Advocacy in Action

Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot discuss the secrets of their firm's success and their recent memorable cases.

Koonz McKenney on Creative Legal Practices

Margo Pierce

September 20, 2018 09:45 AM

A partnership that lasts 38 years is a more than resounding success. It provides a wealth of experience and knowledge that can be applied to almost any problem. And when that problem is a personal injury, the preeminent partnership of Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, L.L.P. “makes for a formidable ally,” according to Paulette Chapman, partner. Partner Roger Johnson agrees.

“We have a common approach and spirit in our firm—everyone must operate at the highest professional level with honesty and transparency in dealing with all of our clients,” Johnson says.

The firm’s canny, creative, and relentless approach is embodied in the case of the parents of a young woman who was killed in a drunken driving accident. The firm sued the bar that illegally served the underage driver who was responsible for the death. When the firm discovered that the bar’s insurer was fraudulently refusing to provide insurance coverage, the firm also undertook litigation against the insurer. After more than five years of ferocious litigation, including the insurer’s countersuit suit against Koonz McKenney and one of its partners, the firm obtained substantial monetary compensation for its clients. “We also helped put the insurer out of business and put its chief executive behind bars for 37 years,” notes Marc Fiedler, partner.

With offices in Washington, D.C., Greenbelt, Maryland, and Fairfax, Virginia, the team takes on a broad range of personal injury and wrongful death matters. In all three jurisdictions, the lawyers use their knowledge of each state’s legal nuances for the benefit of their clients. And they work hard to make an impact on those same laws in an effort to prevent similar injuries in the future.

Making the World a Better Place

Because the scope of personal injuries and wrongful death is broad, Koonz McKenney works on a variety of cases. These include motor vehicle and train accidents; accidents involving bicyclists and pedestrians; medical negligence, including birth injuries; union and nonunion construction-site and other workplace accidents; Social Security disability; defective consumer products incidents; accidents involving carelessly maintained buildings; and injuries caused by exposure to asbestos.

“We’ve successfully gotten laws changed to allow claims to go forward not only for our clients but also others who are similarly situated,” explains partner Peter DePaolis. “In the asbestos world specifically, we handled a landmark case back in the early 1980s that has since been adopted almost everywhere in the country. That’s the two-disease rule, which gives people with asbestosis the right to come back many years later with a second claim if they develop an asbestos-related cancer.”

More recently, the firm’s advocacy led to liberalization of the D.C. law regarding emotional distress claims, for example, enabling an expectant mother whose child is stillborn because of her doctor’s negligence to be compensated for her anguish.

Everyone with the firm shares this commitment to victims. “We are here to serve each individual client proficiently and to spur meaningful change to make the world a safer place,” says William P. Lightfoot, partner. “Many of the cases we’ve litigated have brought about improvements in medical procedures, job safety, and roadway design. Our practice is saving the world one client at a time.”

Deep Experience

Getting that kind of result necessarily brings with it an understanding of the law and its role in protecting individual rights, which attracts the attention of the firm’s peers, and several preeminent Koonz McKenney lawyers have been able to serve in distinguished positions of leadership. Titles they’ve held include president of the Fairfax Bar Association, president of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia, president of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., and president-elect of the Washington Bar Association.

The firm’s successful record of accomplishment and the skills of individuals have garnered accolades from the community. Four of the firm’s attorneys have been selected as Top Lawyers by Washingtonian Magazine, five were chosen by their peers for inclusion in Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers, and six have been recognized in The Best Lawyers in America©.

Continuing to carry on the firm’s tradition of client commitment and exceptional advocacy are its newest partners: Justin Beall, Kelly Fisher, Tom McWeeny, and Kasey Murray. In addition to bringing a fresh perspective, their experience complements the existing team. The new additions ensure that the firm will staunchly serve its clients for many years to come.

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