Thomas Vincent Girardi is an American attorney and television personality, who is one of the founding partners of the Los Angeles based law firm, Girardi & Keese. Established in 1965, the firm has recovered $10 billion in verdicts and settlements. With a career that has spanned over four decades, he is widely considered to be one of the most prominent trial lawyers in America. A Colorado native, Girardi received his LL.B. from Loyola Law School in 1964 and an LLM from the New York University in 1965. He began practising in the same year, setting up the law firm with his friend Robert M. Keese. He was the first lawyer in the state of California to win over $1 billion in a lawsuit for a medical malpractice case in 1970. He has handled cases against several international corporations, including the former Lockheed Corp (now the Lockheed Martin Corp.), Pacific Gas & Electric Co, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and Hollywood's seven major movie studios. In 2003, Girardi was inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame by the California State Bar.
In 1965, Thomas Girardi and Keese, along with a few others established the law firm, Girardi & Keese. He fought his first significant case in 1970 and won over $1 billion for his clients from the healthcare industry. He also got a $785 million verdict for toxic tort personal injuries suffered by employees in Lockheed's Skunkworks facilities and a $45.5 million verdict for the defective seatbelt which rendered a six-year-old child paralysed against Ford Motor Company. Besides these, he has acquired over 30 verdicts of $1 million or more.
Girardi has obtained successful settlement deals for his clients against the pharmaceutical giant Merck for personal injuries to consumers of the drug Vioxx ($4,85 billion). He obtained $1.9 billion and $1.7 billion settlements for the Californian consumers who were scammed by the manipulation of natural gas prices.
He was also one of the leading attorneys in the case against Pacific Gas & Electric, a utility company. The inhabitants of the desert community of Hinkley, California accused the company of contaminating their water source because of a leak in a gas pumping station. It had resulted in numerous cases of cancer and other related diseases. Pacific Gas & Electric eventually agreed to pay $333 million to 650 residents of the town. The events surrounding the case inspired the 2000 film ‘Erin Brockovich’.
Perhaps one of the greatest failures of his career was the attempt to enforce in the U.S. courts a $489 million default judgement entered by a court in Nicaragua against Dole Food and Shell Chemicals. A pesticide named Dibromochloropropane or DBCP allegedly had catastrophic effects on the exposed workers and they had successfully sued the companies in Nicaragua. However, the US courts concluded that the translated documents of the court proceedings in Nicaragua that Girardi and his team submitted were flawed in crucial respects. He and his team received official admonishment and Girardi & Keese was ordered to pay a fine for violating their duty of candour to the courts.
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Controversies & Scandals
The legal battle against Lockheed took place between 1992 and 2001. Fifteen years after winning the case, in 2016, Girardi, along with his law firm, was sued by plaintiff Paul Kranich and attorney Peter Dion-Kindem for mishandling the funds awarded in the class-action lawsuit. In March, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit. According to Girardi, this wasn’t the first time that Dion-Kindem had sued them via one of the former Lockheed employees.
Thomas Girardi was born on June 3, 1939, in Denver, Colorado. He studied at Loyola High School (Los Angeles). Graduating in 1957, he went on to get his undergraduate degree from the Loyola Marymount University in 1962. Two years later, he received his Bachelor of Law degree from the Loyola Law School, and in 1965, Master of Law degree from the New York University.
According to reports, Girardi has been married three times. He wed his first wife Karen Weitzul on August 29, 1964. After their divorce, he married Kathy Riser in September 1993. That marriage ended in a divorce as well.
In 1999, he married singer-dancer Erika Jayne, who is 32 years his junior. The couple lives in their 1920s-era mansion in Pasadena, California with Jayne’s son, Thomas Zizzo Jr., from a previous relationship.
Girardi made sporadic appearances in his wife’s reality show ‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’. In ‘Erin Brockovich’, he was portrayed as a character named Kurt Potter (played by actor Peter Coyote).
Girardi had once served as the President of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, a highly prestigious organization exclusive only to 500 trial lawyers.
He became the first trial lawyer in history to serve on the California Judicial Council, the policymaking body of the California courts.