Beus Gilbert law firm adds high-profile attorneys Patrick McGroder and Jay Heiler
Russ Wiles, Arizona Republic Oct. 15, 2018
Phoenix law firm Beus Gilbert PLLC has added two prominent Valley attorneys, including a plaintiffs representative with a reported $500 million in legal victories and a government-affairs specialist with deep political roots.
Patrick McGroder, who has represented the Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighters, wounded Phoenix police officer Jason Schechterle and others, joined the firm on Oct. 12.
Political affairs attorney Jay Heiler joined in mid-July.
Heiler sits on the Arizona Board of Regents, recently serving as treasurer. He earlier was former Governor Fife Symington’s chief of staff, and he currently serves as president of the Arizona Charter School Association, among various affiliations.
He also co-founded Great Hearts Academies, a charter-schools network operating in Arizona and Texas, of which he is chairman. GreatHearts counts about 13,000 metro-Phoenix students and 4,000 in Texas and employs more than 1,300 teachers, he said.
McGroder and Heiler join a 30-attorney firm founded in 1982 by Leo Beus and Paul Gilbert, a zoning and land-use expert. Their affiliation dates to the 1960s, when Beus and Gilbert served as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Beus, after whom a new building is named at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, has focused on high-profile negligence and fraud cases. He said he didn’t know McGroder well previously but managed to talk him into joining the firm.
“We really like each other, which for lawyers is something,” Beus quipped. “The problem with Pat is there’s not enough wall space for all his accomplishments.”
Beus said he’s equally thrilled to have Heiler join the company.
McGroder, who had been a shareholder at Phoenix law firm Gallagher & Kennedy, said he had no plans to leave before meeting with Beus and Gilbert.
Beus Gilbert pursues many complex business litigation cases, mostly representing individuals, corporations, and other perceived victims against institutional defendants. Beus has been the lead litigator in cases where, according to his firm, verdicts and settlements have resulted in more than $4 billion for clients.
McGroder called the new affiliation “an opportunity to expand my career skills as a trial lawyer representing victims” and to pursue more cases with national significance.
McGroder, who in an interview said he has tried to make the world a better place through his legal work, pointed to several cases that he feels have made a difference.
These include exposing fuel-tank risks in collisions involving Ford Crown Victoria police cars, which he said resulted in the automaker repairing 350,000 police vehicles. Another suit following an accidental death at a Phoenix trampoline park led to Arizona implementing the nation’s first safety law for those recreation facilities, he said.
His other successful cases resulted in enhanced motor-coach safety following a fatal crash, improved road fencing in the Sedona area after fatal rock slides, changes in the operation of news helicopters after a deadly crash in central Phoenix, and probation of a fraternity at Arizona State University following a binge-drinking death.
Several of his cases have involved deaths stemming from vehicle or aircraft crashes.
Beus called McGroder “one of the best trial attorneys in Arizona history” and a “social architect” for turning high-profile cases into causes for reform.
McGroder, who claims to have recovered more than $500 million in settlements and verdicts for clients, will continue to focus on high-profile cases involving catastrophic injuries and deaths.
Heiler said he brought his public affairs and government-relations clients to Beus Gilbert and plans to build a broader, deeper practice there. He also plans to work with Beus on major commercial-litigation cases and with Gilbert on cases involving land use and real estate, which involves local-government relations.
Bard Owes Injured Woman $3.6M in IVC Bellwether, Jury Finds
By Cara Salvatore Law360
Law360, Phoenix (March 30, 2018, 1:22 PM EDT) – a Phoenix federal jury awarded $2 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages on Friday to a woman who said a clot-stopping vein filter manufactured by Bard broke apart in her body, finding the device maker responsible for 80 percent of the harm for a total of $3.6 million in damages . . .
Attorney Mark S. O’Connor Led the Way in One of the Top Ten Verdicts of 2018
Arizona Attorney June 2019 – United States District Court for the District of Arizona, CV16-004747
In a verdict announced on March 30, 2018, Sheri Booker, the first plaintiff in the Bard Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) filter multi-district litigation (MDL) to try her product liability claims, was awarded $3.6 million dollars. The trial began on March 14, 2018, and lasted three weeks in Arizona federal court. The nine-member jury deliberated for six-and-a-half hours before they decided that Bard negligently failed to warn consumers of the risk, and then awarded punitive damages to Ms. Booker. The jury found in favor of Bard on three of four claims — negligent design, strict liability design, and strict liability failure to warn. On the fourth claim-negligent failure to warn-the jury awarded $2 million in compensatory damages and awarded $2 million in punitive damages. The jury found Bard 80 percent at fault and the non-party radiologist 20 percent at fault. This was Arizona’s 5th largest jury verdict and largest punitive award of 2018.
Beus Gilbert McGroder Attorney Mark O’Connor and Ramon Rossi Lopez of Lopez McHugh LLP serve as co-lead/liaison counsel in the MDL. Both Mark O’Connor and Ramon Rossi Lopez were also lead trial counsel for Ms. Booker. The Bard G2 filter which subsequently broke, leaving pieces in Ms. Booker’s IVC, aorta, and in her heart, was implanted when Ms. Booker was 37. The fracture and migration of the filter resulted in significant injuries and medical procedures, including open-heart surgery.
In his argument to the jury during the punitive damages phase, Mark O’Connor stated “The simple fix was there – don’t put it on the market.” O’Connor emphasized that Bard never went to the medical community to say “We gave you something dangerous and we need to fix it before it causes irreversible damage.” After the trial, Mark O’Connor shared, “Sheri Booker showed tremendous courage in telling her story to the jury.” U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell presided over the MDL, which included more than 3,600 plaintiffs from across the country.
First Bard Vein Filter Bellwether Heads to Jury
By Cara Salvatore Law360
Law360, Phoenix (March 29, 2018, 11:30 PM EDT) – a Phoenix federal jury began deliberations Thursdays in the first bellwether trial in multidistrict litigation over claims that device maker Bard’s clot-stopping vein implants splinted and migrated toward patients’ hearts after Bard closed its case by arguing evidence concerning predecessor implants and FDA warnings were red herrings . . .
Bard Exec Defends Handling of Complaints at Vein Filter Trial
Law360, Phoenix (March 28, 2018, 11:19 PM EDT) – A former quality-assurance executive at Bard Periopheral Vascular defended the company’s internal complaint-recording procedures Wednesday, the last day of evidence in the first bellwether trial over a vein implant that patients say was known to sometimes pierce through to other organs. …
Lawdragon Hall of Fame Limelight: Patrick McGroder
Katrina Dewey June 12, 2019 Lawyer Limelights, News & Features, Plaintiff Consumer Limelights
Patrick McGroder’s grades in law school weren’t the sort that attracted offers from high-end firms. Struggling to find a job after earning his law degree, he eventually struck out on his own, a self-professed “dirty-shirt lawyer” who learned on the job.
“I was sworn in on Saturday and had my first jury trial on Monday morning,” McGroder of Beus Gilbert in Phoenix recalls. It was a criminal case, and one he lost.
“I didn’t know anything, and I don’t think the jurors left the box,” he says. “They probably wanted to find me guilty of impersonating a lawyer. I left there completely humiliated and mortified. I vowed that was never going to happen again.”
McGroder turned that promise into a career winning more than $600M for hundreds of injured people in high-profile cases, including 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots, a team of firefighters who perished during a 2013 wildfire, winning compensation for their families and prompting new safety procedures for battling such blazes. He settled a landmark case against Ford Motor Co. over police interceptor vehicles that burst into flames upon rear impact during car crashes, prompted by Phoenix police officer Jason Schechterle’s near-death in a March 2001 accident. There were 18 such cases across the country that he and David Perry litigated. The case ultimately led to the carmaker’s modification of 350,000 vehicles.
McGroder made his mark in complicated high-profile cases, all involving catastrophic injuries and product liability – most with a social justice component. His accomplishments and dedication to having an impact in helping attain justice for victims – as well as his philosophy burnished in his Buffalo, N.Y., roots – have made him one of Arizona’s most acclaimed trial lawyers and a member of the Lawdragon Hall of Fame.
“I gravitated to those types of cases, and I was very fortunate to have a staff and lawyers to work with me that subscribed to my commitment to humanity, to social change,” he says. “Virtually all of my cases involved some type of remedial change to not only make the world a better place, but to make it a safer place and to ensure that tragedies like I’ve seen, preventable tragedies, don’t happen again.”
Lawdragon: Your. career and accomplishments are incredibly impressive. Where did your drive to effect social change come from?
Patrick McGroder: I was raised in Buffalo, N.Y., an incredibly ethnic, blue-collar rust bucket – as they now refer to it – a town where I learned what’s important in life is loyalty, commitment, to not only your God, and family, but also to your fellow man, and the dignity that your fellow man represents. So that’s how I was raised. Philanthropy and social service were not an option in my family. My sisters and I were raised by incredible parents. They were not well educated but came from a generation where basic human rights were respected and those who were victimized in life must be afforded dignity, compassion, and empathy.
And then there’s my Catholic faith. So that’s why I believe so strongly that great human beings make great lawyers – people who are respectful, and civil and understand that our profession is not a business, but a calling. It’s a calling that ensures that we use the power of our licensure to effectuate solutions to problems, and I don’t care if it’s as simple as a will or a divorce or someone buying a home, or in my case, someone who’s catastrophically injured. It doesn’t matter. Our profession should be about understanding what our clients’ needs are and doing everything we can to ensure that those needs are met in a legal, ethical way. We’re not here to make problems. In my experience, there are a lot of lawyers out there, perhaps unwittingly so, who cause more problems than they solve.
LD: How did you decide to become a lawyer yourself? What inspired you – did you know lawyers?
PM: My father was a first-generation American and was a great believer in education. I had gone to Catholic boys’ schools all my life – grammar school and high school. Then, eventually, I went to Notre Dame, which was my father’s dream, because he was Irish. I’m not sure I was all that crazy about it. My dad was executive vice president of the Buffalo Bills football team. I spent four years at Notre Dame. I really had no desire or burning passion to be a lawyer. I always wanted to be a doctor, but my failures in life were generally directed toward the study of science and math, so…
LD: I feel your pain.
PM: I wasn’t particularly equipped for the medical profession but ironically, I wound up in the personal injury/medical malpractice field, where 50 percent of my practice is medicine, so I guess in a roundabout way, fate took me where I wanted to be. After Notre Dame, it was the height of the Vietnam War. I was getting called for physicals all the time. My father, who – as I said was a great believer in education – wanted me to go to law school. And I really had no desire at that point to be a lawyer. So I said, “Look, you always wanted me to go Notre Dame, but if I’m thinking about going to law school, I’d like to pick the law school myself.” So he said, “That’s fine.”
So coming from Buffalo, where there are essentially two seasons, July 4th and winter, and then spending four years in South Bend, Ind., where it snowed from the time I got there to the time I left, I applied mostly to warmer-weather schools and co-ed schools. Notre Dame, when I went there, was all boys.
LD: Clever man.
PM: I was fortunate enough to get into the University of Arizona and arrived in Tucson in the late ’60s, and quickly thought that I’d died and gone to heaven. There was sun, and a variety of other things that a co-ed school had to offer. I arrived there, driving a ’67 Corvette and pulling a Triumph TT motorcycle, and I was about 215 pounds then, and I thought of myself as an athlete. I wasn’t exactly mentally prepared for law school. But I was quickly befriended by my mentor, Professor Junius Hoffman, who was a brilliant man. He had an undergraduate degree in Greek mythology, I believe, from Harvard and a Yale degree in law. We were kind of the odd couple, because I was about three times his size, not mentally of course, but physically. Within the first year, I realized that being in law school was not only a privilege but that it might be the start of a very promising career. So I finished law school, and still wanted to go back to Buffalo and work for the Bills. I came up to Phoenix and took the bar exam in Phoenix and just fell in love. It was only about 600,000 people then, and it was just a fabulous town.
Because my grades were not prestigious in law school, I struggled to find a job. So I essentially became a sole practitioner; I learned to practice on the street, and I hit my first personal injury case for a million dollars within a few years and took off from there. I started my own firm and ran that firm for about 25 years. A lot of my partners retired, and I went with a semi-large firm here in Phoenix. I established a large personal injury practice. I realized that I could be much more effective if I took fewer cases and concentrated on those in which there was catastrophic injury or wrongful death associated with some social architecture. So I became known for taking those kinds of cases, whether they involved road design, aviation disaster, corrections, accounting, legal, and certainly medical negligence. Eventually, most of the high-profile cases in Arizona that involved catastrophic injury or wrongful death would find their way to my door, from the Granite Mountain Hotshots, the firefighters who were burned alive, to the news helicopters that crashed over downtown Phoenix.
LD: We have the honor of knowing numerous great lawyers who are great people, and then we’ve also seen the folks who want to be the same as those great lawyers, but maybe don’t have the moral underpinning, right? It seems to me a lot of what drives you to take the kinds of cases that you take and fight the way that you do comes from your personal code, from who you are.
PM: You know, I can’t heal the sick, I can’t raise the dead, but I can restore a modicum of dignity to my clients who have faced the most overwhelming adversity. And I hope that I do it in a way that’s empathetic, compassionate, and at the same time represents a full measure of justice. I don’t have any desire to be on the cover of any magazines, nor argue in front of the Supreme Court 10 times a year, although that would be a great honor. But what I do changes lives, and to me, that is my calling.
LD: Can you describe what it’s been like to be an advocate for your clients in court as well as to be an advocate for the openness of courts to people who lack financial resources?
PM: A lot of defendants talk about jury reform. I think juries are the ultimate reformation. They truly try to do the right thing. Do they come off the rails sometimes? Sure. Do they decide things based on irrelevancy? Sure, I mean that happens sometimes. But juries are the great equalizer, as is having a plaintiffs’ bar that’s available and affordable. To bring people justice that heretofore would not have a voice nor the financial wherewithal to litigate against institutions, people of means and wealth, governmental agencies, or any other potential defendant in a superior financial or leverage situation. We provide access to justice in a way that doesn’t penalize the poor, the voiceless, and the underserved. And I strongly believe in that.
LD: How do the victories that you’ve won for your clients motivate you when you wake up in the morning or when you’re finishing a long day at the office on a difficult case?
PM: It is beyond fulfilling to be able to use the power of your personality, intellect, creativity, and ingenuity, to bring justice for those who otherwise would simply never have an opportunity to bring their cases into the system. The scorecard of life, it’s not measured by wins and losses; it’s measured by the justice that we’re able to obtain for our clients. And especially in the plaintiffs’ bar, those clients who have been devastated, destroyed by injury, by travesty, by death. And to be able to say to them, “Look, what we’re able to do from a justice standpoint or a compensation standpoint, at the end of the day, perhaps is meaningless in your world. But maybe we can make your life a little bit better. And maybe the defendant will remember your name. And maybe the defendant will ensure, through changes and remedial measures, that something like what happened to you, is never, ever going to happen again.”
LD: You’re a nationally acclaimed plaintiff lawyer, but I know your heart is in Arizona, and many of the hallmark cases that you’ve done are Arizona-based. Obviously, Phoenix has grown into a major city while you’ve lived there – do you feel satisfied when you think about the ways that you’ve contributed to what it is today?
PM: Yes, absolutely. I’m silently proud – because I’m not somebody who wears my achievements on my sleeve – when I go by a road that has been redesigned because of what we’ve done, like Route 89A up in Sedona, for example, where our cases resulted in rock-fall remediation on a very scenic highway where rocks were falling and catastrophically injuring and killing people. Or considering the transformation of a waterway here where two doctors were killed or, whenever a police car drives by, thinking that we made police vehicles safer in this country, I feel quietly satisfied.
LD: What advice do you give your son, who’s following in your footsteps, or other attorneys who are starting out?
PM: I learned the hard way. I learned to practice law as a dirty-shirt lawyer. I didn’t have any clerk jobs. I was not recruited by silk-stocking firms. I did not have the types of mentors that one would find in a large law firm. I learned to practice law in the courtroom by trial and error, by doing everything I could, and through working 24/7 for probably the better part of 45 years.
Now a lot of that may have been fear: fear of making mistakes, fear of not doing what is in the best interest of my client, maybe because I didn’t know what was in the best interest of my client. So fear, for me, was a great motivator. But what I tell young people is, “Look, you need to learn every day. There are no stupid questions.” Because let me tell you something, I ask every stupid question there is. I have seen so many lawyers, so many young lawyers, who are afraid to ask that stupid question. They’re afraid because someone might think that they’re something less than as smart as they think they are. Or they’re afraid to put in the time and the commitment and the effort it requires to be a trial lawyer. If you want to be a trial lawyer, you’ve got to learn about the human condition. And you’ve got to learn to listen and learn to communicate. And without those tools, you’re not going to be much of a force in the courtroom. You’ve also got to work. You’ve got to sit down, analyze, be creative, be innovative, you’ve got to apply facts and theories of the law, and then work backward and understand the law and apply those theories and facts to the law. You need to know the other side’s case as well as they do. You need to understand how you can lose, because if you understand how you can lose, then you understand how to win.
Leo Beus and Paul Gilbert Might be two of the Most Influential, but Least Known Heavy Hitters in Arizona
The 25-attorney firm has not had a website since it opened in 1982. How successful? Beus Gilbert has reaped $4 billion in jury verdicts and settlements since its founding. Beus is a prominent, aggressive, not-always-liked litigator taking on the likes of Pfizer and big accounting firms.
BYU Unveils Donated Painting “Treasures of Knowledge” by Artist Greg Olsen
By Trent Toone, Deseret News Published: August 19, 2015
A small group that included two LDS Church apostles and Brigham Young University administrators witnessed the unveiling of an original Greg Olsen painting at the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors Center on Wednesday during BYU Education Week.
The painting, titled “Treasures of Knowledge,” was commissioned by university supporters Leo and Annette Beus and donated to BYU. Annette Beus cut the string to show the 52-by-84-inch oil on canvas painting, which features two young adults reading in a room surrounded by books, globes, artwork, scientific instruments, and other tools of learning.
Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles attended the unveiling, along with BYU President Kevin J. Worthen.
McKay Christensen, managing director for alumni relations at BYU, said the university is grateful for the gift.
“The painting represents so well what happens here at BYU,” Christensen said. “It tells the story of what happens to students and alumni … in their discovery of learning and faith. To have that represented in this strong visual way in the Hinckley Center, our alumni house is really incredible.”
Olsen, an artist known for his paintings of Jesus Christ, said the painting is a metaphor for a journey of discovery.
“I hope this painting will be a reminder to those who see it that the world is a wonderful workshop of alchemy, where we can take simple, ordinary things and transform them through our own efforts and inspiration into treasures of knowledge,” said Olsen, who began working on the painting years ago.
Elder Ballard and Elder Andersen each spoke briefly, thanking the Beuses for their gift and complimenting Olsen on his work.
“The Lord has given you a gift and you’ve used it in such a beautiful way,” Elder Ballard said to Olsen.
“An example like this helps us see that everything does testify of the Savior,” Elder Andersen said. “Everything shows the magnificence of the gifts we’ve received. That’s not to feel shorted in the pre-mortal life, but to admire with great appreciation that someone could have that gift to create something so beautiful and memorable. That’s really the story of BYU.”
The painting will be on permanent display in the Hinckley Center and is open for public viewing.
Renco Penalty in MagCorp Bankruptcy Row Rises to $213M
By Kurt Orzeck, Law 360 Published: March 16, 2015
Ira Rennert and his company, Renco Corp., will have to pay a total of roughly $213 million for allegedly taking shareholder dividends from bankrupt Magnesium Corp. of America, sources told Law360 on Monday, after a New York federal judge added interest to a jury’s previous award to Magnesium’s trustee.
U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan ordered the defendants to make up for missed interest payments on MagCorp debt by paying 6 percent interest per annum from August 2001 — when MagCorp and its parent, Renco Metal, filed for bankruptcy — to March 2015. The interest applies to the $101 million that a jury said Renco must return after deciding last month that the dividends were fraudulent conveyances.
Plaintiffs had argued for the New York statutory rate of 9 percent, while defendants contended that — if prejudgment interest had to be applied — it should be fixed at a federal post-judgment interest rate that would amount to roughly .25 percent. Judge Nathan replied Monday that a 9 percent rate would have been unlikely during the financial crisis that occurred during the time frame at issue.
Instead, she held that a 6 percent rate of return would be equitable, saying it strikes a balance between the need to compensate continued noteholders without providing an unfair windfall for entities who bought the notes at a bankruptcy-related discount. That would amount to just under $96 million if the judgment is entered this week, sources told Law360.
“This rate exceeds the rate of inflation, and therefore serves to ensure plaintiffs’ damages award does not lose absolute value because of the intervening period between the bankruptcy and the judgment and provides a modest but reasonable rate of return on any investment of the funds,” her decision said.
The case has put a spotlight on Rennert, an industrial magnate who built Renco into a powerhouse conglomerate with holdings from the Rust Belt to South America by buying and selling distressed businesses, often in bankruptcy. Perhaps best known for erecting a lavish and controversial 67,000-square-foot mansion in the Hamptons, Rennert made a rare public appearance on the stand to defend his stewardship of MagCorp, which operated from a Rowley, Utah, facility that wrung magnesium out of brine dredged from the Great Salt Lake.
The verdict reached the conclusion of a four-week trial, delivered a resounding win to Chapter 7 trustee Lee Buchwald in a tortured, 12-year legal saga and a windfall to the asset management firms now holding MagCorp’s defaulted bonds. Renco owned the Utah-based magnesium producer and allegedly extracted handsome dividends from 1996 and 1998 when the company was already beset with massive pollution liabilities and brutal overseas competition. The extractions allegedly left MagCorp too weak to survive.
Bondholders were left unpaid when MagCorp entered bankruptcy amid a glut of cheaper magnesium from Asia and a $900 million pollution lawsuit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Rennert’s lawyers denied wrongdoing and blamed MagCorp’s collapse on the economic recession and vicissitudes in the global magnesium market.
After a day and a half of deliberations, the jury on Friday found dividends that Renco allegedly extracted from MagCorp to be fraudulent conveyances and ordered the return of $101 million from Renco and $17.2 million from Rennert. The jury also leveled $1 million in punitive damages against Renco.
Earlier this month, Judge Nathan said she refused the defendant’s request for a mistrial because they had failed to make their argument on the grounds of a “dramatic inconsistency in the verdict” before the jury was dismissed.
A Renco spokesman told Law360 on Monday that they are disappointed by Judge Nathan’s interest-rate ruling, and fighting to have the jury verdict and damages award vacated.
“The jury verdict, which found that Renco Metals was solvent according to each test under the law and that Mr. Rennert acted in good faith, remains fundamentally irreconcilable,” the spokesman said.
Buchwald and his attorneys didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment late Monday.
The trustee is represented by Leo R. Beus, Scot C. Stirling, Malcolm Loeb, and Robert O. Stirling of Beus Gilbert PLLC.
Renco is represented by H. Peter Haveles Jr. and Jeffrey A. Fuisz of Kaye Scholer LLPand Tai H. Park and Steven C. Bennett of Park Jensen Bennett LLP.
The case is Magnesium Corp. of America et al. v. Renco Group Inc. et al., case number1:13-cv-07948, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Jury Awards Damages in Mining Firm Plunder
By The Associated Press, New York Law Journal Published: March 2, 2015
A Manhattan federal jury on Friday found that billionaire Ira Rennert plundered a now-bankrupt mining company to pay for personal luxuries, including a Hamptons mansion that’s one of the world’s largest private homes . . .