Trial Attorneys Share Stories of Selflessness & Service

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For Immediate Release: July 28, 2009

Contact: Kyle Murphy
202-965-3500, ext. 369
media.replies@justice.org

Trial Attorneys Share Stories of Selflessness & Service

American Association for Justice recognizes members and their clients for civil justice contributions at national convention

Washington, DC— The American Association for Justice (AAJ) gathered in San Francisco, Calif. last week to recognize extraordinary contributions to the civil justice system. The five-day convention culminated with an awards ceremony to honor individuals who have worked to protect the constitutional right of all Americans to a trial by jury.

The Steven J. Sharp Public Service Award is presented annually to those attorneys and clients whose cases tell the story of the American civil justice system and help educate policymakers and the public about the importance of consumers’ rights. This year, attorneys David Frederick, partner at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, PA in Washington D.C. and Richard Rubin, managing partner at Rubin, Kidney, Myer & Dewolfe in Barre, Vt. were recognized along with their client Diana Levine from Marshfield, Vt.

On April 7, 2000, Diana Levine, a professional musician and children’s record producer from Marshfield, Vt., went to the hospital to treat a migraine headache. After being injected with a drug manufactured by Wyeth, she was left with injuries that led quickly and irreversibly to the loss of her right arm. Ms. Levine’s arm was amputated because Wyeth’s drug Phenergan, prescribed to alleviate nausea associated with a migraine headache, reached Ms. Levine’s arteries. These amputations have harmed her profession and passion as a musician.

The drug Phenergan was administered through a technique known as IV push. The drug’s manufacturer, Wyeth, had known for decades that when the medicine is administered this way, it can breach an artery resulting in necrosis and gangrene. But the drug’s label did not warn against the use of this method.

Ultimately, it was the lack of warning against the IV push method that caused Ms. Levine to endure two amputations; first losing her right hand, then losing her right arm at the elbow. The U.S. Supreme Court concluded that FDA approval of the label did not provide complete immunity to the drug’s manufacturer.

Richard Rubin of Rubin, Kidney, Myer and DeWolfe in Barre, Vt., represented Ms. Levine in her suit against Wyeth and before the Vermont Supreme Court. He graduated in 1970 from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. His areas of practice are personal injury and criminal defense. He has been practicing law for almost 40 years.

David Frederick has argued 26 cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, including Ms. Levine’s case. He has represented a diverse group of clients, such as foreign governments, state governments, large corporations, and individuals. He has argued cases that concern the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as issues like antitrust, appellate preemption, securities, and transportation. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a B.A., the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and from the University of Texas with a J.D. Frederick also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Byron R. White of the U.S. Supreme Court. He has written many books about the legal system and is a partner at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans and Figel, PLLC, in Washington, D.C.

The second annual Pro Bono Award recognized the firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP in Minneapolis, Minn. The firm was recognized for its representation of victims of the Minneapolis bridge collapse.  It succeeded in securing a bridge fund for the victims as well as assisting the investigation into the cause of the collapse. Two partners at the firm, Chris Messerly and Philip Sieff, accepted the award. Both men worked tirelessly to represent the many victims of the bridge collapse and organize 19 other firms to do the same.

The Nancy Pelosi Award recognizes women trial lawyers who exemplify extraordinary achievement as a trial lawyer while also devoting time to family and community. The award is presented in the spirit of Nancy Pelosi’s accomplishments as first woman speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Lisa Blue received the Nancy Pelosi Award for her outstanding work at her law firm, Baron & Blue. She has practiced law for 25 years, specializing in environmental and toxic tort cases. She also maintains a private practice as a forensic psychologist.  Because of her unique background, Ms. Blue has been asked to serve as a commentator covering high-profile trials for Court TV. Ms. Blue’s accomplishments in trial courts across the country have earned her honors such as being named one of the “Top 50 Women Litigators in the U.S.” by the National Law Journal.

Additional Award Recipients

International Trial Lawyers Leadership Award
The International Trial Lawyers Leadership Award recognizes non-U.S. trial lawyer leaders who have contributed significantly to the development of international relations and exchange of information among plaintiff lawyers. The award was received by John Beer, Secretary of the International Practice Section of AAJ, and founder of Beer Advocaten in Amsterdam. He focuses on the areas of personal injury and liability.

Lifetime Achievement Award
The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to past president of AAJ, Todd Smith of Power, Rogers & Smith, P.C. in Chicago, Il. Voted Chicago Lawyer Magazine’s Person of the Year, Mr. Smith has made access to justice his personal crusade. Mr. Smith and his accomplishments on behalf of his clients have been featured in numerous publications including Chicago Magazine, Chicago Tribune Chicago Magazine, and most recently in the Sunday New York Times.

The following awards were given to attorneys whose careers have demonstrated a particularly strong commitment to the civil justice system and the protection of consumers:

AAJ Distinguished Service Award
Mary Alice McLarty, president of The McLarty Firm, P.C. in Dallas, Tex.; Laird Ozmon, of The Law Office of Laird Ozmon LTD in Joilet, Il.; Russell Budd of Baron and Budd P.C. in Dallas, Tex.; Richard Lawrence of The Lawrence Firm P.S.C., in Covington, Ky.; Rhonda Hill Wilson of the Law Offices of Rhonda Hill Wilson, PC in Philadelphia, Penn.; Mary Beth Ramey of Ramey & Hailey in Indianapolis, Ind.; and Larry Tawwater of The Tawwater Law Firm, PLLC in Oklahoma City, Okla.; were honored with AAJ Distinguished Service Awards. These seven distinguished attorneys were honored for their public education and political outreach efforts.

Leonard M. Ring Champion of Justice Award
The Leonard M. Ring Champion of Justice Award was given to Leo Boyle, past president of AAJ and founder of Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow, PC in Boston, Mass. He has practiced exclusively as a plaintiff’s trial lawyer and has developed a national reputation as one of the most successful attorneys in the state of Massachusetts. Mr. Boyle has been named in the Massachusetts Super Trial Lawyers list for five consecutive years. He also served as president of Trial Lawyers Care, which provided free legal help for victims of 9/11 attacks.

Harry Philo Award
The Harry Philo Award was given to Sol Weiss, a shareholder at Anapol, Schwartz, Weiss, Cohan, Feldman & Smalley, PC in Philadelphia, Pa. He concentrates his practice in complex civil litigation including class actions and pharmaceutical cases, medical and other professional malpractice, securities litigation and products liability matters. Mr. Weiss has served in various positions at the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association, and on the board of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association.  He is currently president of the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates.  He is a frequent lecturer on class actions, pharmaceutical liability, civil litigation issues, trial skills and technology in the courtroom.

The David S. Shrager President’s Award
The David S. Shrager President’s Award was given to John Eddie Williams, a strong advocate of workers and organized labor, representing members and their causes at every opportunity. Williams has specialized in representing plaintiffs in mass tort cases involving asbestos, silicosis, benzene, fen-phen, welding rod fumes and toxic waste exposure. He represented the State of Texas in its lawsuit against the tobacco industry, resulting in the largest settlement in U.S. history. He is managing partner of Williams Kherkher Law Firm LLP in Houston, Texas.

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