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Case: Lambert v. General Motors Corp., RCV 19570 (Super. Ct. San Bernardino Co.) Outcome: Driving on the Interstate on July 30, 1990, at 1 a.m. in a 1985 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer, 18-year-old Robbie Lambert fell asleep at the wheel, and the vehicle rolled over four times. The roof was crushed. Although he was wearing a seat belt, he broke his neck. Lambert was partially paralyzed. He conceded that he was the sole cause of the accident but alleged that the Blazer was not crashworthy because of a weak roof. The case went to trial in 1996, resulting in a $15 million verdict in which the jury found Lambert 50 percent negligent. On appeal, the verdict was reversed as inconsistent. At a second trial, concluded on Jan. 19, 2001 a jury awarded Lambert $25.7 million, finding him 40 percent negligent. What was the key factor in winning? Having an excellent expert and an excellent client makes things much easier for a trial lawyer. The second trial emphasized GM’s negligence. General Motors told the jury that it doesn’t matter how strong a vehicle’s roof is, if it rolls over you may get hurt. Until the oil shortage of the late 1960s to early 1970s, when auto makers looked for ways to shave weight off of vehicles, roofs were strong enough to withstand any kind of rollover. In the 1980s, GM concluded in a series of tests on its Malibu vehicle that a stronger roof had no bearing on whether or not serious injuries occur in a rollover. My chief expert witness, Donald Friedman, who headed the lunar rover project for General Motors, has devoted the last 12 years of his life to try to convince the government, industry and the population that what he sees is an epidemic of death and catastrophic injury caused by rollovers. This is a guy who knows what he is talking about. About 12 years ago, he discovered heretofore secret documents that undermined the entire conclusions about roof strength in GM’s Malibu rollover study. What was the most difficult hurdle? It was going back to Robbie Lambert in 1998 after the [California] Court of Appeal took his judgment away, going back to the client and saying, “Gee. The Court of Appeal didn’t like it.” I think his first words were, “OK. Maybe it was meant to be.” My response to him was, “We will do better in the next trial.” What is the worst moment of your career? I had previously represented a quadriplegic young woman in an extremely difficult case. She won at trial $4.5 million, which got reversed by the Court of Appeal, and there was no new trial. The court said, “We cannot allow this to happen. You lose.” I started to drive to her house on two different days to tell her the news, but I never knocked on her door. It took a third try for me to be able to tell her. Winning a hard case in front of a jury then losing it on appeal is much worse than losing it in front of a jury. What is the high point of your career? I can’t pick a high point, but there have been a lot of them. When someone who really needs help, who really is badly injured, sends you a Christmas card eight or nine years later with a picture of the family. That’s a big deal. No B.S. No politics. It’s real. What tip do you have generally for dealing with a jury? The ability to connect with a jury on a real-world level. I’ve had people with the most absolutely brilliant and scholarly academic and professional credentials who have worked for me [but] couldn’t begin to do an adequate job with a jury of regular taxpayers. I’m not saying that success with a jury and brains are mutually exclusive. It’s just that some people channel their intelligence in such a way that it doesn’t connect with a jury.

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