Ensuring Legacies

Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder’s litigation against a world-renowned higher education institution is expected to set a precedent impacting civil rights, copyright and social justice. Along with the types of cases the firm typically handles, they are willing to take on unusual and untested legal issues – an honor to the legacies of its longtime leaders.

Ensuring Legacies

Justin Smulison

April 16, 2021 03:15 PM

Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder (Koskoff) is revered as one of Connecticut's most successful plaintiff's litigation firms. Founded more than 80 years ago, Koskoff has since won 12 of the 20 largest personal injury verdicts in state history. While the firm is known for a wide range of civil litigation practice areas including medical malpractice, the Koskoff firm built its legacy by protecting the civil rights and collective dignity of their clients.

This dedication to every individual’s legal rights is perhaps best exemplified by a suit attorney Joshua D. Koskoff, named a Best Lawyers® 2020 “Lawyer of the Year” for Medical Malpractice Law–Plaintiffs in Stamford, who is litigating in Massachusetts courts that is making history. Koskoff is co-lead counsel representing the plaintiff in Lanier v. Harvard Corp., et. al, which has been noted by legal and mainstream media as a landmark case.

Plaintiff and Norwich resident Tamara Lanier is the descendant of slaves who were photographed against their will and published in a Harvard University anthropology book that remains in print. Koskoff’s mission is twofold: to secure the rights to the images for Lanier and her family, and to establish the precedent that such horrific scenarios cannot be exploited by any individual or organization.

Koskoff noted the firm is guided by the everlasting presence of his father, attorney Michael Koskoff, who passed in 2019, and attorney Richard Bieder, who passed in 2021.

“My father and Richard were inspired most by people who had compelling stories,” Koskoff says. “This incredible story of perseverance and courage began 170 years ago. It will have a major influence on many areas of law and shine a light on recovering the property of enslaved people. This monumental case was my father’s grand finale, and we will see it through to the end.”

Ms. Lanier’s great-great-great grandfather was a man named Congo “Papa” Renty. Renty and his daughter Delia were among seven slaves in South Carolina who were forced to pose for 15 daguerreotype images, which were an early form of photography, in 1850. The daguerreotypes were commissioned by Louis Agassiz, a Swiss-born zoologist and well-known Harvard professor who published the results of his research in an article, “The Diversity of Origin of the Human Races.” “Many of Agassiz’s works touted racist and discredited theories that Black people were an inferior group,” Koskoff notes. “That he taught at a well-known school does not improve nor change his character–he took advantage of people who had no rights at the time.”

Ms. Lanier became aware of the daguerreotypes in an anthropology book sold by Harvard University when she recognized Renty on its cover. Following unsuccessful requests for Harvard University to relinquish the images, Lanier contacted her team of preeminent civil rights lawyers, which also includes Koskoff attorneys Preston Tisdale, Alinor Sterling and Carey Reilly.

“Our argument is simple and rooted in morality: If you steal something that is not yours, exploit it and profit off it, you are not acting ethically–no matter how well you treat it,” Koskoff says, adding that he expects the suit to eventually reach state appellate courts. “These images are closer to pieces of art because there are no film negatives–so copyright laws and civil rights are being tested.”

Further Complex Litigation in 2021

The firm’s reputation for taking on world-renowned and well-funded entities expands into the area of wrongful death. Indeed, victims of mass shootings have turned to the firm for justice following unimaginable tragedies. This includes advocacy for 10 families of the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. The ongoing case against Remington Arms Corp. shifted into bankruptcy court due to the defendant’s restructuring and near-total demise.

The firm also has a liability action against eight gun manufacturers related to the 2017 Las Vegas massacre–the worst mass shooting in modern American history. It shines a light on the defendants’ liability since the alleged shooter modified his weapons with bump stocks, enabling him to build an automatic rifle that murdered 60 concert goers and injured 411 more on the Vegas strip.

These cases are indicative of Koskoff’s ability to use the law to make genuine positive change for individuals, communities, and society at-large.

“Michael Koskoff and Richard Bieder were dreamers, and when they believed in a case or their client’s story, they were not going to allow hurdles in the law to get in the way of achieving justice,” Koskoff says. “They might have gone down swinging a few times, but they never gave up. The greater the challenge, the more engaged and confident they became.

“Every lawyer at Koskoff uses and approaches the law in different and creative ways in the service of deserving people,” Koskoff says. “We were taught by the best, and we proudly carry on their legacies.”

Related Articles

Judge Anne C. Dranginis – Connecticut 2021 Lawyer of the Year

by Best Lawyers

Appellate Practice Stamford, CT

Connecticut 2021 Lawyer of the Year

Perspectives on Connecticut’s New Police Accountability Bill

by Megan Edmonds

Two Best Lawyers recognized attorneys weigh in on the impact of Connecticut’s new Police Accountability Bill.

Perspectives on Connecticut’s New Police Acco

Trending Articles

How Palworld Is Testing the Limits of Nintendo’s Legal Power

by Gregory Sirico

Many are calling the new game Palworld “Pokémon GO with guns,” noting the games striking similarities. Experts speculate how Nintendo could take legal action.

Animated figures with guns stand on top of creatures

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

The U.S. Best Lawyers Voting Season Is Open

by Best Lawyers

The voting season for the 31st edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and the 5th edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch® in America is officially underway, and we are offering some helpful advice to this year’s voters.

Golden figures of people standing on blue surface connected by white lines

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

How To Find A Pro Bono Lawyer

by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers dives into the vital role pro bono lawyers play in ensuring access to justice for all and the transformative impact they have on communities.

Hands joined around a table with phone, paper, pen and glasses

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?

2021 Best Lawyers: The Global Issue

by Best Lawyers

The 2021 Global Issue features top legal talent from the most recent editions of Best Lawyers and Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch worldwide.

2021 Best Lawyers: The Global Issue

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 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

The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2024 Launch

by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers is excited to announce The Best Lawyers in Australia™ for 2023, including the top lawyers and law firms from Australia.

Australian Parliament beside water at sunset

Best Lawyers Voting Is Now Open

by Best Lawyers

Voting has begun in several countries across the globe, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe. Below we offer dates, details and answers to voting-related questions to assist with the voting process.

Hands holding smartphone with five stars above phone

Inflation Escalation

by Ashley S. Wagner

Inflation and rising costs are at the forefront of everyone’s mind as we enter 2023. The current volatile market makes it more important than ever to understand the rent escalation clauses in current and future commercial lease agreements.

Suited figure in front of rising market and inflated balloon

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

A Celebration of Excellence: The Best Lawyers in Canada 2024 Awards

by Best Lawyers

As we embark on the 18th edition of The Best Lawyers in Canada™, we are excited to highlight excellence and top legal talent across the country.

Abstract image of red and white Canada flag in triangles

Announcing The Best Lawyers in South Africa™ 2024

by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers is excited to announce the landmark 15th edition of The Best Lawyers in South Africa™ for 2024, including the exclusive "Law Firm of the Year" awards.

Sky view of South Africa town and waterways

Presenting the 2024 Best Lawyers Family Law Legal Guide

by Best Lawyers

The 2024 Best Lawyers Family Law Legal Guide is now live and includes recognitions for all Best Lawyers family law awards. Read below and explore the legal guide.

Man entering home and hugging two children in doorway