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Few products liability cases can prompt manufacturers to raise the white flag quicker than those involving children, but adding a little “mom-sense” to the defense side may make these difficult lawsuits easier to resolve. At least the defense firm of Bowman and Brooke thinks so. Two of its women attorneys are spearheading a practice group that specifically focuses on defending clients in high-stakes personal injury cases affecting children. “I am a soccer mom,” said Sandra Ezell, a mother of four who leads the 15-attorney group with partner Norma Gant. Ezell said that as mothers-and accomplished lawyers-she and Gant have a talent for communicating with kids, for spotting weaknesses in plaintiffs’ claims and for identifying contributory negligence. “With issues involving children, I can say, ‘You know what, this doesn’t hold water,’ ” she said. But Chris Milne, an attorney at Milne Law Offices in Dover, Mass., questions the firm’s strategy, which he describes as “marketing.” His practice focuses on representing children in products liability and medical malpractice cases, and serving as a trustee. “I’m a ‘soccer dad,’ ” he said. “ It’s not whether it’s a man or a woman; it’s whether they’re a good lawyer.” Products liability cases involving children are particularly tragic and can result in huge damages for plaintiffs. In September, a Texas jury awarded $42 million for a 10-year-old boy’s death in a case against Ford Motor Co. and others for defective automotive glass. Marroquinn v. Ford Motor Co., No. 04-61218-2 (Nueces Co., Texas, Dist. Ct.). Last year, a Florida jury awarded almost $48 million to plaintiffs after a 6-year-old girl was paralyzed from a car accident involving a defective seat latch. Also last year, another Texas jury returned a $34 million verdict for the death of a child from a fire caused by a faulty air conditioner. Ibarra v. L.G. Electronics, No. C-1077-03-F (Hidalgo Co., Texas, Dist. Ct.). Bowman and Brooke started the practice after it recognized a void in the market, Ezell said. She said that although corporate clients may dole out their legal work based on product line, geography or type of injury, they rarely consider child injury cases as needing separate attention. But they should, she said. “When you’re talking about catastrophic exposure cases, they often involve children,” said Ezell, who has defended automakers in several products liability lawsuits. She was a partner at McGuireWoods before joining Bowman’s Richmond, Va., office in May. ‘Thorny’ cases Gant, who has practiced in the firm’s Detroit office for 15 years, said that cases in which children are witnesses can be especially thorny for attorneys not experienced in communicating with young ones. “They’re very literal. They’ll tell you the truth,” she said. Gant added that her perspective as a “parent who uses a lot of products” benefits her clients. But attorney Andrew Haggard said that gender and perspective cannot change the facts of a case. “They have a monumental task,” he said. His Coral Gables, Fla., firm, Haggard, Parks, Haggard & Bologna, won a $100 million verdict, reportedly the largest in Florida’s history, two years ago for the near-drowning of a child in an apartment complex swimming pool.

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