New York Lawyer Proud to Make a Difference

Photo: Statia Grossman

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 actuallywhat Weitz considers his biggest career achievement.

“My biggest accomplishment is the firm and whatwe have done with the firm,” says Weitz, who started thefirm in 1986 with Arthur Luxenberg. “The fact that we’vediversified the firm by hiring some of the best lawyersout 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 withone-on-one attention.”

Weitz says that he handles the settlement of every majorlitigation the firm is involved with, which means he’s a verybusy lawyer.

The firm has played leading roles in national and locallitigations involving mesothelioma and asbestos-related lungcancer, as well as defective medicines and medical devices.Weitz has led his firm in successfully obtaining asbestosverdicts and settlements totaling well over $10 billion.

“I built the firm into the best and biggest asbestos firm inthe country, and I did that by taking verdicts and thenbuilding a great firm full of great trial lawyers,” Weitz says.

One of Weitz’s first successes came in 1989, whenhe tried the cases of 36 workers from the Brooklyn NavyYard—all of whom had been contaminated with asbestosduring the 1940s. Weitz got a $75 million verdict in theBNY 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 25Asbestos Trusts. Weitz has been lead or been part of thenegotiations that have resulted in more than $30 billion inAsbestos Trusts for asbestos victims. A few of the mostsignificant that Weitz led were Halliburton for $5.1 billion,Owens Corning Fibreboard for $5 billion, and Honeywellfor $5 billion.

The firm, with Robin Greenwald, a former chief of theEnvironmental Division of the U.S. Attorney’s office, headingthe Environmental Unit, is a forerunner in the legal fightagainst polluters, Weitz argues, fighting for clients who havebeen 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 youhave made trying to make products in thiscountry 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 toensure 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 drugcompanies 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 onlyVioxx 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-alteringproblems and diseases, getting emotionally involved in hiswork is something that’s just unavoidable.

“I used to have young lawyers who would second seatme crying, and I’ve seen jurors and judges cry,” Weitzstarts. “These are horrible, insidious diseases that destroypeople’s lives, leaving their families penniless.”

Weitz said that he has watched mesothelioma andlung cancer “take a 250-pound construction worker andreduce him to 90 pounds. Kids are deformed every daybecause of bad medicines, and the incredible number ofheart attacks and strokes that occurred with Vioxx andAvandia … what I do and what this firm does makes adifference, not only economically for these people whohave been through so much, but the societal effect is alsoimportant to me.”

Weitz feels it is his duty to “help preserve and enhancethe economic future for people that, without this compensation, their lives would be destroyed, becausetheir lives have already been destroyed by these terriblediseases. I have done that for 100,000 people, and I willnever stop.”

New York Lawyer Proud to Make a Difference