The National Law Journal and The Trial Lawyer, the official magazine of The National Trial Lawyers, have announced the 2018 Trial Lawyers and Trial Team of the Year. The lawyers and team were chosen from nominations from The Trial Lawyer magazine’s readers and reflect those which have shaped the legal profession through leadership, innovation and success in the practice of civil plaintiff or criminal defense law. Each of these outstanding lawyers and team members were chosen for their professional achievements, trial results and effective impact in the legal community.
The Mass Tort Trial Team of the Year is Brent Wisner, David Dickens and Mark Burton for Johnson v. Monsanto, et al. DeWayne “Lee” Johnson brought his claim in California against Monsanto concerning Roundup and Ranger Pro products containing glyphosate. The jury awarded $289M consisting of $39M in compensatory damages and $250M in punitive damages.
The Products Liability Trial Team of the Year is Frank Branson, Chip Brooker, Debbie Branson and Eric Stahl of Dallas for Reavis v. Toyota, et al. A rear-end accident left two children with skull fractures and brain injuries. The Texas jury awarded $242M consisting of $99M in compensatory damages and $143M in punitive damages. Chip Brooker is now with Brooker Law, PLLC, Dallas. Frank Branson, Debbie Branson and Eric Stahl are with The Law Offices of Frank L. Branson, PC, Dallas.
The Class Action Trial Lawyer of the Year is Bob Clifford of Chicago for Hale v. State Farm, et al. State Farm agreed to pay $250 million on the brink of trial to policyholders who claimed the company tried to rig the Illinois justice system to wipe out a $1.06 billion jury verdict from 19 years prior.
The Medical Malpractice Trial Lawyers of the Year are Brian McKeen of Detroit for Tran v. William Beaumont Hospital, et al, and NTL member Kennan Dandar of Tampa for Carter v. University of South Florida Health, et al. In McKeen’s case, hospital employees negligently attempted to insert an IV into a 2-year-old prior to a kidney scan. This resulted in breathing episode and loss of oxygen for and ultimately causing permanent and severe brain damage and cerebral palsy. After the three-week trial, the Michigan jury deliberated for six hours before returning a $130M verdict. In Dandar’s case, during laparoscopic surgery to remove an ovarian cyst, the surgeon transected completely through the bowel. Surgeries were eventually performed to correct the perforation, but infection ultimately led to gangrene in the plaintiff’s hands and feet requiring amputations below her elbows and knees. After the three trials and two hung juries this jury awarded $109 million.
The Trucking Trial Lawyer of the Year is NTL member Brent Goudarzi of Gilmer, TX for Patterson v. FTS International, et al and McPherson v. Jefferson Trucking, et al. In the first case, a Texas jury awarded $101M consisting of $26M in compensatory damages and $75M in punitive damages after rear-ending the plaintiff while driving impaired. In the second case, a Texas jury awarded $260M to the plaintiffs as compensation for mental anguish for a tractor-trailer collision.
The Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer of the Year is Benjamin Brafman of Manhattan. He has represented a wide range of high-profile celebrities, business leaders, lawyers and medical professionals in major criminal cases throughout the country, Canada, Europe, Israel, and South Africa including Jay Z, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Plaxico Burress, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Martin Shkreli and currently Harvey Weinstein.
The Civil Plaintiff Trial Lawyer of the Year is National Trial Lawyers President Mark Lanier of Houston for Ingham, et al v. J&J et al. In this case 22 women (six of whom had died prior to trial) brought claims in Missouri against Johnson &Johnson concerning cancer resulting from their long-term use of J&J’s talcum products containing asbestos. The jury awarded $4.69B consisting of $550M in compensatory damages and $4.14B in punitive damages.
The National Trial Lawyers will honor the lawyers and firms of the year at the upcoming Trial Lawyers Summit being held in South Beach, Florida January 20-23, 2019 at the Loews Miami Beach hotel. The lawyers and law firms will be recognized at the Trial Lawyers Award Luncheon on Monday, January 21st at noon. University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban will be the keynote speaker.