John Fitzpatrick ("Fitz") is a "go-to" trial attorney for high-exposure cases. Whether the case involves allegations of product defects in medical devices, pharmaceuticals, asbestos, or aviation, birth trauma or other catastrophic medical malpractice claims, or chemical releases of toxic substances, Fitz has an unparalleled record of success. He has tried over 220 cases to verdict in more than 30 states and obtained defense verdicts in the vast majority of them.
Just since joining WTO in 2007, Fitz has tried 30 cases to verdict in 10 states, including many of the desgnated judicial hellholes for corporate America, including Philadelphia, Baltimore, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Madison County, Illinois. He is national trial counsel to top companies such as General Electric, AT&T, Foster Wheeler, and Evenflo, and several major insurance companies in defending product liability, toxic tort, medical malpractice, and personal injury claims. Fitz lectures frequently to corporate counsel around the country on how to select experienced trial lawyers for high-exposure cases.
A former concert pianist and Army Airborne Ranger, Fitz began his legal career in 1981 with the U.S. Army JAG Corps as a prosecutor trying criminal cases in Colorado. He became the 8th Army Division's Chief Prosecutor in South Korea in 1983. He was selected to be the senior medical malpractice attorney for the U.S. Army Tort Branch at the Pentagon in 1986 where he tried 12 civil cases to verdict in federal courts across the country before entering private practice in Richmond, Virginia in 1988.
Fitz's civilian trial career started when he was selected as the youngest national trial counsel for Owens-Corning's asbestos trial team in 1989. He currently serves as national trial counsel for GE, Foster Wheeler, Velan Valve, and Dana Corporation. Fitz has taken more than 40 asbestos cases to verdict in some of the toughest jurisdictions in the United States. Below is a sample of his recent case activity:
- General Electric (ongoing) - Fitz is national trial counsel to this Fortune 10 company on hundreds of product liability cases involving a medical-imaging contrast agent purported to cause a rare and debilitating disease.
- Evenflo (January 2012) - Fitz obtained a complete defense verdict in U.S.D.C. of Colorado on behalf of this manufacturer of infant car seats in a two-week product liability trial. The plaintiff sought $20MM for a permanent brain injury sustained by a child after his car seat detached from its base in a high-impact car collision for which the mother admitted fault.
- General Electric (August 2009, Chicago, IL) - Fitz obtained a defense verdict in a land-based turbine case in Chicago. The first asbestos case to go to trial in Chicago in 10 years, it was also the first case to verdict in Illinois since the Nolen decision. After a two-week trial, the jury deliberated for 30 minutes before returning a defense verdict.
- Leslie Controls (June 2009, Los Angeles, CA) - Fitz obtained a defense verdict in a Navy exposure case for Leslie Valves. After a two-week trial, the jury deliberated for 20 minutes before returning a defense verdict.
- Foster Wheeler (February 2008, Los Angeles, CA; March 2008, Iowa City, IA; December 2008, San Francisco, CA) – Fitz obtained a defense verdict from a Los Angeles judge following a three-week trial. While that jury was deliberating, Fitz flew to Iowa and immediately began cross-examining the plaintiff's expert in a separate case. He obtained a defense verdict after two weeks of trial.
- Foster Wheeler (June 2007, Boston, MA) – Fitz won a defense verdict after six weeks of trial in a living mesothelioma case, the first case tried to verdict in Boston in 10 years.
- Foster Wheeler (June 2006, Los Angeles, CA) – The same day a settlement was reached during trial in another case, Fitz was asked to take over the defense of a living mesothelioma case already in jury selection. After three weeks of trial, he obtained the first defense verdict for Foster Wheeler in California.
- General Electric (June 2005, Madison County, IL) – Fitz obtained the first defense verdict for GE in an asbestos case in the jurisdiction voted the "#1 judicial hellhole" for corporate America. It was the first asbestos case tried to verdict for GE in 15 years.
Fitz has been selected to handle high-exposure cases involving product defects in aviation (e.g., he handles Global Aerospace cases in multiple states with a SWAT team of lawyers with aviation experience, many of them with private pilots' licenses), construction equipment (e.g., he represented Illinois Tool Works in product liability cases involving building straps), chemical releases (e.g., he represented Air Products regarding ammonia gas release), medical products (e.g., he represents GE in litigation involving a medical imaging contrast agent), pharmaceuticals (e.g., he represented Lab Corps), and national security (e.g., he represented Nike Hercules Air Defense Missile System).
Fitz has extensive experience trying medical malpractice actions throughout the United States. His first trial in Virginia in 1989 led to the building of the largest medical malpractice team in Virginia over the next 20 years. He generally had three to five of the top defense verdicts in any given year. His expertise in brain-damaged baby cases led CNA Insurance to ask him to become their national trial counsel for birth-trauma cases in 2002 and then to assist CNA in selecting a national "brain-damaged baby" team. In 2005, Fitz was named CNA's 2004 Health Pro Litigator of the Year.
The concept of establishing "SWAT" lawyers with particular expertise to try cases across the country gained acceptance with many other national companies. Since then, Fitz has been chosen to be national trial counsel for Health Care Indemnity, Universal Health Services, Premier Insurance, Medical Protective, SwissRe, GE Healthcare and MedStar in their high-exposure cases.
Since 2005, Fitz has tried over 30 high-exposure cases to verdict in 16 states and prevailed in 95% of them.
- Washington Hospital Center (November 2012, Washington, D.C.) - Fitz successfully defended the appeal of a medical malpractice case that he tried and won in the lower court in 2011 involving a premature baby who suffered a hemorrhage that resulted in brain damage.
- Psychiatric hospital (May 2012, Philadelphia) - Called in just five days prior to mediation in a seemingly unwinnable case, and after his client offered a multimillion dollar settlement that was rejected by the plaintiff, Fitz proved in a two-day medical malpractice arbitration that a Philadelphia psychiatric hospital was not liable for a discharged patient's death in a fatal car accident.
- Endurance (Jan 2012, Vero Beach, FL) – Called in three weeks prior, Fitz spent three weeks in trial defending obstetricians at a Florida hospital where an infant suffered a severe brain injury that led to cerebral palsy due to lack of oxygen after a rare delivery complication of uterine rupture in the mother. The plaintiff alleged the complications could have been avoided had a C-section been performed prior to rupture and demanded seven million dollars. The jury deliberated 30 minutes before returning a verdict for the defense.
- MedStar Health (Aug 2011, Washington, DC) – Fitz spent two weeks in trial defending obstetricians who discharged a pregnant woman who suffered a catastrophic uterine rupture 16 hours after being released. The plaintiff alleged the woman should never have been discharged and asked for $45 million in closing. The jury returned a defense verdict.
- MedStar Health (March 2011 – Washington DC) – Fitz spent two weeks in trial defending a group of neonatologists at a Washington Hospital. A 26-week-old pre-term infant arrested in the NICU. The plaintiff alleged that physicians failed to properly manage blood pressure, which led to the arrest and subsequent brain damage, and asked for $15 million in closing. The jury deliberated for 20 minutes before returning a verdict for the defense.
- UHS (July 2009, Riverside, CA) - Fitz spent four weeks in trial for a case involving a brain-damaged adult man. The special damages were in excess of $10 million and the plaintiff's last demand when trial started was two and a half million dollars. The jury returned a verdict of six million dollars, but found the plaintiff 75% contributory negligent. After the setoff from settling the defendants, Fitz's client owed only $37,000.
- SwissRe (March 2009, Tampa, FL) – Two weeks before trial began, Fitz and his team were asked to take over a case involving a permanent brain injury to a well-known plaintiff's lawyer. Both local and regional defense counsel recommended a settlement of $12-15 million. Fitz tried the case for two weeks and obtained a defense verdict.
- HCI (February 2007, Rockingham, NH) – With two-weeks notice, Fitz agreed to take over as lead trial counsel in a case involving the death of a 63-year-old man following complications from gall bladder surgery. He obtained a defense verdict by convincing the jury that an empty oxygen tank, which the plaintiff was using for supplemental oxygen shortly before his cardiac arrest, did not cause his death.
- MedPro (March 2006, Columbia, SC) – Fitz successfully defended a doctor who performed spine surgery. The plaintiff became paralyzed following the surgery and blamed the surgeon for not recognizing the early signs of paralysis. Fitz obtained a defense verdict after a two-week trial.
- CNA (March 2005, Orlando, FL) – Fitz obtained a defense verdict for Universal Studios in federal court. Fitz entered the case after all mediation attempts failed and co-defendants and excess insurance carriers recommended settlement of three to five million dollars. The jury was out for less than 30 minutes following a one-week trial.
- AT&T (July 2012, Denver) - Fitz successfully defended an appeal to the Tenth Circuit of a 2010 jury verdict that WTO had won on behalf of this major telecommunications company in a high-profile whistleblower case.
- AT&T (December 2010, Alexandria, LA) – The plaintiffs alleged that an advertising sign was improperly displayed in an AT&T Mobile store and, as a result, fell and struck the head of a two-year-old, causing traumatic brain injury. Fitz defended the case by arguing that the sign could not cause a traumatic brain injury and the plaintiffs' experts were frauds. After a two-week trial, the jury deliberated for 20 minutes before returning a defense verdict.
- Chesapeake Advisors LLC (September 2008, Richmond, VA) – After a five-day trial, Fitz obtained a defense verdict in this case involving allegations of breach of contract, fraud, and unjust enrichment
LeClair Ryan, P.C., 1996-2006
Wright, Robinson, Osthimer & Tatum, 1988-1995