When Grace Szubski stepped into the same elevator as Stuart Garson’s former partner 30 years ago, she had no way of foreseeing that the elevator ride would dictate the course of her career. “Right place, right time,” states Szubski, who ended up moving her office to the same building with another attorney. After six months of sharing that space, Szubski was invited to join Garson’s firm (now Garson Johnson) and assist with its workers’ compensation practice, where she’s been since.
“Our firm represents Ohio’s injured workers. At one time, Cleveland was a huge manufacturing base, everything from automobiles to steel,” Szubski says. While Cleveland factories have dwindled over the years, Szubski still has a variety of cases to keep her busy. “The injuries vary from very serious death claims to people who just have little scratches on the hand, which makes my job very interesting because I never have two days alike. I’m meeting different people. There’s different circumstances, different cases. I’m never bored.”
Szubski’s passion for her work makes a huge difference to the clients who have suffered in workers’ compensation cases. “Some days are harder than others, or more grueling, but I really enjoy the work that I do. I like the people that I work with, and it’s really gratifying at the end of the day to know that you’ve helped people. It’s not even really work. I enjoy what I do.”
In a relatively recent case, Szubski represented the widow of an Albanian immigrant who had been helping a contractor rehabilitate an old building. “It was a rickety structure, and he ended up falling three stories from the third floor down into the basement,” states Szubski.
After striking his head and suffering other severe injuries, the man lived six or seven hours before dying. Although the man was an employee of the contractor, the contractor contested the claim. Representing the widow, Szubski requested additional compensation for the loss of use of the man’s limbs, eyesight, and hearing, which the employer also contested. In the end, Szubski won the case.
“It was very gratifying,” says Szubski. “I did something I thought was very good for the widow, who was just the sweetest woman you could ever meet, and it was such a tragic situation.”
Szubski attributes much of her success to her preparation and organizational skills. “I get teased for being overly organized,” she remarks. “I go thoroughly through the file before a hearing, making sure that I have read all the medical records—particularly anything submitted by the employer—and I make sure we’re prepared with wage calculations and that things are docketed for appeal dates.”
Szubski’s expertise in workers’ compensation has been recognized in a number of ways. She was invited back to her alma mater, Mount St. Joseph University, in 2009 to be a panelist in “Discussions in Leadership: Courageous Women Who Lead.” She was also a co-presenter in the seminar “Ethics and Professionalism in Workers’ Compensation” at the Ohio Association for Justice in 2014, a co-presenter in “Medical and Legal Ethics, Workers’ Compensation Seminar” with the Cleveland Bar Association in 2001, and a co-presenter in the seminar “Subrogation Issues in the Wake of Holeton” with the Ohio Association of Trial Lawyers in 2001.