Deborah S. Chang is a trial attorney with Panish Shea & Boyle LLP and focuses her practice representing plaintiffs in complex catastrophic injury, wrongful death, and product liability cases. She and her trial teams have obtained some of the largest verdicts on record including a recent $160.5 million jury verdict for a man who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a vicious beating by security personnel for a nightclub, the two largest wrongful death verdicts in California in 2014, and four of the top 25 verdicts in California in both 2014 and 2015 – including the largest verdicts received in North County, San Diego (Vista) and Imperial County (El Centro).
Additional recoveries obtained by Ms. Chang include a landmark $32,500,000 settlement on behalf of two clients who were catastrophically injured and two clients whose father was killed in two collisions on Loma Vista Drive in Beverly Hills, California, and a $17 million jury verdict for the mother of Cameron Cuthbertson, a visually impaired man who was crushed to death by a Los Angeles County Blue Line train after he stepped into the gap between rail cars, mistaking the opening for the door. Although Mr. Cuthbertson was able to get up after his fall and climb halfway back onto the platform, the train began to move, resulting in his death. At the time of Mr. Cuthbertson’s death, the Blue Line was the only Metro line without protective barriers between rail cars, and the evidence at trial demonstrated that the MTA was well aware of the serious risk that the unprotected gaps between cars posed to the public, and, in particular, the visually impaired. Immediately following this incident, barriers were installed in front of the gaps between all Blue Line rail cars.
Ms. Chang has been named by the Daily Journal as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in California for 2017, one of the Top Plaintiff Lawyers in California for 2017, and as one of the Top Women Lawyers in California for 2016 and 2017. She is the 2014 recipient of the Consumer Attorneys of California (“CAOC”) Consumer Attorney of the Year Award, and was a finalist for the award in 2017, 2016 and 2012. She is member of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) and serves on the Executive Committee, and is a National Board Member. Ms. Chang is also on the Executive Committee (2nd Vice President) of the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC), and served as Education Chair for 2017. She is a frequent speaker on various legal issues including demonstrative evidence at trial and is listed in Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers for Southern California.
Throughout her career, Ms. Chang has dedicated herself to serve as a mentor to other female trial lawyers. In 2017, the Consumer Attorneys of California’s Women’s Caucus honored Ms. Chang for her outstanding commitment to furthering the education and careers of women trial lawyers by presenting her with its Consumer Advocate of the Year Award.
For the past twenty years, Ms. Chang has represented both plaintiffs and defendants throughout the country in products liability, commercial litigation, professional liability, securities fraud, and complex torts cases. She has served as local, regional, and national counsel for a variety of companies and manufacturers. She has also argued numerous times in the Connecticut Supreme and Appellate Courts, and was appointed by the Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court to serve on the Connecticut Appellate Advisory Rules Committee.
During her practice, Ms. Chang has been recognized for her involvement in landmark cases. She was selected by the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyer’s Division as one of the “20 Young Lawyers Whose Work Makes a Difference” for bringing the first civil rights class action on behalf of prisoners with AIDS in a maximum security prison. The class action resulted in a landmark settlement that was cited with approval by the 1991 Report to the President and Senate by the National Commission on AIDS, and resulted in the formulation of model policies and procedures relating to the housing, programming and medical treatment of prisoners with AIDS currently used in prisons throughout the country. Ms. Chang thereafter drafted and lobbied for enacted legislation in Connecticut relating to the release of terminally ill prisoners on medical parole, and she proposed and instituted the first national scholarship fund with the Stewart B. McKinney Foundation for individuals pursuing a medical or nursing degree to work with patients with AIDS. For this work, she was the recipient of numerous national awards.
In 1996, Ms. Chang brought the first lawsuit in the country based on the newly enacted Violence Against Women Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 13981 (VAWA). As part of that lawsuit, Ms. Chang successfully argued for the upholding of the constitutionality of the statute in the first federal court to consider the issue. After reaching a settlement in the case, she lectured extensively on the issue of gender-motivated violence. She was a guest commentator on several national television shows regarding the statute, both before and after the United States Supreme Court eventually ruled that the civil remedy portion of the statute was unconstitutional.
Ms. Chang has been involved in numerous cases of first impression, including her novel application and use of the “borrowed servant doctrine” in a medical malpractice case that ultimately changed Connecticut law regarding the liability of hospitals and residents working under the direction and supervision of attending physicians. She was also part of the trial team that achieved a defense verdict on behalf of Ford Motor Company in the first Bronco II case tried in the country. She has successfully represented investors in securities fraud litigation and obtained numerous preliminary injunctions in federal court on behalf of companies alleging unfair trade practices of competitors under the Lanham Act. Throughout her practice, Ms. Chang has also represented plaintiffs in a variety of personal injury claims.
As part of her trial practice, Ms. Chang has been extensively involved in jury research and focus groups. In 2000, she helped conceptualize and launch Legalvote.com, one of the first companies to provide online focus groups from a unique database of nearly 3.5 million Internet users. The service is currently used by trial attorneys and major insurance companies in prominent cases pending throughout the country, and has been recognized by the National Law Journal as a helpful tool for assessing the strength and value of cases. For over a year, Ms. Chang served as its CEO and General Counsel, and was a member of its Advisory Panel and Board of Directors.
Ms. Chang completed the Mediation Workshop with the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School in June of 2007, and has successfully mediated numerous cases. She has served as the Co-Chairperson of the American Bar Association Tort and Insurance Practice Section, Motor Vehicle Products Liability Litigation Group, and has been a speaker at numerous state bar associations such as The Inner Circle of Advocates, ATLA, and The Washington State Trial Lawyers Association. She is currently admitted to practice in California, Florida, and Connecticut. Over the years, she has been selected for inclusion at various times in Who’s Who in American Law, Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who in the West, and Who’s Who in Finance and Industry.
Ms. Chang is a graduate of Kansas University, and she received her J.D., with honors, from Drake Law School in May of 1986, where she served as the Case Note Editor of the Drake Law Review. Following law school, she served as the judicial law clerk for Chief Judge Antoinette Dupont of the Connecticut Appellate Court.
Ms. Chang was previously associated with Day, Berry & Howard (now Day Pitney) in Hartford, Connecticut and Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix, Arizona, prior to becoming an equity partner of the Stamford, Connecticut office of Cummings & Lockwood in 1996. At Cummings & Lockwood, she served as the head of the torts and products liability practice group in the trial department, and amassed an undefeated trial and appellate record. She thereafter served as counsel to the Orlando law firm of Cabaniss, Smith, Toole & Wiggins, PL. From 1987 to 1991, while practicing law in Hartford, she was also an instructor and part of the adjunct faculty at the University of Connecticut Law School, where she taught appellate advocacy, served as a supervising attorney for independent study projects, and was the faculty advisor for the Moot Court Executive Board and teams.