying or telling the truth.

"He befriended me, nurtured me and supported me throughout my entire career," said Spota, who will deliver the eulogy Tuesday at Fiorella's funeral. "The enduring memory of Al Fiorella is he treasured the action and passion of being a trial attorney. His home was the courtroom. While many attorneys use verbal mallets to drive home a point, Al was like the skilled surgeon using a legal scalpel to win the argument."

In addition to his sister and son Douglas, Fiorella is survived by another son, Albert Jr. of San Francisco; and a brother, New York City Civil Court Judge Anthony Fiorella of Manhattan. A funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Philip Neri Church in Northport. Burial will follow at Calvary Cemetery in Woodside.

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