Werner Wetherington PC, Atlanta. L-R Robert Friedman, Matthew Wetherington, Michael Werner and Nola Jackson. (John Disney/ALM)
Plaintiffs lawyer Mike Werner of the Werner Law Firm has promoted associate Matt Wetherington to name partner, forming the new firm Werner Wetherington.
Werner hired Wetherington for his shop four years ago from Conley Griggs Partin. “I was looking for a new associate, and people kept telling me, ‘You’ve got to meet this guy named Matt,’” Werner said. “After the fourth person, I decided, ‘I’m going to meet this guy Matt.’”
Werner said he was so taken with Wetherington’s enthusiasm and energy that he hired him on the spot.
The firm has also added Nola Jackson and Robert Friedman from defense firm Cruser, Mitchell, Novitz, Sanchez, Gaston & Zimet to help with its growing caseload.
Werner, 47, handles catastrophic injury cases from vehicle wrecks, many involving motorcycles or tractor trailers, and Wetherington, 32, has broadened that to plaintiffs injured or killed from tire failures and other vehicle problems.
Wetherington has also found time to take on consumer justice litigation. He’s been suing mortgage lenders on behalf of first-time home sellers with HUD-backed loans, accusing them of delaying closings to collect an extra month of interest, and now he’s taking on what he said is unlawful car booting.
“I’m seeking out opportunities to deal with systematic wrongdoing,” he said.
The Daily Report made the indefatigable Wetherington one of its 2014 On the Rise picks for his efforts to educate consumers about bad tires.
He was so troubled by a tire failure causing an accident that left a 17-year-old client a quadriplegic that he created what he said is the only national database of recalled tires that tracks them by DOT number. Wetherington created and maintains a website, Tire Safety Group, and a free app, Tire Facts, to make the information available to the public.
“There are millions of recalled tires on the road today. It’s a major safety hazard. This is a way to prevent people from dying,” he said.
He and Werner confidentially settled a suit with Ford Motor Co. in May for a client injured when a tire supposed to have been recalled 12 years earlier blew out on I-85, causing her Ford Explorer to roll over.
Their client had already settled confidentially with Bridgestone, the tire manufacturer, and had also settled for $3 million with car dealer Spartan Lincoln Mercury in McDonough.
Wetherington started suing parking companies over booting last year. Local ordinances for the city of Atlanta and other municipalities, he said, require booters to state the legal name of the parking lot owner on the warning sign so people can call to dispute a boot. Instead, the companies use their name or that of the parking management company, he said, so the owner might not even know the concession is doing the booting.
“The allegation is that the booting companies are not complying with the local ordinances, so all the booting is illegal,” he said. “This is a criminal enterprise extracting hundreds of millions of dollars from Georgia citizens.”
Wetherington has filed six suits, some with solo Kevin Patrick, against big parking companies such as Advance Booting Services and Empire Parking Services in Fulton County State Court seeking class status. The suits, which claim RICO and false imprisonment, have been consolidated in front of Judge Eric Richardson.
“It’s not a large part of what we do, but booting is where my heart is,” he said.
Werner is similarly tireless. Trained as a doctor, he worked as an anesthesiologist to put himself through law school at Georgia State University and into his first few years in practice.
He’s won several multimillion-dollar verdicts for seriously injured clients, mostly amputations, paralyzations and wrongful deaths from trucking accidents, he said.
In 2014, he won $8.6 million from a Rome jury for a motorcyclist who lost his leg when an ambulance crashed into his bike. Floyd County Medical Center had offered $2 million to settle and he had counteroffered with $8.6 million.
Last year, with Joe Fried of Fried Rogers Goldberg, he won $5.7 million for a motorcyclist who lost his leg after hitting a mail truck on its route. The man had tried to pass the mail truck on a double-yellow line when it made an unexpected left turn. At a federal bench trial, the lawyers argued that mail carriers almost never make left turns while delivering mail and that this one didn’t use a flasher.
Werner, with Wetherington, won a $2.1 million Fulton County jury verdict in April for an SUV passenger injured when the driver flipped the car on Moreland Avenue to avoid another car that pulled out in front of him.
“You meet people once in a blue moon that make you a better lawyer,” Werner said. “The two of us together make better lawyers.”
“We also have a lot of fun doing it. The most important thing is to love what you’re doing—and we both love what we’re doing.”
Daniel Mohan has joined Polsinelli‘s health care practice as a shareholder from Morris Manning & Martin. Mohan represents hospitals, doctor groups and other health care providers in facility acquisitions, joint ventures and other transactions. Polsinelli has one of the country’s largest health care practices. American Health Lawyers Association this month named it the second-largest health care firm in the country. The firm launched its Atlanta office in 2014 when it acquired Rafuse Hill & Hodges, with 11 labor and employment lawyers and litigators. It landed a seven-lawyer health care team in 2015 from Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.
Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein has hired Shaney Lokken as counsel for its growing public finance group from SunTrust, where Lokken was chief compliance officer for security-based swaps. The Charlotte-based firm snagged partner Matt Nichols from Eversheds Sutherland earlier this year, after opening an Atlanta office at the start of 2016.
R. Andrew Snider has joined family law firm Levine Smith Snider & Wilson as an associate from another family law firm, Hackett & Wine, in Dunwoody. Snider had clerked for Levine Smith after earning his J.D. from Mercer University in 2015.
Corporate and M&A lawyer Robert Swartwood II has joined James-Bates-Brannan-Groover as of counsel from Eversheds Sutherland. Swartwood, who spent 14 years in the U.S. Army, also runs Ranger Coffee, which gives half of its profits to nonprofits that help veterans.
Litigation boutique Bloom Sugarman has hired Lainey McLellan as its executive director from Homrich Berg, a local wealth management firm, where she was client care manager.
Meredith Hobbs writes about the Atlanta legal community and the business of law. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @MeredithHobbs