David Mazie of Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman (Carmen Natale/NJLJ)
Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman makes it look easy. In December, litigator David Mazie and associate Beth Baldinger won a groundbreaking verdict against a child protective services agency. It was one of the largest verdicts against such a defendant and the largest jury verdict in New Jersey history, Mazie said. The jury awarded $166 million to then-4-year-old Jadiel Velesquez, who was left brain damaged when his father beat him two months after the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services learned of possible abuse but didn’t remove him from his home. The state offered to settle for $10 million, but Mazie held out, and with good reason — Mazie said he hasn’t lost a jury trial since the 1990s.
John North, the attorney who represented the state, said having a “sympathetic plaintiff” played in Mazie’s favor. Still, he added, “I don’t want to take away from Dave in terms of his preparation for a case. You have to get the right experts and put on a good case to the jury.” North is at Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis. The case now heads to a state Superior Court judge, who will consider a possible retrial.
Regardless, the verdict may serve as a wake-up call for government-run child protective services.
Other states “would be crazy if they didn’t take a hard look at what happened in New Jersey and ask themselves, ‘Could this happen here?’ ” said Bruce Boyer, director of the Loyola ChildLaw Clinic in Chicago.
Mazie Slater has a knack for finding big cases like Velesquez’s. Previously, it earned another of New Jersey’s largest jury verdicts — although now overturned and settled — in a case involving a drunk driving accident after a New York Giants game. Within the past year, it settled class action suits against Nissan and Honda that involved possible defects in cars.
Based: Roseland, N.J.
Total No. of Attorneys: 10
► One of the secrets to our success is that we use technology in every aspect of the trial. The firm videotapes its depositions and plays those videos back during cross examination.
► I always address what they’ll hear from the defendant during opening statements, and it takes the wind out of their sails. You’re not supposed to argue, but we come pretty damn close.
► My cross examinations are sharp and to the point.
—David Mazie, partner