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Panish Leaves Greene Broillet For Own Firm

By Liz Valsamis
Daily Journal Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES – Brian Panish, one of Southern California’s A-List trial lawyers, has left Santa Monica’s Greene Broillet, Panish & Wheeler to start his own firm.

Effective Monday, Panish and Greene Broillet partner Adam K. Shea and associate Kevin R. Boyle, opened Panish Shea & Boyle in West Los Angeles. Panish said that the move has been in the works for a month.

Legal Observers predicted Panish’s departure would be a blow for his old firm that now will be known as Greene, Broillet and Wheeler.

But most said the move was an expected and natural progression for the lawyer.

Amicable Split

“I just think as far as for me, my age, my place in my career, and my partners, it was a good time for all of us to start on our own,” Panish said.

Senior partner Browne Greene called the split amicable.

“Is there a hole left? Of course,” Greene said. “You don’t lose someone with Brian’s capability without feeling the loss.”

“We get a lot of business, and he’ll have no less,” Greene continued. “And when these things happen, it’s always like pruning the trees. The tree grows stronger and straighter. That’s what happened before and that’s what will happen again.”

Panish demonstrated immediately that he can continue to bring big cases on his own. He said he plans to file a multimillion-dollar lawsuit next week against the insurance behemoth Marsh & McLennan for overcharging and bid-rigging.

‘Good Situation’

Marsh agreed to pay $850 million to settle similar charges brought by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

“We intend to unveil the corruption that incurred in the insurance industry engaging in despicable practices,” Panish said.

He follows the path of this father, Howard R. Panish of Greenberg & Panish.

“My father had his own firm,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always aspired to do. I certainly had a good situation at my other firm, but I thought it was something I wanted to do and it would be something long-lasting and rewarding.”

In 1974, the senior Panish won California’s first million-dollar punitive damages award.

The younger Panish also set a record when, in 1999, he won the nation’s first ever billion-dollar punitive damages award for a family and a neighbor, who were badly burned when the Chevrolet Malibu they were riding in was rear-ended.

The case resulting in a $4.9 billion verdict, later reduced, for the four children and two adults. Anderson v. General Motors, BC 116926.

Panish’s career has been marked by a series of firsts. In 1989, he and Greene tried a police misconduct case that, at the time, resulted in the largest verdict of its kind in the nation.

The duo convinced a jury that the Torrance Police Department conspired to cover up the death of an 18 year-old, who died at the hands of the alcoholic detective. Rastello v. City of Torrance, B046028.

Later, Greene and Panish represented a 26 year-old construction worker who was shot at a South Gate hotel and rendered a quadriplegic. The jury awarded the man $15.6 million, which, at the time, was the largest verdict for a quadriplegic.

Panish said that the two firms will continue to work together on a number of cases, including litigation stemming from Merck & Co.’s painkiller VIOXX and a 15-passenger van rollover case.

The firms also will continue to represent victims and family members of victims of the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market crash that killed 10 people.

Greene compared Panish to other former Greene Broillet lawyers who’ve risen through the ranks to become leading rainmakers.

“We have a really active alumni association,” he quipped.

Panish joined the firm when the legendary trial lawyer Charles O’Reilly was leaving it. At the time, the firm, founded in 1973, was known as Greene, O’Reilly, Broillet, Paul, Simon & Wheeler.

Some legal observers expressed surprise when Panish chose to leave his firm, where he commanded a practice that was the envy of virtually every plaintiffs’ attorney in Los Angeles.

But O’Reilly said Panish, whom he regards as one of the top trial lawyers in the nation, would have gone out on his own straight out of law school.

“I agree that it’s a very significant development in the legal community,” he said. “That’s a devastating loss for the firm to lose a lawyer of that caliber. It would be a loss for any firm to lose a lawyer of that caliber.”

Panish joined the firm in 1984 from Engstron, Lipscomb & Lack. Since becoming a partner in 1993, Panish has obtained 100 verdicts and settlements in excess of $1 million, including 11 in excess of $10 million dollars.

Panish said that his new firm will continue to focus on trial work representing plaintiffs in complex litigation and injury cases but that he expects to branch out into other areas of law.

Shea joined the firm 14 years ago after graduating from Loyola Law School.

Boyle joined the firm after serving as a law clerk to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist in 1999.

“The firm has also hired associate Clayton Steward, also from Greene Broillet.

“I couldn’t have had a more enjoyable, successful stint anywhere,” Panish said of his old firm. “I learned a lot, and I had a great opportunity. I owe everything to the opportunity and support and friendships that [I had there]. I’m thankful for the way they’ve supported me in my new venture.”

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