Keith Givens on the Trial Lawyers Summit and Lanier Trial Academy

Michelle Swanner, Executive Director of The National Trial Lawyers, interviews Keith Givens, Founding Shareholder of The Cochran Firm, P.C., about his experiences at the Trial Lawyers Summit and Lanier Trial Academy.

Q: Can you tell me about your experience at the Trial Lawyers Summit?

A: The Trial Lawyers Summit, and I have attended probably 10 or 12, is an opportunity, usually at the first part of the year, to jumpstart your brain and practice. But given COVID-19 circumstances, we are a little bit delayed this year, and given the unusually cold weather, everyone is super anxious to get started on both. The Trial Lawyers Summit is a networking opportunity on steroids, and it’s an opportunity to hear from the very best speakers and presenters in the country. I think we will have over 150 this year to present some of the changes and techniques that we are going to have to adapt to because of what we have experienced with all of the shutdowns in the justice system over the last 12 months. It’s really critical to experience both the safe interaction—because we will have proper distancing and masks provided by Esquire Bank—and all of the other necessary techniques to make sure our attendees are safe to restart our practices the right way again.

Q: Can you tell me about your experience at the Lanier Trial Academy?

A: The Lanier Trial Academy is a perfect 1-2 punch, with the first punch being the Summit in Miami and the second being a more detailed, ingraining experience with one of the best trial lawyers of our time. Mark Lanier will spend two full days sharing every secret he has, as well as some of his inner thoughts as to how to prepare for trials, the presentation of the trial itself, and what wins trials. Ultimately, he will take everyone through the jury selection, to the closing arguments, all the way through to receiving the verdict. Attendees will hear things that they will not be able to hear at any other conference, in any other manner. So, I would not miss that second punch that will help us get restarted, especially after COVID-19.

Q: Why should someone attend both the Trial Lawyers Summit and Lanier Trial Academy?

A: Well, for two reasons. The first, being the discounted opportunity we are now offering. Also, I think if you attend one, it should motivate you enough to want to be the kind of trial lawyer that wouldn’t want to miss the second one. The Lanier Trial Academy will get you into the weeds and below as it relates to being a successful trial lawyer and learning some of the most modern up-to-date techniques. So personally, I wouldn’t miss either one.

If you are interested in registering for both events using an exclusive 2021 Event Pass, NTL members can sign up here, and non-members can sign up here.

The 2021 Trial Lawyers Summit is sponsored by Counsel Financial, The Sentinel Group, and Digital Law Marketing. The Lanier Trial Academy Master Class 5.0 Big As Texas Partners are Consumer Attorney Marketing Group, Archer, and Trusted Legal Partners.

Safety Guidelines at the 2021 Trial Lawyers Summit

Safety has played a massive factor in planning for the upcoming Trial Lawyers Summit. If you are determined to enhance your legal processes, attending the Trial Lawyers Summit is the first step. On January 31 – February 3, 2021, YOU are our main priority. For this event, attendance is limited, but you can guarantee your spot by registering now. There’s no need to worry – you will receive a 100% refund if the Trial Lawyers Summit is canceled or if you cancel due to COVID-19 related issues. Though we do not know what requirements will be in place in January, we currently anticipate all events and sessions will remain on-site at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Large social gatherings will occur outside, and outdoor dining space will be made available for all meals, weather permitting. Plenty of disposable face masks and personal size hand sanitizer will be available for everyone, and physical/social distancing will be encouraged and respectfully enforced. Attendees will be required to wear a face mask during indoor activities and sessions. All session seating will be physically/socially distanced, and meeting occupancy will be limited to the seats available. To view our full COVID-19 safety guidelines, click here.

Best of all, Emmy award-winning medical reporter and writer Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be our keynote speaker at the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame Awards Luncheon on February 1. I’m interested to hear his thoughts on the world today regarding COVID-19 and what the future holds.

Check out the full conference agenda and view our online brochure.

Make sure to reserve your spot and I’ll see you next January!


Michelle Swanner

Executive Director

The National Trial Lawyers

Pfizer to Pay $190M in Class Action Settlement over Generic Neurontin

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A $190 million settlement has been reached in New York in a consumer fraud class action lawsuit pending against Pfizer which alleges the pharma giant engaged in tactics to delay market entry of generic versions of its epilepsy drug Neurontin.

The lawsuit was filed by purchasers of Neurontin in 2002, claiming Pfizer undertook campaign of sham patent infringement lawsuits and promotion of the drug for unapproved uses in order to maintain market exclusivity. The case is In re Neurontin Antitrust Litigation, No. 02-1390, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey.

In 2004, Pfizer pleaded guilty to criminal charges of illegal marketing of Neurontin and paid $430 million to federal and state governments.

40-year-old English Professor Wins $27.5 Million in Rare Secondhand Asbestos Case

A Cleveland, Ohio, instructor has won $27.5 million in a lawsuit claiming that he contracted mesothelioma after coming into contact with asbestos on his father’s work clothes.  Doctors diagnosed John Panza, Jr., 40, with mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer, in 2012.  His father died in 1994 from lung cancer after working at Eaton Airflex brake company for 31 years.

The $27.5 million verdict is believed to be the largest of its kind in Ohio.  The jury awarded Panza $515,000 in economic damages and $12 million in non-economic damages. His wife, Jane Panza, was awarded $15 million for loss of consortium for a total award of $27,515,000.The only defendant at trial, Kelsey-Hayes Company, successor to National Friction Products Corp., was found 60% liable. The verdict was handed down on December 18, 2013.

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Gary Paul, partner at Waters, Kraus & Paul in San Francisco and lead trial attorney for the Panzas, said “I am so proud to represent John and his wife Jane. True justice happened today.”   Paul was assisted by Demetrious Zacharapolous, also an attorney at Waters, Kraus & Paul.

Attorney John Mismas, who served as local counsel, says “I’m just happy for the family.  Which for me, it’s not about me winning this award.  It’s not about the money for me.”

John Panza, Jr., an English instructor at Cuyahoga Community College, has undergone four separate surgeries, including the removal of his right lung.  The plant where his father worked from 1963 to 1993, owned by the former National Friction Products Corp., manufactured brake pads which contained asbestos. Panza’s father regularly came home covered in the cancer-causing material after working in the receiving and shipping department. He delivered materials all over the plant and was a frequent bystander to other employees who drilled and abraded National Friction products, which released asbestos.

The jury assigned 60 percent of the liability to Kelsey-Hayes, after finding that the brake pads made at the factory were defective and were the primary cause of Panza’s cancer.  40 percent of the liability was assigned to Eaton Airflex, which was protected from liability under Ohio law.  Kelsey-Hayes will be held responsible for the damages, and is expected to appeal the verdict.  There will be a second trial at a later date set by the court with a different jury to determine whether punitive damages should be awarded and in what amount.

Family of Virginia Man Killed by His Own House in a Tornado wins $1.7 Million Jury Award

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Path of tornado Surry Co. to Mathews Co., including Gloucester Co., VA. April 16, 2011

A jury in Virginia awarded $1.7 million in a construction defect case to the family  of a Gloucester, Virginia man who was killed when a tornado dropped his own modular house on him.

Richard Ingram, 53, was killed on April 16, 2011, when a tornado lifted his home off of its foundation and crashed it into a nearby garage where he was working.  Robert J. Haddad, the attorney representing Ingram’s estate, argued that Ingram’s modular home had not been properly anchored to its foundation.

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Circuit Court Judge Frederick B. Lowe instructed the jury that the contractor which installed Ingram’s home, Custom Builders Express, had violated several portions of the building code.  Judge Lowe said the only thing for jurors to decide was whether the contractor’s negligence was a proximate cause of Ingram’s death.

The tornado had a nearly continuous damage path ranging in width from around 200 yards to as much as a half mile wide in Gloucester county, according to the National Weather Service. Over 200 homes were damaged with many of these homes severely damaged. Numerous trees were downed or sheared off.

Defense attorney C. Jay Robbins IV, representing Benchmark Insurance Co., argued that the EF-3 tornado was so powerful that Ingram’s home would have been ripped from its foundation even if it had been anchored.  Robbins also told jurors that the garage where Ingram was working had already been destroyed by the tornado, and that Ingram was likely killed before the house was blown onto the garage.  After two hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Ingram’s estate, which had sought $2.4 million in damages.  Robbins has appealed the verdict.


A Lawyer and Partner, and Also Bankrupt

New York Times; January 24, 2014

Anyone who wonders why law school applications are plunging and there’s widespread malaise in many big law firms might consider the case of Gregory M. Owens.

The silver-haired, distinguished-looking Mr. Owens would seem the embodiment of a successful Wall Street lawyer. A graduate of Denison University and Vanderbilt Law School, Mr. Owens moved to New York City and was named a partner at the then old-line law firm of Dewey, Ballantine, Bushby, Palmer & Wood, and after a merger, at Dewey & LeBoeuf.

Today, Mr. Owens, 55, is a partner at an even more eminent global law firm, White & Case. A partnership there or any of the major firms collectively known as “Big Law” was long regarded as the brass ring of the profession, a virtual guarantee of lifelong prosperity and job security.

But on New Year’s Eve, Mr. Owens filed for personal bankruptcy.

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Neiman Marcus Hacked, Class Action Claims

Courthouse News Service; January 14, 2014

BROOKLYN (CN) – Neiman Marcus waited for weeks to tell its customers their credit and debit card information may have been stolen, a class action claims in Federal Court.
Lead plaintiff Melissa Frank claims her debit card information was stolen in December and fraudulent charges were run up on it-but Neiman Marcus did not tell its customers about the hack attack until Jan. 10.
And, as in the well-publicized Target fiasco , Neiman Marcus did not publicize the attack, but a blogger was the first to alert the public, Frank says in the lawsuit.

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Insurer Wants No Part of Attorneys’ Brawl

Courthouse News Service; January 14, 2014

CHICAGO (CN) – State Farm wants no part in defending a public defender who allegedly jumped on a prosecutor’s back, twisted his neck, slammed him to the ground and sat on him.
State Farm Fire & Casualty Company sued Henry Hams and Michael McCormick in Cook County Court.
The insurer claims policy exclusions allow it to bow out of the affair that began 3½ years ago between Hams, a Cook County public defender, and McCormick, an assistant state’s attorney.

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Slain Dad’s Texting to Daughter Cited as Motive in Shooting

ABC News; January 14, 2014

A retired Tampa police captain is expected to appear in court later today, accused of fatally shooting a man and injuring his wife during an argument over cellphone texting in front of horrified moviegoers.

“Someone throws popcorn,” eyewitness Charles Cummings said Monday after the shooting inside the theater, according to ABC News Radio. “I’m not sure who threw the popcorn and then bang, he was shot. He staggered two seats over and fell on my son and I.

“The guy who was shot said something; ‘I just was texting my … three-year-old daughter,'” Cummings added.

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NCAA’s Supreme Court Petition Is an Air Ball

Courthouse News Service; January 13, 2014

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Supreme Court battle over college athletes’ image rights may be over before it even started after the justices rejected key motions Monday.
Brewing since 2009, the case at hand involves a group of former student-athletes challenging the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s use of their images in video games, merchandise and other promotional materials.
Former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon filed the first complaint in the case, alleging that the NCAA violated his and other athletes’ right to make money off their likenesses.
The NCAA’s licensing arm, Collegiate Licensing Co., and the video game company Electronic Arts were also named as defendants.

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