by Arthur Bryant, Chairman, Public Justice
*This post is cross-posted and was originally published at Public Justice's blog.
Corporate America loves to trash trial lawyers because trial lawyers hold them accountable – when they break the law, cheat people, sell defective products, discriminate, mistreat workers, poison the water and air or maximize profit over safety and lives. We celebrate the work they do to make our country more just. This year’s finalists for Public Justice’s Trial Lawyer of the Year Award are the latest examples. The Award honors the verdict or settlement that made the biggest contribution to the public interest in the past year.
Bookout v. Toyota
When thousands of Toyota Camrys were suddenly accelerating, the company blamed floor mats, bad drivers, and sticky pedals. But the real problem was Toyota’s conduct: the Camry’s electronic throttle system was poorly designed and did not conform to industry standards. When Jean Bookout’s Camry suddenly accelerated in September 2007 and crashed, she was injured and passenger Barbara Schwarz died.
Bookout v. Toyota Motor Corp. was the first suit to go to trial against Toyota tying sudden unintended acceleration to electronic throttle control problems. A team of trial lawyers —Jere L. Beasley, J. Cole Portis, R. Graham Esdale, and Benjamin E. Baker of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C. in Montgomery, AL, with assistance from Larry Tawwater of The Tawwater Law Firm in Oklahoma City, OK, and Paul Martin of Martin Jean Jackson in Ponca City, OK — won a $3 million compensatory damages jury verdict. Toyota settled before the jury could determine the amount of punitive damages. Then it settled the hundreds of other personal injury and wrongful death cases pending nationwide.