Public Justice’s Trial Lawyer of the Year award always takes me to interesting places to meet interesting people who have worked on important legal cases. This year was no different. And for the first time in the last six years, the award went to two different legal teams for two different cases.
The team of Michael J. Avenatti, Edward Ricci, Ahmed Ibrahim, Filippo Marchino, and William C. Hearon won for the Bahamas Surgery Center v. Kimberly-Clark case. In this case the legal team won a $454 jury verdict agains Kimberly-Clark and Halyard Health. The two companies had manufactured defective surgical gowns that they claimed would prevent pathogens from being passed from surgical staff to patients. Even though the companies knew their gowns did no such thing, they continued to market the gowns and even used the Ebola crisis to try to increase sales. Avenatti and his team exposed the fraud on behalf of four hundred hospitals and surgery centers in the state of California. I interviewed Ed Ricci in Palm Beach Gardens, FL about this case.
The co-winner was the team of Mona Lisa Wallace, Janet Varnell, John S. Hughes, Cathy Anne Williams, Aaron Goss, and Brian Warwick. They won the class action suit Inetianbor v. Western Sky Financial. The case involved CashCall, a predatory lender that fraudulently used Native American tribal laws to force borrowers into mediation. The company claimed the mediation process was protected by tribal immunity. Plaintiff Abe Inetianbor started the case representing himself and discovered the fraud at the heart of CashCall’s practices. In the end, the legal team prevented a $7 million settlement with the company in South Dakota that would have ended all claims nationwide. Instead, the team forced state-by-state settlements. In Abe Inetianbor’s home state of Florida that settlement was worth more than $30 million. It also provided for the defendant to pay restitution and to work to fix the credit history of the borrowers it defrauded. I interviewed John Hughes and Abe Inetianbor in Tamarack, FL about this case.
The other finalists consisted of a case about sex tourism and spousal benefits for same-sex couples.
For Vang v. Prataya, I interviewed Patrick Arenz, Linda Miller, and plaintiff, Panyia Vang in Minneapolis, MN.
In the Cote v. Wal-Mart case, I interviewed Janson Wu at GLAD (GLTBQ Legal Advocates and Defenders) in Boston, MA.
I worked on this project for Tolsma Productions, which provided the graphics.