Prominent plaintiff's attorney Brian Panish has left Greene Broillet Panish & Wheeler LLP on the heels of handling several multimillion-dollar verdicts in product liability cases.

"I feel like I've accomplished a lot," said Panish, who joined Greene Broillet's predecessor firm in 1987. "It's time to start doing my own firm."

Panish, along with partner Adam Shea and two other lawyers, have formed Panish Shea & Boyle LLP in West Los Angeles. The new firm is handling former Greene Broillet cases including several airplane crash cases, product liability suits against Ford Motor Co. and an insurance case brought on behalf of corporate clients of Marsh & McLellan Cos.

"Brian leaving leaves a hole," said Browne Greene, whose firm now has 13 lawyers. "But I always figured it was inevitable. He's become so prominent and very ambitious and needed to have his own name on the door."

In his 12-year tenure as a partner at Greene Broillet, Panish obtained 100 verdicts and settlements of more than $1 million each. In 1999, he gained recognition for obtaining a $4.9 billion verdict against General Motors Corp. on behalf of four children and two adults who were burned because of a defective fuel tank in a Chevrolet Malibu. In 2001, he helped reach a $55.3 million verdict for a 34-year-old who became a quadriplegic due to a defective tire in a case against Continental Tire North America. And last year, he won a $58 million verdict on behalf of a man who was burned on the job because of a defective O-ring on a Caterpillar tractor.

With the departures, Greene Broillet's name changed this month to Greene Broillet & Wheeler LLP.

Workers' Comp Showdown
The biggest showdown over workers' compensation in Sacramento since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a sweeping overhaul a little over a year ago could come this week.

On Wednesday (April 27), the Senate Rules committee has scheduled a confirmation hearing for Andrea Hoch, administrative director of the state Division of Workers' Compensation.

Its normally an obscure bureaucratic position. But Hoch has raised its profile by raising the ire of labor unions and injured worker advocates for what they say is an overly broad interpretation of the workers' comp package, as her division draws up regulations implementing the overhaul. Specifically, they say, her division has cut benefits and treatment for severely injured workers even though the proposal doesn't make any mention of such cuts.

Earlier this month, former Senate leader John Burton, who helped move the package through the Legislature last year, blasted the way Hoch had implemented the regulations and called for her removal.

For her part, Hoch issued a statement last week saying that the regulations were crucial in achieving a 26 percent reduction in workers' compensation premiums over the last 18 months. Hoch also has the support of business groups and insurance companies that have been marshalling forces on her behalf. Schwarzenegger appointed Hoch in April 2004; under state law, she can serve up to a year without being confirmed by the Senate.

South Gate Sues
The South Gate City Council authorized the city to sue Thelen Reid & Priest LLP to recover legal fees paid to the law firm during a Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office investigation of several former city officials, including the former mayor.

Richard Amador, a partner at Sanchez & Amador LLP who represents the city, said he plans to file a suit seeking more than $1 million, which includes $750,000 paid to the firm to defend the city, plus damages for breaching its contract.

In 2003, three new councilmembers, a new treasurer and a new mayor were sworn in after a recall vote that ousted their predecessors, who were under criminal investigation. Former South Gate Treasurer Albert Robles was charged with threatening to kill his political rivals, though a jury in 2002 failed to reach a verdict and he was not retried. He was later indicted by a county grand jury on charges he violated election laws and misused public funds. A judge dismissed five of those charges.

Meanwhile, a federal grand jury indicted Robles last year on charges he received $1.4 million in bribery payments and received gifts for steering a contract to a waste hauler.

Sheppard & Scheib
The former vice president and general counsel of Earl Scheib Inc. has joined Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP's corporate practice group as a partner.

In 10 years at Earl Scheib, David Sunkin handled the paint and body shop's public reporting and corporate work, as well as litigation and real estate issues. Earlier this month, the Sherman-Oaks based company was granted a de-listing from the American Stock Exchange and started trading over-the-counter on the Pink Sheets.

*Staff reporter Amanda Bronstad can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 225, or at . Staff reporter Howard Fine contributed to this column.

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