Greene, Broillet, Taylor, Wheeler & PanishBorn:
Washington, D.C., 1936Education:
Bachelor of Science, George Washington University; Law degree, George Washington UniversityCareer Turning Point:
Appointed to work as a congressional page as a high school student.Hobbies:
Reading Shakespeare, theater, art, softball, basketballMost Admired People:
His father, Abraham Lincoln, Ralph Nader (until the last election), Bill
Clinton (as a politician), ShakespearePersonal:
Married to Leana, father of a 32-year-old son, Aaron, and a 2-year-old daughter, Violet.From Firestone to the tobacco industry, Attorney Browne Greene has become well known for taking on high-stakes, high-profile cases on behalf of victims
Attorney Browne Greene has earned a reputation for winning big-money court cases. He was one of the lead attorneys in the $25 billion settlement won by local governments in California from the tobacco industry. Attorneys who represented the state eventually were paid more than $630 million. Greene and members of his firm, Greene, Broillet, Taylor, Wheeler & Panish, also are representing clients in the Firestone tire scandal, the Singapore Airlines crash in Taiwan last October and the Alaska Airlines crash off the Southern California coast in January 2000.
Greene is one of the Inner Circle of Advocates, a 100-member plaintiff lawyers' group whose members must each have at least one million-dollar verdict for compensatory damages (excluding punitive damages) and have had jury verdicts in at least 50 civil trials.Question:
Much of your work involves taking on large corporations. Do you think the corporate world, by it's very nature, is exploitative?
Answer: The answer is yes. And inherently greedy, too. I've seen corporations too often take a short cut on safety because of money and I've seen that in their own handwriting too many times. I think when you get up to the top of the corporate ladder, there's a press for wealth and increasing wealth.
One of the first things, traditionally, that has been cut is safety doing away with airbags when airbags in the early '70s could have saved tens of thousands of lives, for example. Why? Because it would cost a few more dollars to put airbags in.
Q: Is fighting for the "little guy" what motivates you?
A: Yes, I think so. I come from the streets of Washington. My dad was a noble but humble man and my mother was a government worker. I've always had a common bond with, shall I say, the blue collar worker, and I identify with them. I may now associate with white-collar people and judges and lawyers and such, but I definitely remember where I came from. I relish being an advocate for people from backgrounds like mine.
Q: But you also charge a significant amount for your time.
A: Of course. But the profit isn't just money. The profit that comes out of this is the tremendous satisfaction of carrying the flag for a victim. The case I'm trying right now is a man who was electrocuted picking avocados and lost both arms and has an exploded leg and has a hard time doing anything in his life. For three years, this man has been living on practically nothing and he's suing the Edison Company. I take great pride in taking that case for him. That is a big payoff for me in other ways than just money, believe me.
Q: And you think the corporate world would not have responded to some of these concerns without such litigation?
A: Absolutely. Because the government does nothing to curb them. Their lobbyists control what's going to go on in Washington or in Sacramento.
Q: Was it satisfying to take on the cigarette companies and win?
A: Oh yes. Because nobody wanted to do it. No one had ever beaten the tobacco industry. There had been 800 trials of smokers and all had been won by the tobacco industry. We could have been forfeiting our own financial futures for taking on the tobacco industry. But we eventually won, and it was very satisfying.
Q: What is your feeling about the Firestone tire case?
A: The problem basically is that these tire companies were making so much money that they started their plants working not 100 percent capacity 24 hours, they wanted to do it 105, 110 percent capacity.
How can you do that? I don't know. By just having more and more people put on to work in the aisles to satisfy the quotas they had? Quality control in the making of the tire is bound to decrease when that happens.
Q: Do you think there is any validity to claims from health maintenance organizations that without immunity from lawsuits, they will be bogged down by frivolous litigation and costs will skyrocket?
A: That's nonsense. There's no lawyer I know that would take a malpractice case that is frivolous. Eighty-seven percent of medical malpractice cases are lost by the plaintiff those are the judicial council statistics. Even great cases are lost today. Why? The law favors doctors, favors hospitals, also the juries do. Why in the world is it that a doctor only has to pay, on his insurance, if he's drunk in his operating room, but if he's in his Mercedes and he's drunk and he hits somebody, there's no limitation?
Q: What is your favorite victory?
A: One that stands out is Lucy Pogosyan vs. the MTA. That was a case that was tried about four years ago. She was a woman that was getting in her car when suddenly her car is run into by a guy that's being chased by the MTA police at high speed through downtown L.A. It was a totally illegal chase against the policy of the MTA. The cops involved denied that they were chasing him. I had witnesses who proved there was a chase and she was awarded 22 million bucks. She had one leg amputated at the scene and the other one crushed.
Q: You're known to be politically motivated and a supporter of the Democratic party. Have you been a Democrat all your life?
A: I used to be a Republican, actually, about 20 years ago. When I was a Republican, they used to have Earl Warren Republicans, the moderate Republicans. Now you can't be that in the party.
Q: If you could impart any wisdom from your years battling corporations to someone trying to climb up the corporate ladder, what would it be?
A: I would just suggest that it is as noble to have a public conscience as to have a private one. That somehow, you can carry the two with you. It would be a beautiful balance for your own life, your career and above all, your own reputation and your own self respect. We all have a duty to look out for everyone else. We have a duty to protect others in terms of our attitudes, the public and its safety. I know that you can do all that and make a handsome profit, too.
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