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Lawyering Up Pellicano’s Victims

Deadline Hollywood Daily
By Nikki Finke

March 9, 2006

I’ve learned that two high profile Westside Los Angeles litigators, Neville Johnson (of the firm Johnson and Rishwain) and Brian Panish (of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP) are meeting with many victims of the Pellicano wiretapping scandal to jointly represent them. Remember last month’s LA Times story speculating how costly these cases could be if deep pocketed cities like Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, or fancy-shmancy law firms, or super-rich Pellicano clients were found liable in some way for The Pelican’s deeds? Well, Johnson was quoted by the paper warning that the damages could be vast. (Cuba Gooding Jr. should be shouting, “Show me the money!”)

Quick bios are in order. Expectedly, both attorneys are well-awarded.

Johnson is a foremost go-to guy for invasion-of-privacy torts, especially against the media. He repped Carolyn Condit (wife of Cong. Gary Condit) in a libel lawsuit against the National Enquirer that was settled for a secret amount. He’s sued ABC for its news magazine shows’ tactic of using hidden cameras. Most recently, Johnson is leading indie label TSR Records’ antitrust lawsuit against Sony BMG Music Entertainment; it’s an outgrowth of the music giant’s settlement of those pesky payola allegations. His firm takes on many such David vs Goliath cases even though it’s much more common here to embrace Goliath and kiss off David.

Panish is best known as the lead plaintiffs’ lawyer who brought General Motors to its knees in 1999 over secret documents and memos stemming from fuel-tank fires that erupted in collisions. He scored a $4.9 billion jury award, forcing the auto maker to eventually settle a string of accident related-personal injury lawsuits. More recently, Panish was the plaintiffs’ lawyer when an Orange County jury ordered the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to pay $2.8 million to the parents of a commuter who died in a 2002 Metrolink accident. But that’s peanuts compared to the largest ever San Francisco jury award of $27 million he secured for the family of a 4-year-old girl hit by a Muni truck. Panish also is repping victims and families against the City of Santa Monica for that accident when a car driven by an 88-year-old man plowed through a crowded farmers market, killing 10 and injuring 63.

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