Gordon & Doner attorney Adam Doner remembers the courtroom victory that helped define his legal career.
"It was a wrongful death case that involved a young woman who was killed while driving back to college in the pre-dawn hours after a family visit," Mr. Doner says. "The driver of a tractor-trailer had failed to secure the bales of wire fencing that he was carrying. The cargo fell from the truck, and the young woman drove into one of the bales. She drowned when her car veered into a culvert."
The trucking company and its insurer offered a $2 million settlement. Mr. Doner rejected that amount.
"I went to trial on that case," Mr. Doner says. "That settlement offer did not seem fair for the injustice and loss suffered by this family. In trial we received a $5 million dollar verdict. That was a proud moment."
Mr. Doner says other proud courtroom moments as an attorney have come after wrongful death cases where he helped parents who were grieving over the tragic loss of a child. "I think this is because I am a father myself," he says. "In these cases, I have the opportunity to give parents a sense of justice and to give them an acknowledgment that the wrongdoing they suffered has been recognized."
Another of Mr. Doner's wrongful death cases involved a young boy with autism who drowned after falling into a lake outside an affordable housing complex. The complex developer had failed to complete a fence meant to prevent such a tragedy and offered the boy's mother $400,000 in compensation.
"This simply wasn't acceptable and we took the case to trial," Mr. Doner said. "The mother was black. One of the lawyers on the other side told me we were going to lose because there were no black jurors. Well, I remember one of my partners banging on the podium and telling the jury this woman deserved $5 million and not a penny less. Sure enough, the jury came back and awarded the $5 million we asked for."
Mr. Doner's courtroom victories demonstrate his willingness to stand up to corporations and insurance companies. Those successes have also earned him admission to the prestigious Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. Less than 1 percent of U.S. lawyers are members.
A 1983 law graduate of Nova Southeastern University, Mr. Doner says being a successful lawyer requires more than the ability to deliver an effective closing argument.
"There is nothing more important in my profession than experience," Mr. Doner says. "But when you get into the courtroom and you want to understand people and their values, it's important to talk to people and to listen. To be a good lawyer you have to have great people skills."
When not representing clients, Mr. Doner devotes time to his family.
"My son plays roller hockey and I go to all of his games," Mr. Doner says. "I try to be very supportive. I think it is important for him to know that I'm there watching him play."
Mr. Doner is also an avid golfer. Palm Beach County, where Mr. Doner practices, is often said to be the golf capital of America. And as Mr. Doner says, with those credentials, "Why not play golf?"
But even on the golf course, Mr. Doner is working. "I enjoy the game very much, but it is also a way for me to network, to get to know other doctors and lawyers and ultimately become better able to help my clients."
This social aspect of the game means that golf combines two of the elements that first interested Mr. Doner in becoming an attorney.
"I am very competitive and I really enjoy speaking and talking to people," Mr. Doner says of the reasons he chose to become a lawyer. "If you like to speak, argue and debate, and you enjoy intellectual challenges, then the law is a really good profession for you."
Mr. Doner says he enjoys helping clients clear the legal hurdles they face when they go up against a corporation or an insurance company after an accident.
"I believe in the importance of what I am doing," Mr. Doner said. "And I also love the thrill of winning, for myself and for my clients."
Mr. Doner's favorite legal author? "John Grisham," he says. "I read all his books and I love them. He really captures the industry very well."
Asked to name his favorite movie, Mr. Doner selects The Verdict, which was released in 1982. The movie was directed by Sidney Lumet and starred Paul Newman. "I'm a medical malpractice lawyer, I help people who have been harmed by medical mistakes, so I have to love that movie," he says.
Admitted to bar: 1983, Florida; 1984, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida.
Education: University of Florida (B.A., 1980); Nova Southeastern University (J.D., 1983). Florida Blue Key.
Member: Palm Beach County Bar Association (Chairman, Family Law Committee, 1993-1994); North Palm Beach County Bar Association (President, 2007) ; The Florida Bar (Member, Sections on: Trial Practice; Personal Injury); Florida Justice Association; The Association of Trial Lawyers of America; Million Dollar Advocates Forum.