Chris Glover, a trial lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, specializes in complex products liability cases with a strong emphasis on automobile crashworthiness. As a lawyer in a small firm, Chris enjoyed the autonomy that comes with a smaller practice, but quickly saw the risk of pursuing cases with hundreds of thousands of dollars in case expenses on the line. Because he wanted to continue taking significant cases, he elected to join a much larger firm, Beasley Allen.
Lawyer Minds: Chris, you went from a small firm plaintiff’s practice to a big firm plaintiff’s practice. We’ve interviewed several attorneys who have gone the other way. I’m curious with your practice area, complex products liability, what were your considerations when you decided to go with a big firm like Beasley Allen?
Chris Glover: I began my career in a small firm. We called ourselves a boutique firm that specialized in automotive crashworthiness cases and other automotive product liability cases. As I moved forward with that practice, the lawyer that I was working with was nearing retirement. So, I was thinking ways to move forward in this practice area as a young lawyer where your average case expense is going to be a quarter of a million dollars. And I had seven or eight cases at the time that I was litigating and I was thinking, “How do I fund this type of case and am I willing to put this kind of risk on my family and my future if I were to lose a couple of them or three of them?”
So, I had to really think about those kinds of things. Fortunately for me, there’s a large firm in Alabama (where I was living at the time), the Beasley Allen firm. A lot of people have heard of them, but one big benefit for my practice is that they basically have unlimited resources. I mean, we have 300 employees, a team of investigators, great paralegals, and an IT department. I needed capital to pursue my cases. Beasley Allen also had a number of lawyers already practicing in this area with tremendous results. My passion is helping people, like a lot of plaintiff lawyers, and I was glad to continue doing that with Beasley Allen.
Lawyer Minds: Showing the other side that you’re willing to put serious investment in a case is meaningful.
Chris Glover: Well, my last trial had $700,000 in case expenses. Those are the type of expenses we’re dealing with in a lot of these cases and you’ve got to be willing to lose it all. Because if you’re not, then you can’t represent your client adequately.
If you’re not willing to go to the mat and take it to trial with the risk of not getting a recovery, then the defendant will smell blood in the water and they’ll pay you less. To me, you can’t represent your clients that way.
Lawyer Minds: Without having the resources and being willing to spend the resources, you can’t take on novel cases or dangerous cases or pursuing difficult defendants. Why don’t you talk to us about one of the cases that you’ve had where having those resources enabled you to actually achieve a great result for your client?
Chris Glover: So, about the time that I made the decision to move, I came to Beasley Allen in 2008 and as you know, everybody experienced the financial crisis of 2008 when the markets collapsed. The real estate market was a disaster and the world had entered into this new kind of financial realm that we hadn’t experienced in a long time. One of the things that nobody saw coming was that the mighty General Motors and Chrysler, some of the largest companies in the world, went bankrupt and they had government bailouts. When that happened, there were certain vehicles that couldn’t be subject to lawsuits. If it fell in a certain time period, then you couldn’t bring a case.
So, I had a client come to me, a husband who lost his wife whose daughter was driving at the time of the wreck. She was 15 years old when she had a permit, and she asked her mom, who was going to the grocery store, “Hey mom, can I drive when you go to the grocery store?” The mom of course said, “Yes,” and so they’re on their way to the grocery store in a Jeep Wrangler manufactured by Chrysler, and the little girl, an inexperienced driver, don’t know what happened, but she leaves the road to the left, she swerves back to the right, and the vehicle gets kind of squirrelly. Unfortunately, the Jeep ends up rolling over about three times. In the process of rolling over, the little girl’s mom, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, gets thrown out of the vehicle. Honestly, one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard – the testimony was just terrible.
While the mom laid on the roadway, a high school boy, who saw the wreck, pulls over and goes to try to help her. Her last words were, “But I was wearing my seatbelt. But I was wearing my seatbelt. But I was wearing my seat belt.” She laid there dying on the roadway and couldn’t understand, “Why am I not in the car? Why did I get thrown out of this vehicle? I was wearing my seatbelt.” And what she didn’t know was that Chrysler had made a decision along with the company called Key Safety Systems to put an inferior seatbelt in the passenger seat of that Jeep. There was a better seat belt on the driver’s side, but they were taking their chances by the fact that like me, most days, and like you, most days, there’s nobody sitting in the passenger seat. When I drive to work, that seat’s usually empty.
They took a chance on putting a cheaper seatbelt on that side because of their thinking that “Hey, this vehicle probably won’t be in a wreck, but if it’s in a wreck, somebody probably won’t be sitting there, so let’s put the cheaper seatbelt there.”
What they do know is there’s always somebody in the driver’s seat, so they put the better seat belt in that seat. Well, in the crash, the driver was wearing the better seat belt with what’s called a web grabber that locks the belt in a wreck in addition to the retractor. She was wearing the good belt, so she was fine and wasn’t thrown from the vehicle.
But the little girl blamed herself for killing her mom. She blamed herself because she lost control and her mom was thrown out of the car. Two law firms had turned down that case because you couldn’t sue Chrysler, you could only sue Key Safety Systems because of the bankruptcy. I wanted to help this family, but it was going to cost the same amount of money to pursue the case; yet Chrysler, who had made a lot of the decisions, couldn’t be sued and so that left a big empty chair in the courtroom. What do you do in this situation? I mean, Takata just sold them a seatbelt. They just sold them what Chrysler wanted and so how are they going to be blamed for what happened?
And we had to build that case because I had to help that family, but yet we spent about $350,000 on that case. We could have lost it all.
Had I not been in a firm like Beasley Allen, I’m not sure I could have taken that case. But we did take it, and we were successful. The jury found in our favor. At the end of the day, I remember pulling out of the courthouse and the little girl called me on my cell phone, she’s crying, and she said, “Thank you.” She said, “I didn’t kill my mom. That jury told me that I didn’t kill my mom.” That’s why we do this profession. I didn’t spend any time in law school thinking about case finances. I thought about helping people and I thought about helping that little girl, Penny Bruner’s daughter, Amanda.
I got to help her that day.
I got to help that family, but the little girl, what I did for her, you can’t put an amount of money on that because she’s now living life knowing that the mistake she made when she was 15 years old didn’t kill her mom. It was a company that made a deliberate decision to put a cheap seatbelt in the passenger seat because they didn’t think anybody would be sitting there.
Many thanks to Chris for sharing this story of how his practice and devotion to helping others changed the lives of family members affected by a preventable tragedy. Chris’ story reminds us all that we must continue the fight for others, and we are thankful of this reminder. If you should ever want to reach out to Chris, you can find him at: https://www.beasleyallen.com/attorney/chris-glover/.