Trial lawyers have long served on the front lines of American justice, championing civil rights and safety regulations that have made the country fairer, the environment cleaner, and medicine safer. Their efforts have helped preserve the civil justice system and ensure accountability for American consumers—and, as attorney Michael Burg notes, they are needed now more than ever.
“The framers of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence understood the importance of the jury trial and how vital lawyers are to a civil society,” says Burg, founder of the leading plaintiffs’ trial firm Burg, Simpson, Eldredge, Hersh & Jardine, PC. “But many of our civil liberties are now under attack, and the only people left to fight for consumer rights are trial lawyers.”
Burg has personally served as lead counsel in more than 185 jury trials, including high-profile cases against the financial industry and pharmaceutical giants Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson. His lifelong battle against corporate greed and corruption is chronicled in the recent memoir, Trial by Fire: One Man’s Battle to End Corporate Greed and Save Lives, which quickly became an Amazon bestseller following its release last year.
“From the start, I’ve been inspired by the work of other trial lawyers who have fought so hard to change the world for the better,” Burg says. “So, when I look back on the cases I’ve handled over the years, I take pride in knowing that I’ve made a contribution to an incredibly important tradition.”
Among his notable achievements, Burg recovered $6.4 million in a gas explosion case that prompted dramatic safety changes to a city’s pipelines. More recently, he fought an eight-year battle against UBS for knowingly selling risky mortgages to investors, and he filed a sweeping action against 18 California wineries to stop them from selling toxic wine contaminated with arsenic. He is also representing the victims of a company’s fraudulent scheme to illegally sell their loved ones’ body parts, which were donated for medical research.
In the area of pharmaceutical multidistrict litigation, Burg has achieved many high-profile leadership appointments by federal judges throughout the country: he served as co-lead counsel in the Ortho Evra and Yaz/Yasmin litigations, which resulted in settlements of over $3 billion to more than 10,000 injured women; as a member of the state liaison committee for the Vioxx litigation; and as a member of the executive committee in the Zyprexa litigation, which received a global settlement of more than a billion dollars. He has also taken on Big Pharma in cases concerning the drugs Fen-Phen and Pradaxa.
“Part of what inspired me to become a lawyer and handle these types of cases was finding a biography of Clarence Darrow on my parents’ bookshelf at a young age and reading about his contributions,” Burg says. “It showed me that trial lawyers truly are protectors of the community who guard the rights of injured individuals.”
In 2013, Burg was recognized as being in the same realm as his legal hero when he received the Clarence Darrow Award, one of the most prestigious awards given to trial lawyers. More recently, he has been inducted into the National Trial Lawyers’ Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame, whose impressive group of honorees includes such legendary trial lawyers as Darrow, Thurgood Marshall, Melvin Belli, and Johnny Cochran.
This year, Burg, along with a third of the firm’s other 60-plus litigation attorneys, was named in the 2018 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America© in Personal Injury
In all, Burg Simpson has recovered more than $1 billion for its clients, including more than 100 verdicts, settlements, and judgments of $1 million or more. The firm also continues to be recognized as a national Tier 1 firm for Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Plaintiffs by U.S.
“There aren’t many plaintiffs’ firms that have achieved track records comparable to ours, and a lot of that has to do with the depth of experience and expertise that we offer clients,” Burg says. “People here work day and night to ensure clients receive the highest level of representation—and that is ultimately what allows us to serve as a strong voice for American consumers.”