A decade ago, Phillips Lytle LLP partner Kevin English was the attorney in a products liability case that returned a $66 million award in damages for a woman injured when a 600-pound exercise machine fell on her.
The award was obtained via a jury verdict in New York State Supreme Court. It remains among the largest received by any individual since 2010 in a case in the state. The trial lasted eight weeks, and the verdict came following seven hours of jury deliberation.
English’s legal work on behalf of the injured woman was a departure from much of what he takes on.
“I’ve almost always been on the defense side,” he said. “The plaintiff’s case came in because I had experience in products cases that were in the sports area. I was just a natural person to take it over.”
He was recently recognized for his work on the case with designation in the New York Verdicts Hall of Fame. A veteran of the practice area for 35 years, he said it was an honor.
English takes on cases for companies faced with defending potential defects in their products that may have caused an injury. Cases require attorneys on the defense side to sift through fine details to formulate arguments in support of their clients, he said.
“You become an expert in that product,” English said. “The first two years I was an attorney, I worked for a firm in New York City where all I handled was light aircraft and aviation cases. The client I represented was the manufacturer of engines that went into small aircrafts. When I started doing that, I actually went to engine school and learned how the engine the worked.
“Throughout my career, I have just tried to become an expert or learn the product. You try to learn everything you can about the product you are dealing with. And then you almost always have to find a true expert – whether you are on the plaintiffs’ side or the defense side – demonstrating a product defect.”
It is often intricate work, he said, and isn’t something that was on his radar when he pursued a career in law. Cases range across a spectrum of industries.
“It keeps the practice very interesting,” English said. “Every case really is different, from a products liability standpoint, because they all have their unique features.”
With younger attorneys and law students, he discusses how a career in this legal niche can last.
“I think it is an area that is going to always be there and you are going to have litigation in the products field. It will just be the products that are changing,” he said.