When asked what one case from his more than 30-year career makes him most proud, Perry Weitz has to laugh. “One case doesn’t describe me,” the attorney explains. “I am this firm—it’s what I do every day. There is not one case that defines me or this firm.”
That firm—New York’s Weitz & Luxenberg—is actually what Weitz considers his biggest career achievement.
“My biggest accomplishment is the firm and what we have done with the firm,” says Weitz, who started the firm in 1986 with Arthur Luxenberg. “The fact that we’ve diversified the firm by hiring some of the best lawyers out there. We handle cases all around the country, because we have almost 80 lawyers and a staff of 400. It’s a huge operation, and yet, we still provide clients with one-on-one attention.”
Weitz says that he handles the settlement of every major litigation the firm is involved with, which means he’s a very busy lawyer.
The firm has played leading roles in national and local litigations involving mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer, as well as defective medicines and medical devices. Weitz has led his firm in successfully obtaining asbestos verdicts and settlements totaling well over $10 billion.
“I built the firm into the best and biggest asbestos firm in the country, and I did that by taking verdicts and then building a great firm full of great trial lawyers,” Weitz says.
One of Weitz’s first successes came in 1989, when he tried the cases of 36 workers from the Brooklyn Navy Yard—all of whom had been contaminated with asbestos during the 1940s. Weitz got a $75 million verdict in the BNY case. Weitz continued trying groups of asbestos cases with some of the best trial lawyers in the country by his side: Robert Gordon, Jerry Kristal, and Michael Roberts. Year after year, Weitz and his team of lawyers secured the biggest and best verdicts in the country.
Weitz also serves as Trust Advisor on more than 25 Asbestos Trusts. Weitz has been lead or been part of the negotiations that have resulted in more than $30 billion in Asbestos Trusts for asbestos victims. A few of the most significant that Weitz led were Halliburton for $5.1 billion, Owens Corning Fibreboard for $5 billion, and Honeywell for $5 billion.
The firm, with Robin Greenwald, a former chief of the Environmental Division of the U.S. Attorney’s office, heading the Environmental Unit, is a forerunner in the legal fight against polluters, Weitz argues, fighting for clients who have been harmed by coal ash, industrial degreasers, and gasoline additives that have seeped into water tables nationwide.
“It is gratifying when you see the good you are doing, not only for the individual clients and their families, but also the difference you have made trying to make products in this country safer.” —Perry Weitz
“We have fought for people whose communities have been contaminated,” Weitz says. “It is gratifying when you see the good you are doing, not only for the individual clients and their families, but also the difference you have made trying to make products in this country safer. The difference you make trying to ensure there is never another asbestos. To make sure the drugs do not come to the market before being adequately tested and to make sure the drug companies tell the FDA about all the dangers of taking that product—that is what is gratifying for me.”
Weitz had a hand in securing a $423 million settlement for the victims of MTBE contamination, and a $53 million verdict for a client suffering from mesothelioma. Weitz led one of the first Vioxx trial cases, and the firm got the only Vioxx verdict for McDarby for $13.5 million to be sustained by the New Jersey Supreme Court. A case with so many problems that the defendant, Merck, asked the court to try it.
For Weitz, who represents people with life-altering problems and diseases, getting emotionally involved in his work is something that’s just unavoidable.
“I used to have young lawyers who would second seat me crying, and I’ve seen jurors and judges cry,” Weitz starts. “These are horrible, insidious diseases that destroy people’s lives, leaving their families penniless.”
Weitz said that he has watched mesothelioma and lung cancer “take a 250-pound construction worker and reduce him to 90 pounds. Kids are deformed every day because of bad medicines, and the incredible number of heart attacks and strokes that occurred with Vioxx and Avandia ... what I do and what this firm does makes a difference, not only economically for these people who have been through so much, but the societal effect is also important to me.”
Weitz feels it is his duty to “help preserve and enhance the economic future for people that, without this compensation, their lives would be destroyed, because their lives have already been destroyed by these terrible diseases. I have done that for 100,000 people, and I will never stop.”