Legal Teams Win 2009 Trial Lawyer of the Year Awards
Attorneys in Rocky Flats, Pan Am 103 Litigation Take Public Justice Foundation Honors
Two legal teams that each prevailed in long and hard-fought cases against formidable corporate and government defendants were named co-winners of the Public Justice Foundation’s 2009 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award at ceremonies in San Francisco on July 29.
Ten attorneys from Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Denver were cited for their work in Cook v. Rockwell International Corp., in which they held the operators of Colorado’s Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant accountable for persistent radioactive contamination from the facility.
They shared honors with a team of five New York lawyers who recovered substantial damages for the families of the victims in the deadly 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
The award went to Merrill G. Davidoff, Peter Nordberg, David F. Sorensen, Ellen Noteware and Jenna MacNaughton Wong of Berger & Montague, P.C. in Philadelphia; Louise Roselle and Jean Geoppinger of Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley Co., LPA in Cincinnati; and Gary Blum, Steve Kelly and Bruce DeBoskey of Silver & DeBoskey, P.C. in Denver for the Cook case; and James P. Kreindler and Steven R. Pounian of Kreindler & Kreindler LLP; Michel “Mitch” F. Baumeister of Baumeister & Samuels; and Frank H. Granito Jr. and Frank Granito III of Speiser Krause Nolan & Granito for the Lockerbie, Scotland – Pan Am 103 Litigation.
The winners were chosen from a field of 20 nominated cases, five of which were chosen as finalists. The finalists were feted at the Public Justice Foundation’s Annual Gala and Awards Dinner, where the winners were named.
In the Cook case, 13,000 property owners near Rocky Flats outside Denver were awarded $926 million in compensatory damages, punitive damages, and prejudgment interest for the diminution of their property values as the result of radioactive contamination from the plant. The jury verdict against Dow Chemical Co., and Rockwell International was the first to impose punitive damages on a U.S. Department of Energy nuclear weapons contractor.
The attorneys in the Pan Am 103 case recovered more than $500 million from the airline’s insurers and $2.7 billion from the Libyan government for the victims’ families. The litigation marked the first and only time that a nation designated as a “state sponsor of terrorism” admitted its role in a terrorist attack and paid compensation to the victims’ families.
The Public Justice Foundation bestows the award on lawyers who won or settled socially significant cases in the last year.
Read more about the winning cases and the three finalist cases for this year’s award.