Why are Trial Lawyers so Important?
Most trial lawyers representing plaintiffs in civil cases work on a contingency- fee basis – meaning they don’t get paid anything unless and until they collect an award for their clients. This can translate into heavy risks for the attorneys involved, as some of the most important lawsuits involve years of work and hundreds of thousands of pages of court filings before a settlement or court resolution is reached.
Each year, Public Justice awards a Trial Lawyer of the Year Award to recognize those lawyers who took risks to litigate important cases and right egregious wrongs. The 2015 award winner will be announced on July 13. We at WM congratulate each of the finalists for their tireless efforts and demonstrated commitment to justice. The five finalists are as follows:
David v. Signal International
Just the first in a string of related cases stretching over seven years, this case went all the way to a complex jury trial and proved that Signal International was responsible for labor trafficking, fraud, racketeering, and discrimination. The attorneys in the case proved that Signal International lured workers from India with false promises of permanent residency and good jobs. Once the workers were here, they were packed into tiny trailers and charged over $1,000 per month. Evidence at trial showed that when the workers tried to organize to take action, Signal International locked them in trailers and fired their leaders. At the conclusion of the four- week trial, the jury unanimously awarded the workers $14-million.
Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania v. Wetzell
After negotiations with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections were unsuccessful, this case was filed and quickly forced a negotiated settlement from the DOC on behalf of mentally ill prisoners held in solitary confinement. The settlement ensured prison reforms including regular mental- health evaluations for all prisoners, no solitary confinement for mentally ill prisoners (absent “exceptional circumstances”), and limitations on restraints and other disciplinary measures for prisoners with severe mental illnesses.
Elwin v. NS Home for Colored Children & Province of Nova Scotia
This case ended over 70 years of horrific physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of African-Canadian orphans placed in the Halifax Home for Colored Children. When a series of personal- injury suits failed to convince the government that this “home” was abusive, the Elwin class- action case was filed in 2011. Finally, after a 14-year battle, the Canadian government and orphanage conceded what was happening and agreed to a $34-million settlement.
In re McCray, Richardson, Santana, Wise and Salaam Litigation
In 1989, five young African-American and Hispanic teenagers were arrested and convicted of rape, serving between seven and thirteen years in prison. In 2002, the “Central Park Five” were exonerated and their coerced confessions exposed. Over the next 13 years, their attorneys fought through hundreds of depositions and hundreds of thousands of pages of discovery until the city finally agreed to a settlement of $41-million.
Navajo Nation v. U.S.
Attorneys for the Navajo Nation argued that for 70 years, the U.S. government mismanaged its trust of 14- million acres of land belonging to the Navajo Nation, depriving the Nation of royalties owed to it. At the conclusion of this eight-year case, the United States agreed to pay $554-million to the Navajo Nation.
At Wagner McLaughlin, we are proud to be part of a system that holds governments and corporations accountable for their wrongdoings. If you have been injured – physically, financially, or otherwise – by the actions of the government or a corporation, obtaining fair compensation can seem like a daunting, impossible task. We are here to help. Contact us today for a free consultation.