Titans of Trial: An FJA Radio Podcast Series

The Titans of Trial, sponsored by the Florida Justice Association Research and Education Foundation (FJA REF), features Florida’s legendary trial attorneys revealing their keys to success – in law practice and in personal life – in their own words.  Behind the sometimes tough courtroom veneer lies the heart of a champion advocate.  Sometimes whimsical, often inspirational, but always with practical advice and lessons, Titans of Trial shares the personal stories of the men and women who’ve made a demonstrated difference to the practice of trial law in Florida.

Episode 7 - Bill Wagner
Bill Wagner hasn’t tried a case since 2008.  But he’s very engaged in – and concerned about – the practice of trial law.  At age 84, he still goes into the office on most days and is actively involved in helping fellow lawyers recover from mistakes in their careers.   If you’re a lawyer and not particularly happy about being one, Bill says you’re not alone.

He’s been involved in petitions before the Florida Supreme Court to amend the rules on lawyer ethics.  He advocates for a complete review of those rules, arguing that the Court needs to examine the conflict between a lawyer’s economic interest and those of the client – and together, weighed again the interests of the public at large.

Bill Wagner sat down with Florida Justice Association Radio host Harvey Bennett in February 2018 to discuss his humble beginnings with his mentor Perry Nichols, changes in the trial law profession over his nearly 60 years in practice, and his view on why current legal practice regulation is failing.

Episode 6 - Bob Kerrigan
Bob Kerrigan is as irrepressible as the sunrise over the Pensacola Bay that his law office has overlooked for the past 45 years.  Bob is one of the nine trial lawyers who brought – and settled – the famous Big Tobacco lawsuit by the state of Florida back in the mid 1990’s.  At $13 billion, it was the largest civil judgment at the time in the nation. Among his many achievements is the Florida Bar’s Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award.  He’s currently in pursuit of international human rights violators.

Bob Kerrigan, with his admitted luck-of-the-Irish and devil-may-care attitude, sat down with Florida Justice Association Radio host Harvey Bennett in late August 2017 to discuss the keys to his success, his struggles, and his concern that big money too often is now driving the practice of trial law.

Episode 5 - Dianne Weaver
There’s an old saying that “Lawyers change the world one case at a time.” Dianne Weaver of Jacksonville is certainly proof of that. She’s earned a reputation both in the courtroom representing her injured clients, but also on the boards of state and national brain injury associations as a compassionate expert.

Dianne Weaver is not only a top trial lawyer, she’s a pioneer. She was the only woman practicing jury trial law in Fort Lauderdale for more than five years back in the 1980’s. Rather than focus on being a woman, she focused instead on the law. Today, she’s a preeminent brain injury specialist.

Dianne Weaver sat down with Florida Justice Association Radio host Harvey Bennett in December 2017 to discuss her trailblazing career, the process she uses during trial that she credits with her success, and how to handle losing a case with grace.

Episode 4 - Steve Yerrid
Barely in his 40’s at the time, Steve Yerrid was the youngest member of the so-called “Dream Team” of Florida lawyers who took on Big Tobacco in the mid-1990’s - and won. The idea to add racketeering and conspiracy charges – tripling the potential damages that could be awarded – contributed to the tobacco companies’ $13 billion settlement to reimburse Florida’s state Medicaid costs for ailing smokers.   

Steve Yerrid sat down with Florida Justice Association Radio host Harvey Bennett in February 2018 and revealed his one key to courtroom success, words of wisdom that have proven true along the way, and his advice to other lawyers on how to avoid letting trial law get the better of you.

Episode 3 - Howard Coker
Howard Coker of Jacksonville is a trial lawyer with a teacher’s heart.  From that one morning in fourth grade he woke-up and declared he wanted to be at trial lawyer, he also very much wanted to be an athletic coach.  In his law career, he’s created the perfect blend of his two huge talents. 

He’s been recognized with the Mickey Smiley Award, given by the Florida Justice Association, for the terrific amount of counsel he’s given to newer lawyers throughout his four decades plus career.  Along the way, he’s also won just about every other award there is, including the Perry Nichols Award, this association’s most prestigious – along with the B.J. Masterson Award for professionalism and high ethical standards.  He’s also a past president not only of this association, but also of the Florida Bar.

Howard Coker sat down with Florida Justice Association Radio host Harvey Bennett in December 2017 to talk about the big cases he’s won and the lessons he’s learned along the way.

Episode 2 - Sammy Cacciatore
Every trial lawyer in Florida – and their clients – owe a debt of gratitude to Sammy Cacciatore of Melbourne.  It was back in the early 1970’s, fresh out of law school, that he made his most successful argument before the Florida Supreme Court: that damage awards should not be disallowed simply because the victim bore some fault; but rather, awarded based on each party’s percentage of fault for the act in question.  The standard of Comparative Negligence has been the law of the land ever since, not only here in Florida but afterward in a majority of other states.

Sammy’s early success resulted in multi-million dollar verdicts for his clients and a distinguished career that includes many awards and titles.  He’s a Past President of the Florida Justice Association and has served on the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors.  He’s also the current Chairman of the Fellows of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers.

Sammy Cacciatore sat down with Florida Justice Association Radio host Harvey Bennett in February of 2018 to talk about that most famous case of his career to date, the importance he places on reading, and his advice for lawyers who not only want to get ahead – but be successful. 

Episode 1 - Fred Levin
You may know Fred Levin as the father of the Florida tobacco lawsuits. He rewrote the Florida Medicaid Third Party Recovery Act in 1993 to allow the state of Florida to sue the tobacco industry, eventually settling for $13 billion and forever changing the face of tobacco litigation in the United States. But if not for a stubborn client who refused to settle an insurance case nearly 60 years ago, Fred might not have become a trial lawyer.

Among his many honors, is the Perry Nichols Award - the FJA’s most prestigious. It’s given to an attorney whose perseverance, commitment, and unmatched dedication to the civil justice system is at the forefront of his or her life.

Fred Levin, now age 80, sat down with Florida Justice Association Radio host Harvey Bennett in late August 2017 to discuss the keys to his success, his few regrets, the ethics problems he sees in the trial bar, and his advice to those practicing trial law today – or thinking about it.

Introductory Episode
Florida’s most prominent trial lawyers in the past half-century have a new designation – and a podcast to go with it: Titans of Trial.  In this new podcast series by the Florida Justice Association, we’ll meet the men and women who’ve not only won the big cases, but created positive social change by the rulings they’ve secured.  Along the way, they’ve also changed the way law is practiced today in Florida.