Ashleigh Madison
Ashleigh Madison ()

Savannah plaintiffs lawyer Ashleigh Madison has left Savage, Turner, Pinckney & Madison to start her own solo practice.

Madison, a Savannah native, started working for Savage Turner in 2001, after receiving her law degree from Mercer University. “I loved growing up here and I thought I’d have more of an opportunity to make a name for myself in a town that had a smaller bar,” she said.

Madison and Kathryn Pinckney became name partners a couple of years ago at the Savannah plaintiffs’ firm founded 30 years ago by Brent Savage and R. Bart Turner.

Madison said she wanted the control and flexibility of being her own boss, adding that 12 years at Savage Turner have prepared her well. “I would have never been able to do this without all the support and opportunities they’ve given me,” she said. “I have confidence in myself and my abilities, in the business I’ve created and the networking I’ve done. I wanted to do everything I could to set myself up for success and I’ve done that.”

She has opened Southeast Law at 426 Barnard St. on Chatham Square in downtown Savannah, which she said is near the courthouse and Interstate 16.

Women lawyers are uncommon in plaintiffs law, one of the legal profession’s most male-dominated areas, and Madison said female plaintiffs lawyers are a rare breed in Savannah. “There are not a lot of women who come to Savannah to practice law and the ones that do go to big firms like Hunter­McLean.”

Asked how she’s carved out her own career, Madison said hard work and maintaining a reputation for being “honest and genuine” in her personal and professional dealings have been part of it.

“I will try a case,” she added, estimating that she’s tried 25 or 30 cases over her career. “There are a lot of lawyers who won’t go try a case.”

In a recently reported case, Madison secured a $250,000 judgment in a federal bench trial for a log truck driver who suffered neck injuries in a wreck caused by a driver for the U.S. Postal Service (Hutchinson v. United States of America).

She, Turner and other Savannah plaintiffs’ lawyers represented a class of landowners along the Ogeechee River who sued King America Finishing plant after toxic and illegal discharges from the plant caused a massive fish kill in 2011. The textile manufacturer settled with the landowners last fall, agreeing to spend $250,000 over five years to restock the river with shad, and it paid the Ogeechee Riverkeeper $2.5 million to settle a separate suit.

Madison handles personal injury, medical malpractice and business disputes, mostly on contingency but with some billable cases. “It’s nice to have that mix,” she said.

Construction disputes, representing owners and developers against contractors, and mold cases are part of her practice, in addition to the typical plaintiffs’ mix of automotive collisions, premises and product liability cases.

Mold cases crop up in the Lowcountry because of the heat and humidity, Madison said, but many lawyers shy away from them because opinions vary widely on what it will cost to remediate a mold-damaged property, so properly valuing the case can be tricky.

Madison said her cases mostly come from other lawyers’ referrals. “It’s important as a plaintiffs lawyer to network and be involved in the community. You will not get cases if you do not put yourself out there. You’ve got to be the first person on somebody’s mind—and get results,” Madison said.

Careful case selection is important, she said. One common pitfall for plaintiffs lawyers hanging out their own shingles can be taking on too many cases indiscriminately. “New lawyers can sort of panic. They go from being really busy in a firm to just one person, and so they have a tendency to take everything that comes in the door.”

“It’s important to recognize that you are only one person and only have the ability to work a certain number of files,” she said. “To do quality work on those files and work them up thoroughly, it makes better sense to be a little more selective in what you take, which will result in better quality, more lucrative results.”


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