Buying a vehicle is one of the largest purchases an individual will make, usually with the expectation that it is an investment in rider safety. But what about when car failure leads to more serious consequences? R. Lewis Van Blois, the 2021 “Lawyer of the Year” for Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs in Oakland along with his long-time partner at Van Blois Law, Thomas C. Knowles, have won many legal battles against auto manufacturers including Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, BMW, Toyota, Hyundai, and others for product failures.
“Product liability litigation for plaintiffs is extremely challenging but is also extremely rewarding,” Van Blois said. “It is David vs. Goliath, the underdog taking on mega corporations. When an uncaring corporation sells a product for profit that is unfit, unsafe, and doesn’t perform the way it is supposed to perform, it takes an experienced lawyer who is persistent and has the determination to keep going in the face of strong odds against winning.”
Van Blois finds his practice area rewarding because of the satisfaction that comes from successfully achieving a result that helps a severely injured person put their lives back together in the best way possible. But as rewarding as that feeling is, there are challenges to this type of litigation.
“Auto manufacturers and large corporate defendants vigorously defend their products, and many are not above [using] dirty tricks to overwhelm plaintiff lawyers with an army of their lawyers,” he said.
Although it may be intimidating to face a large corporation, Van Blois believes it is worth it to make the product—and the road—safer for all motorists and passengers.
“[An] example of successfully pursuing a case to achieve a benefit for the public was in Tracy, California, where a dangerous intersection—which caused three catastrophic accidents, resulting in five deaths and a severe brain injury—was made safe by an installation of traffic signals with left-turn lanes, allowing big rigs to safely drive through the intersection,” he explained.
Van Blois’s advice for those pursuing a career in plaintiff’s product liability plaintiff law is to continue to educate yourself.
“Successful lawyers share information with each other to learn what is successful and what is unsuccessful,” he said. “Successful product liability lawyers use all the informational resources [available to them]—including governmental sites and engineering sites—and attend seminars taught by the best lawyers.”