Insight

Fighting for Florida

Three-time “Lawyer Of The Year”* Steve Yerrid reflects on how South Florida was the setting for some of his most memorable trials.

Headshot of man with dark suit and red tie outside in front of fountain
JS

Justin Smulison

November 4, 2022 12:00 AM

STEVE YERRID KNOWS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE TRIAL-TESTED. Even prior to passing the bar, he clerked part-time in a prestigious D.C. law firm and worked in the U.S. Senate to pay his tuition to Georgetown University Law School. Over the past four decades, he has built his stellar reputation and that of The Yerrid Law Firm by convincing juries to side with his clients in catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases, particularly those poised to provide for meaningful societal impact and protect the welfare of others. In the process, he has obtained a number of significant results both in Florida and in other parts of the nation.

Beating the Unbeaten

One of Yerrid’s career-defining cases occurred in Palm Beach. In the 1990s, Yerrid was selected by the late Gov. Lawton Chiles as the youngest member of the 11-member “Dream Team” of Florida’s best private lawyers. He took a leading role in the state of Florida’s landmark lawsuit against the previously unbeaten cigarette industry.

Yerrid was tasked with amending Florida’s case against Big Tobacco to include an action under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The case was filed in Palm Beach County. The RICO Act makes it unlawful activity to conspire and subsequently engage in or receive income from an enterprise through a pattern of “racketeering” activity. Yerrid eagerly accepted the RICO aspects of the case because of his prior experience and extensive knowledge of that specialized area of the law and its usage in the courtroom; in the late 1970s, he had been in a three-month racketeering trial, the longest of its kind in U.S. history.

“The tobacco executives were hiding behind the cigarette cartel’s wrongful conduct, false marketing and youth pandering by blaming the old regime of executives in the 1950s and 60s who were deceased. But when we added RICO to our case, the current CEOs couldn’t run from the spotlight or place blame elsewhere once the judge allowed the amendment, and validated our assertion that the RICO enterprise was ongoing and continuous up to the present day.” Yerrid recalls. “When we asserted the current tobacco executives were continuing to be engaged in an ongoing racketeering conspiratorial enterprise and labeled those tobacco executives as racketeers, our case was brought home in a very personal and present-day manner. With that stigma, I would like to think this public perception played a role in bringing Big Tobacco to the settlement table for the first time in its history. The trial commenced in a packed Palm Beach courtroom before Judge Harold Cohen, of Florida’s 15th Judicial Circuit and it was being covered by nationwide media. The cigarette industry settled the case during the third week of jury selection.”

It was the biggest monetary settlement in U.S. history at the time, ultimately topping $17 billion. Subsequent to that favorable result, a $200 billion national, multistate settlement shortly followed, and that multistate resolution was largely accomplished through the use of much of Florida’s work product and its litigation tactics. “Because of what we were able to achieve in the tobacco litigation, a societal sea change occurred throughout the nation,” Yerrid notes. As a result, “millions of lives have been, and continue to be, saved.”

Throughout its existence, Yerrid and his firm have recovered billions of dollars in high-stakes litigation against a number of well-funded and powerful defendants. Yerrid and the firm have secured more than 300 individual recoveries in excess of $1 million and several in the eight- to nine-figure range in the areas of catastrophic injury, product liability, construction defects, medical negligence, premises liability as well as trucking and motor vehicle accidents and a variety of other types of civil litigation.

Down To The Bone

Yerrid has fought for countless plaintiffs through the decades. There have been many highlights and milestones, but when considering those verdicts he has obtained in South Florida, he fondly recalls one of the cases he had as a young lawyer—the first medical malpractice case he tried in Broward County.

In the early 1980s, he represented Nathan Satter, a recognizable actor from the Ft. Lauderdale area who was in his 70s at the time. One morning during breakfast, Satter suddenly dropped his fork and partially lost movement in his arm. Assuming he had suffered a stroke, Satter was rushed to the hospital for treatment. A radiology study revealed a shocking surprise. Months earlier, a small cancerous section of Satter’s mandible had been resected and a Kirschner wire (“K wire”) had been inserted to retain the space in the jawbone that had been removed. Once he healed, a plastic implant would be put into place and the mandible restored to its prior condition. But the K wire, which was several inches long, had not been properly secured. As a result of talking and chewing food over several weeks, the wire loosened and traveled through his jawbone and into his skull where it was driven deep into his brain.

“The X-ray taken of his head at the hospital is a simple black-and-white image, yet it remains one of the most startling radiological pictures I have ever seen,” Yerrid says.

Typically, a jury answers a standard first question on a medical malpractice verdict form: “Was there negligence on the part of the doctor to cause this injury?” Before the jury retired to deliberate, Yerrid asked the seasoned (and very egotistical) defense lawyer about the second question on the verdict form. With a condescending look of disdain, the seasoned lawyer told Yerrid he had never gone to a second question because he always got a “no” on the first…meaning he had never lost.

Shortly after the jury began deliberating, there was a question sent to the judge by the jurors—they asked for a calculator. “I couldn’t stop myself from walking over to the defense table,” Yerrid recalls. “Looking straight at my supposedly unbeaten adversary, I remarked, ‘Looks like you’re going beyond the first question today. I still remember the expression on his face.'”

Deliberations took only a short time longer before the jury reached its verdict answering yes to the first question finding the defendant was negligent in his care and treatment of Satter and rendered a very substantial verdict. “I certainly have secured a number of larger verdicts,” Yerrid says, “but that one was especially satisfying.”

“Because of the defense lawyer’s arrogance and even more so because I still believe asking for a calculator, in my opinion, is the best question a jury can ask. Looking back at a fairly long career, I am confident there have been tremendous improvements in our society and many of those changes occurred because of what trial lawyers have done in courtrooms across the nation. If I could come back and have another chance at life, I would want it to be that of a trial lawyer.”

* “Lawyer of the Year” in The Best Lawyers in America® for medical malpractice law – plaintiffs in 2012 and 2015 and personal injury litigation – plaintiffs in 2014 in Tampa.

Headline Image: PETER ACKER

Related Articles

IN PARTNERSHIP

Results That Make a Difference


by John Fields

Thomas Moore and Judith Livingston continue to secure some of the largest verdicts in New York state for their injured clients.

Male and female lawyer in blue suits

IN PARTNERSHIP

Consequential Cases, Life-Changing Results


by John Fields

Best Lawyers honoree David Perecman on his firm’s commitment to helping the seriously injured.

Headshot of man in light blue suit standing outside

IN PARTNERSHIP

2022: Another Banner Year


by John Fields

Block O’Toole & Murphy continues to secure some of New York’s highest results for personal injury matters.

Three men in business suits standing in office

A Roadmap for Safety in D.C.


by Justin Smulison

Three-time “Lawyer of The Year” Patrick Regan explains how we can protect cyclists from injury and the city from more litigation.

Several lawyers sitting and standing in a group in office

Unwavering Dedication to Clients


by Best Lawyers

Trial attorneys Michael Lyons and Chris Simmons find motivation when the result means everything.

Trial Attorneys at Lyons & Simmons

Dan Sciano Renaissance Lawyer


by Justin Smulison

Tinsman & Sciano recently celebrated 50 years as greater San Antonio’s leading trial law firm for civil litigation and personal injury. Daniel J.T. Sciano obtained judgments for his clients in both Federal and State courthouses in 2021. A trial lawyer with many talents and diverse knowledge of the law.

Tinsman & Sciano Celebrates 50

Out of the Sky: What Construction Workers Can Do if Injured on the Job


by Justin Smulison

Construction zones with unsafe working conditions have long been the sites of injuries for workers. The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. fights for victims in New York City and Long Island.

Advice for Injured Construction Workers

IN PARTNERSHIP

7 Things to Never Do After a Car Accident


by J.L. King

The actions you take after a car accident could determine the injury compensation you stand to receive. Learn seven things to never do after a car accident.

Cartoon of person with big pencil and check list

IN PARTNERSHIP

Why You Should Hire a Car Accident Lawyer


by Bill Winters

There are many benefits to hiring a car accident lawyer. They’ll handle your claim from start to finish and ensure you recover the best possible outcome. Learn more here.

Red fire truck beside two crashed cars

IN PARTNERSHIP

Nine Factors That Determine How Much to Expect from a Car Accident Settlement


by Aaron Tillman

Learn about the factors that can impact how much to expect for a car accident settlement in Portland, including what you can do to maximize how much you receive for an injury claim.

Yellow background with black and white animation of car crash

IN PARTNERSHIP

What Will a Car Accident Lawyer Actually Do for You?


by Joshua Fogelman

Learn what a car accident lawyer can do for you after a Texas car crash, including protecting your right to receive maximum compensation for your injuries and damages.

Hands pointing to a white car that has been damaged

IN PARTNERSHIP

5 Things To Consider When Choosing a Car Accident Lawyer


by Gregg Hollander

The lawyer you choose could make the difference between a winning and losing outcome. Learn five things to consider when choosing a car accident lawyer.

Two cars crashing into each other beside judge's gavel

IN PARTNERSHIP

Should I Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident That Wasn't My Fault?


by Mark Anderson

Learn about the reasons why you need to get a lawyer for a car accident claim and how a lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve for injuries and damages.

Girl in orange sweater grasping injured neck

IN PARTNERSHIP

The Wolf Near Wall Street


by Rebecca Blackwell

When tensions among shared real estate owners reached their tipping point, Adam Leitman Bailey P.C. stepped in and solved a modern issue with an ancient remedy.

New York Real Estate with Adam Leitman Bailey

Family Owned and Operated


by David W. Holaday and John M. Goralka

In the era of sweeping tax reform, family businesses, particularly agricultural business, face many environmental and governmental risks. Outlined below are strategies to ensure family business survival in the face of these threats.

Man on tractor in open field

Split Decisions


by Jonathan Merel

Divorce is inevitably fraught with a torrent of emotions on both sides. Don’t let this occlude your ability to plan rationally and dispassionately to ensure as smooth a process as possible. Here are five common pitfalls to avoid.

Two people standing on either side of a heart made out of curving roads

Trending Articles

Announcing the 2023 The Best Lawyers in America Honorees


by Best Lawyers

Only the top 5.3% of all practicing lawyers in the U.S. were selected by their peers for inclusion in the 29th edition of The Best Lawyers in America®.

Gold strings and dots connecting to form US map

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2023


by Best Lawyers

The third edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America™ highlights the legal talent of lawyers who have been in practice less than 10 years.

Three arrows made of lines and dots on blue background

The Best Lawyers in South Africa™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers proudly announces lawyers recognized in South Africa for 2023.

South African flag

Could Reign Supreme End with the Queen?


by Sara Collin

Canada is revisiting the notion of abolishing the monarchy after Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, but many Canadians and lawmakers are questioning if Canada could, should and would follow through.

Teacup on saucer over image of Queen's eye

IN PARTNERSHIP

2022: Another Banner Year


by John Fields

Block O’Toole & Murphy continues to secure some of New York’s highest results for personal injury matters.

Three men in business suits standing in office

Famous Songs Unprotected by Copyright Could Mean Royalties for Some


by Michael B. Fein

A guide to navigating copyright claims on famous songs.

Can I Sing "Happy Birthday" in Public?

Announcing the 2023 The Best Lawyers in Canada Honorees


by Best Lawyers

The Best Lawyers in Canada™ is entering its 17th edition for 2023. We highlight the elite lawyers awarded this year.

Red map of Canada with white lines and dots

Wage and Overtime Laws for Truck Drivers


by Greg Mansell

For truck drivers nationwide, underpayment and overtime violations are just the beginning of a long list of problems. Below we explore the wages you are entitled to but may not be receiving.

Truck Driver Wage and Overtime Laws in the US

What the Courts Say About Recording in the Classroom


by Christina Henagen Peer and Peter Zawadski

Students and parents are increasingly asking to use audio devices to record what's being said in the classroom. But is it legal? A recent ruling offer gives the answer to a question confusing parents and administrators alike.

Is It Legal for Students to Record Teachers?

Thirteen Years of Excellence


by Best Lawyers

For the 13th consecutive year, “Best Law Firms” has awarded the most elite and talented law firms across the country through a thorough and trusted data review process.

Red, white and blue pipes and writing on black background

The Upcycle Conundrum


by Karen Kreider Gaunt

Laudable or litigious? What you need to know about potential copyright and trademark infringement when repurposing products.

Repurposed Products and Copyright Infringemen

Choosing a Title Company: What a Seller Should Expect


by Roy D. Oppenheim

When it comes to choosing a title company, how much power exactly does a seller have?

Choosing the Title Company As Seller

Caffeine Overload and DUI Tests


by Daniel Taylor

While it might come as a surprise, the over-consumption of caffeine could trigger a false positive on a breathalyzer test.

Can Caffeine Cause You to Fail DUI Test?

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Australia.

The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2023

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers® in the United States


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 28th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and in the 2nd Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2022.

2022 Best Lawyers Listings for United States

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Germany™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Germany.

Black, red and yellow stripes