Gerson H. Smoger
In 1995, Dallas attorney Gerson Smoger filed the first of many cases against the Doe Run Co. and its owners, including Fluor Corp. and Massey Energy. For decades, these companies’ lead smelter in Herculaneum, Missouri, had been contaminating the air and soil of the surrounding community. Local children were developing serious lead-related cognitive and behavioral problems.
Though Doe Run and the smelter’s past owners knew of the risks lead poses to children, none of them did anything to stop it. In fact, production increased. Discovery would later show that the owners hid from the community the serious levels of air contamination and soil contamination.
When Gerson learned about what was going on and filed that first case, he had no idea how involved it would become. Along with Mark Bronson of St. Louis, he has spent the next decade and a half working on it. More than 500 depositions have been taken.
In Alexander v. Fluor, a case tried in 2011 for three months, attorneys Steve Bronson, an associate at Gerson’s firm, and James Dowd were added to the team. The jury came back with a verdict of $358.5 million for the plaintiffs (the largest collectible award ever in Missouri), and the team was given our 2012 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.
Gerson’s victory defined Public Justice’s mission of holding powerful wrongdoers accountable.
In addition to a nationwide practice (his firm has offices in Dallas and Oakland, California), Gerson has been a member of our board since 1996, including serving as President in 2008-09. He’s a sponsor of our annual law student essay contest, which bears his name (“Hogan/Smoger Access to Justice Essay Contest”), and has written several amicus briefs for Public Justice. Always a generous supporter, Gerson was one of the key 30-for-30 contributors during our 2012 campaign — individuals or firms who gave a minimum of $30,000.
Besides Alexander v. Fluor, Gerson has handled and tried numerous personal injury, toxic tort and consumer class actions around the country. In 2003 he was a finalist for our Trial Lawyer of the Year Award for Price v. Philip Morris, taking on Big Tobacco over the fraud of “light” cigarettes. Years ago, he successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court the right of Vietnam veterans to bring suits for Agent Orange exposure — even though a prior settlement had been completely paid out. In 2012 he was named Missouri Environmentalist of the Year for his work representing not only the residents of Herculaneum for lead contamination but also those of Times Beach, Missouri, for dioxin contamination. More recently, as a result of a case settled with Wells Fargo Bank, he and his co-counsel — Public Justice Foundation members Jeffrey Berns and Dave Arbogast — secured a $1,000,000 cy pres award for Public Justice.
We’re sure he has more great work ahead. Who knows where his next case might take him?
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