By Gary C. Robb
Having Anita as my law partner for the past 35 years has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Anita makes our law practice exciting. She is masterful. She is brilliant. She is polished. She is fierce. She is relentless. She cannot be intimidated. She is truly one of a kind. She is and always will be the heart and soul of our law firm.
For these reasons and more, Anita is a deserving recipient of this honor. Three particular areas merit address:
1. Technical Trial Skills – – There is a reason that The National Law Journal named Anita as one of the Ten Top Women Trial Lawyers in America. Anita has tried virtually every type of personal injury case imaginable ranging from slip and falls to automotive crashworthiness and, most recently, all manner of aircrash accidents.
In a recent case we tried in rural Appalachia Kentucky, the defendant claimed that the helicopter crash occurred due to foggy weather. Anita displayed a large Google Map of the entire vicinity. Then, one by one she called up scene witnesses from the surrounding location of the crash who all testified that the weather was perfectly clear that evening.
She effortlessly treated each of these witnesses, who mirrored the composition of our rural Appalachia jurors, with sincere deference and respect. By the end of that exercise, there was a beautiful circumferential circle surrounding the crash site which conclusively established that the entire area was clear of any fog at the time of the crash. That was instrumental to our winning that case.
Anita has been at the forefront of expanding the area of damages known as “pre-impact terror” in aviation cases. Hearing her direct examination of one of the country’s top medical experts in this field always gives me chills. And I can only imagine what it does to members of the jury to hear her skillfully elicit detailed testimony of the graphic physical and psychological pre-impact symptoms suffered by the victims. She recently obtained damages awards of $1 million each on that damages element alone for victims of a crash who suffered pre-impact terror for 35 seconds before their impending death in the helicopter crash.
2. Relentless Pre-Trial Preparation – In a case involving a student who was dragged and fatally crushed by his own school bus, she took 77 depositions before she got to the pivotal 78th deposition – in which the defense mechanic admitted he had been told by his supervisor to backdate the date of the retrofit at issue on the key document.
Anita was in Iowa deposing the primary witness in a bad faith case. The deposition was being videotaped as the witness was elderly, ill and not likely to make it to trial. During her examination, Anita used an enlarged document set on an easel. She kept this incriminating enlargement displayed on camera during part of her examination.
As she later gleefully told me the story, defense counsel didn’t much like this demonstrative – so on the record they told her to take it down. She calmly responded that it was her exam and her exhibit, so she would keep it up. At that point, upon audible direction from the male partner, the opposing male associate stood up and tried to wrestle the blow up out of her hands, resulting in a literal tug of war, all captured on the video!
Of course Anita ultimately prevailed, and she couldn’t wait to show the videotape to the Cook County Illinois judge, with confidence that this particular judge would impose harsh sanctions against the defense team for this misconduct. `But the defendant fired and replaced this legal team a week later, leaving Anita disappointed that she could not seek relief from the judge. (Footnote: The only thing better than hearing Anita tell this story is hearing it from the court reporter, Bill DeVries of Alaris).
3. Passion and Courage – – Many people know that Anita started lawyer life as a medical malpractice defense attorney. What they may not know is that during her second year of law school she was the victim of horrible medical malpractice that required her to miss much of that academic year. Her subsequent surgeon told her that the original surgery had been horribly botched by the local Kansas City surgeon and that she had a case which she should pursue. This was not the kind of news she wanted to hear in the middle of law school particularly as she was planning to do medical malpractice defense work.
She learned first-hand what it was to be a negligence victim – – the shock, disbelief, anger and betrayal. She learned first-hand that the decision to pursue a civil action is very difficult and requires great courage. She knows what it’s like to be deposed by a defense lawyer. For these reasons, Anita stands in the Plaintiff’s shoes and is fiercely protective of every single Plaintiff she has ever produced for deposition.
All of these qualities have contributed to Anita’s well-earned reputation as a feared and respected adversary. Every good partnership has its “good cop and bad cop.” Counsel who have opposed us know that Anita is always the “bad cop.” Opposing counsel who find themselves on the receiving end of her zealous advocacy sometimes come to me to beg for mercy. I lend them a sympathetic ear, but because I know my partner and refuse to have myself become a target of her displeasure, my response is always the same : “Sorry I can’t help you – Anita is the boss.”
Gary C. Robb has been law partner to Anita for 35 years and has known her for 42 years.