Kansas City
Over $1 Billion in Verdicts and Recoveries
Gary C. Robb Named in "Lawyers of the Year" for 2000
Kenneth C.Jones
Missouri Lawyers Weekly

Gary C. Robb, Missouri's King of Torts , had another phenomenal year in 2000.

The Kansas City Lawyer settled a high-profile wrongful death lawsuit against the World Wrestling Federation for $18 million - believed to be a record settlement in a death case.

Observers also say that Robb set another record this year when a federal judge awarded over $1 million to the family of a 3-year-old girl killed by a U.S. Postal Service truck driver. It's been called the highest award ever in a Federal Tort Claims Act case in the death of a minor.

Robb made headlines again when he filed a products liability suit against General Motors on behalf of the mother of Derrick Thomas, the late Kansas City Chiefs' star who was killed when his Chevy Suburban overturned on an icy highway in January.

And to close out the year, Robb and his firm have been retained to represent the Carnahan family in the air crash that claimed the lives of Gov. Mel Carnahan and his son Randy.

"It's definitely been an interesting year," Robb said." I continue to do what I love and love what I do."

WWF Lawsuit
The WWF case involved the death of Owen Hart during a May 23, 1999 match in Kansas City's Kemper Arena. Hart was an up-and-coming star known in the wrestling world as the Blue Blazer.

As part of the pay-per-view television event, the WWF planned to have Hart make a stunt entry from the ceiling of the arena. He was outfitted with a harness and suspended by a single cable 78 feet above the ring.

The harness unexpectedly opened, however, causing Hart to plunge to the floor below. His aorta was severed, and he died several minutes later.

Robb filed the wrongful death case on behalf of Hart's widow Martha, their two children, ages 3 and 7, and his parents.

Among the 46 counts against 13 defendants, the plaintiff's claimed that the WWF was negligent in failing to provide safe and proper equipment for the stunt. They also sought punitive damages, claiming the WWF tried to boost cable television ratings by ignoring safety concerns in the performance of risky stunts.

After extensive discovery by Robb and his partner Anita Porte Robb, who took over 50 depositions across the country and in Canada and England, the WWF settled for 18 million.

The plaintiffs had rejected the WWF's initial offer of $17 million. The case then settled for $18 million cash following mediation, and a Jackson County circuit judge approved the settlement in its entirety on Nov. 7.

"But as always, there is no winner in this type of case," Robb said.

One beneficial outcome of the case, Robb pointed out, is that the WWF has begun to take precautions with its stunts.

"We applaud the WWF for hiring a full-time stunt safety coordinator," he said."At least they're taking steps in the right direction."

Robb noted that the case brought home to him an important point about successful preparation for trial.
"When you get into any area you're not familiar with, you have to learn about the industry," he said."We retained a consultant who knew the wrestling industry, and who was crucial in teaching us about professional wrestling and the players involved."

"The defendant always has a built-in advantage in that regard, and the plaintiff's lawyer has to make him or herself as educated about the business as the defendant is."

"I learned more about professional wrestling during this case than I ever wanted to know," Robb said."And I hope I forget every bit of it."

Secret Of Success
Robb recalled he had to undergo the same sort of self-education when he represented the survivors of the 1993 Life Flight helicopter crash in two wrongful death cases. "I had to learn the helicopter industry and the general aviation industry in order to be effective," he said.

And effective he was. In the April 1995 trial of Letz v. Turbomeca, a Jackson County jury returned a unanimous verdict of $70 million for the family of an injured woman who was being transported to the hospital in the helicopter, that verdict was subsequently remitted by the Missouri Court of Appeals' Western District to $29 million. Three months later, another jury awarded the helicopter pilot's family $350 million in Barnett v. Turbomeca. That verdict was remitted to $30 million after appeal. With interest, the manufacturer paid $82 million to the survivors in October 1998.

How does Robb respond when people want to know the secret of success?

"The secret is there is no secret," Robb said."The emphasis must be on doing the fundamentals well."

"And that means first of all thorough investigation and fact - finding - you can never be too thorough in ferreting out the facts."

"If you are surprised by anything that happens at trial, you haven't done your job, " Robb said. "Another key is the manner in which you try the case ," he said. "You need an aggressive honesty in front of the jury. If you have a weakness you better tell them about it up front or your credibility is shot."

And he has advice for lawyers struggling with problems in presenting their cases: "Every case has weaknesses. If it's a death case, one weakness is that the deceased is not there to testify. If it's an injury case, the defendant is going to argue the plaintiff didn't mitigate damages."

"There will always be difficulties that must be addressed head-on, even in cases that appear to be sure-things after they're over."

Robb says that another principle critical to the success of his law firm, Robb & Robb LLC, has been that "we never accept a case that we're not prepared to take to trial - too many lawyers accept cases hoping for settlement."

"And you need to have absolute confidence and conviction in your evaluation of the case, and you have to be able to impart that confidence and conviction to your client.

If your client doesn't have absolute trust and confidence in you, you should withdraw and gracefully exit the scene."

He said the client's trust is essential to resolving a case."When you tell a client there's a fair and just settlement offer, they have to be able to believe you."

"On the other hand, when there's a substantial settlement offer but you think it's better for the client to take the case to verdict, the client has to trust your judgment."

"For example, in the Barnett case, Turbomeca offered $12 million cash to settle. But we evaluated the case much higher and advised the client against settlement. We ended up with a $350 million verdict, and the settlement was over $40 million after remittitur and interest."

The dean of the Kansas City defense bar, William H. Sanders Sr. - who has gone with Robb on numerous occasions - said , "The key to Gary Robb's success is that he combines the highest trial abilities with a ferocious work ethic. From a defense lawyer's standpoint, that's a frightening proposition."

Try,Try Again
According to Robb, the only way to progress as a trial lawyer is to "try as many jury trials as you possible can."

"That may mean working in the prosecutor's office, or opening your own shop - however you do it, you have to get in front of a jury."

Robb's own career reflects this advice. After graduating from the University of Michigan School of Law in 1981, he started at a big Chicago Firm, Mayer Brown & Platt, doing corporate defense work. "But I was from Kansas City and got homesick, so I came back to work at the preeminent litigation firm in Kansas City, Shugart Thomson & Kilroy."

"I stayed there until 1984, when Anita and I opened our own shop. We did all kinds of cases - slip and fall, motor vehicle, medical malpractice, products liability."

"Our first big success came in 1987, when we won a $1.9 million verdict against Subaru for a defective car seat. Then in 1990, we won a $20 million verdict in Adams v. Children's Mercy Hospital in a medical malpractice case."

Robb noted that "in our early years though, we lost our share too - that's just part of the process. I don't know of any successful trial lawyer who has not gone through the painful throes of defeat."

"And you're always learning ," he said. "If I ever think I have this figured out, it's time for me to quit."
One of the most rewarding experiences for Robb this year was the opening of the Robb & Robb Technology Center at the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association.

"It's an educational center for lawyers and judges to try out all the new equipment and the latest hardware and software," he said. "With federal court in Kansas City now requiring electronic case filing, it's essential for lawyers to be up-to-speed on current technology.

Keeping current with popular culture is also important in trying cases," Robb said."You have to be aware of what the popular conception of lawyers is. You have to watch The Practice and Law and Order to see what people expect of a trial."

"Like it or not, the jury will be evaluating your performance in comparison with those shows as much as they will be judging the merits of the case," he said.

"We also talk to juries after cases as often as we can - to ask them what they liked, what they didn't like, and how we could have done better . Jurors give you the most honest feedback you can get."

"And the one thing we keep hearing from jurors is: 'Say what you have to say once and don't repeat it - don't waste our time or underestimate our intelligence.'

"They want you to present your case as quickly and effectively as possible," Robb said. "That means giving a very brisk opening statement and having your witnesses ready to go."

"If they recognize that you can't move along faster - especially in trials like ours that can last three, four or five weeks - they'll reward you for it."

The rewards have been frequent for Robb throughout his career.

"As trial lawyers, all we try to do is work within the framework of our legal system and secure justice for our clients," he said."There really is no greater reward.".

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Personal Injury Lawyers - Kansas City, Missouri

Personal injury is an area of law that pertains to the injury of an individual. Both physical and emotional injuries fall into this branch of tort law. A personal injury lawyer is generally involved in cases where an injury has occurred due to the negligence of another party.

Examples of cases that a personal injury lawyer in Kansas City, Missouri can assist with include workplace accidents, falling or other accidents in the home, premises liability, defective and hazardous product cases, and dental and medical malpractice cases. If negligence on behalf of another party can be proved in court, compensation may be awarded.

Personal injury attorneys can also assist with industrial disease cases that may include respiratory diseases or a decline in health due to hazardous occupational conditions. These and other medical cases are often very complex, and it is advised that all aspects of the claim be handled by an experienced attorney.

Wrongful Death Lawyers - Kansas City, Missouri

Wrongful death falls under the common law jurisdictions wherein a person may be held liable for a death. It is important to note that wrongful death is the only course of legal action in which a company, rather than an individual, is at fault for a death.

In Kansas City, Missouri, cases involving wrongful death accidents require a preponderance of evidence as the standard of proof. Generally, the suit is filed by close relatives.

This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Past results afford no guarantee of future results. Every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

Robb & Robb LLC One Kansas City Place, Suite 3900 - 1200 Main Street , Kansas City , Missouri 64105

Telephone: 816-474-8080 Facsimile: 816-474-8081 Toll-Free: 1-800-474-1339