Harvey Weitz is never taken by surprise in the courtroom. Over his distinguished career as one of the country’s leading trial attorneys, he’s proven time and again that he’s prepared to handle anything thrown at him - and win astonishing verdicts in the process. Of the 10 largest verdicts in New York State, three belong to Mr. Weitz - including the largest of all, $197 million. “I’ve never been out-fought, out-thought or out-spent,” says Mr. Weitz, a partner in the law firm of Weitz & Associates in Manhattan. While multimillion-dollar verdicts are de rigueur for Mr. Weitz, he takes the most pride in representing the proverbial little guy - often in tough cases deemed hopeless by conventional standards.
The results of many of his trials resonate long after the final verdicts have been read. Today, all public parks in Manhattan contain some kind of padding or protective material to reduce the risk of injury to the children that play happily in them - the result of a case Mr. Weitz tried and won in which a child was seriously injured in a fall from a water-spray tower. “I understand the real meaning of responsibility, ” Mr. Weitz says. “In our cases we hold people responsible for their wrongful conduct, and this helps bring about positive change in society.” Among many other high-profile suits, he was the lead trial counsel in the New York tobacco-industry cases, and the threat of the impending trial helped orchestrate a settlement that turned out to be the largest of its kind in the nation and has resulted in a decrease in smoking.
In 2002, after four decades of practice, Mr. Weitz founded a new firm in affiliation with the late Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr., and his two sons, Paul and Andrew. “I love working with my sons,” says Mr. Weitz, adding that these days, he often goes to them for advice. “They have a special insight. We’re a family of trial lawyers, and we take great pride in our profession.”
Mr. Weitz says his background helped him prepare for his legal career. “I grew up poor in Brooklyn. Like most accident victims I had to struggle to overcome hard times, and I know firsthand the hard times that people go through,” he says.
But his work doesn’t stop in the courtroom, and over the course of his career he has become well known as an author and lecturer. “I’ve written three books, one of which is considered the authority on the law of automobile negligence and no-fault insurance,” Weitz says. “I’ve also done two volumes of “The Art of Summation,” which have become bestsellers.” His courtroom skills have led to his appointment as adjunct professor of trial law at Brooklyn Law School.
It makes sense, then, that Mr. Weitz’s greatest strength may lie in the sheer breadth of this experience. “I have tried every type of serious injury case imaginable, from auto accidents to aviation disasters, from medical malpractice to product defects, and I have recorded record verdicts and settlements along the way,” he says. In obtaining hundreds of millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements in so-called “impossible cases,” Mr. Weitz is most proud of those which other lawyers felt could not be won.
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