Christine D. Spagnoli is a partner of Greene, Broillet & Wheeler in Santa Monica, specializing in representing plaintiffs in product liability, personal injury and legal malpractice actions. She has obtained many multimillion-dollar verdicts, including the 1999 General Motors case in which a defective fuel tank was found responsible for the burn injuries of two adults and four children. The jury returned with a landmark $4.9 billion verdict. She was co-counsel in the largest personal injury verdict in California, which resulted in a $58 million verdict for a man severely burned by a defective O-ring.
She has also spear-headed litigation to protect consumers from injuries and deaths involving 15 passenger vans including:
- A March 2018 jury verdict of $25.9 million awarded to the family of a church volunteer in New Port Richey, Florida who died in a rollover of a Ford 15 passenger van after the left rear tire tread separated. (Named by National Law Journal as one of the Top 100 Verdicts of 2018)
- A November 2011 jury verdict of $73 million (including $50 million in punitive damages) awarded to the family of a church volunteer in Sacramento who died in a rollover crash of a Ford 15 passenger van following a tire tread separation. In that case, the jury found that the van’s defective design led to the loss of control and that Ford knew about the dangers of tread separations but failed to warn consumers to remove recalled tires that were prone to separation.
- A July 2010 jury verdict of $5 million for a man injured when the roof of his Ford 15 passenger van crushed in a rollover causing permanent spinal cord injuries.
Her achievements cover the full range of personal injury and product liability cases. Recently, Chris served as the Plaintiffs’ Co-Lead Counsel in the Federal Express Vehicle Collision Cases resulting from the May 2015 crash involving a FedEx tractor-trailer that crossed a median in Orland, California colliding with a charter bus full of high school students, killing 10 and injuring dozens. The cases settled in October of 2017 on the eve of trial after Chris and her team successfully fought efforts by FedEx to exclude the driver’s cell phone records from the trial. She has also served as the Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel in coordinated cases involving defective Cooper Tires as well as on the California Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for cases involving defective Firestone tires on Ford Explorers.
Chris earned widespread recognition for her work as co-lead trial counsel in the 2001 negligence case against Southern California Edison, which resulted in a $21 million verdict for an electrocuted avocado picker. Among her other noteworthy cases are Brezovec v. State of California – $8.8 million, a brain/motor vehicle injury case, Ogden v. Hamm Brothers Construction – $6.4 million, a personal injury matter, and McGee v. The City of Alameda – $25 million, an electrocuted construction worker.
In 2017 Chris was honored by the American Association of Justice with its prestigious Harry M. Philo Award which recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the civil justice system and whose work has advanced the safety and protection of American consumers. In 2012, the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles recognized Chris as its Trial Lawyer of the Year, the first time in the history of the organization that a woman trial attorney received that honor. In 2001 she was named Most Outstanding Young Trial Lawyer, the F. Scott Baldwin Award, by the American Association for Justice (AAJ), New Lawyers Division. She also received Loyola Law School’s 2001 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award. She has also been nominated as a finalist for the Consumer Attorneys of Los Angeles Trial Lawyer of the Year and the Consumer Attorneys of California Trial Lawyer of the Year on multiple occasions.
Within professional organizations, Chris has assumed numerous leadership positions and received many honors for her service. She served as the President of the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC) in 2009 and was the 2002 president of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA). In 2011 – 2013 she served as the President of the Attorneys Information Exchange Group, a national organization of attorneys specializing in automotive product liability cases. She is a member of the Board of the American Association for Justice, the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and is also a member of the International Society of Barristers and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) where she holds the rank of Associate. In 1998, she was appointed by the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court to the Civil Jury Instructions Committee (CACI), where she still serves. Chris also serves as a member of the Board of Overseers for the Rand Institute for Civil Justice as well as the Board of Overseers of her alma mater, Loyola Law School of Los Angeles.
Chris is one of the state’s most trusted legal leaders as a member of the Los Angeles Judicial Selection Advisory Committees (JSACs). In January 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom named Ms. Spagnoli to the influential committee that reviews judicial candidates under consideration for nomination and appointment and will provide important feedback before forwarding their names to the Governor for review.
The awards and honors bestowed on Chris by these various organizations include the Consumer Attorneys of California’s 2014 Robert E. Cartwright Award and its 2010 Marvin E. Lewis Award as well as the Consumer Attorneys of Los Angeles 2005 Ted Horn Memorial Award. These awards recognized Chris for her excellence in trial advocacy and her dedication to teaching trial advocacy to her colleagues as well as her selfless gift of her talents in service to the organizations and consumers. She was honored as one of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles’ Champions of Justice in 2013. In May 2017, Consumer Watchdog, a non-profit consumer advocacy group, bestowed on Chris its Rage for Justice Lifetime Legal Achievement Award. On June 7, 2018, the Consumer Attorneys of Los Angeles inducted Chris into its Hall of Fame, honoring CAALA members with distinguished legal careers who have made significant contributions to the legal profession and society.
In 2018 Chris was named as one of California’s Top 30 Plaintiff attorneys by the Daily Journal, which also has ranked her as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Attorneys in California and one of the Top 50 Women Litigators since 2004. She has also been named a “Super Lawyer” in the Southern California Super Lawyers peer-nominated listings compiled and published by Law & Politics, and one of the Best Lawyers in America by Woodward/White, Inc., based on a survey of her peers.
As a frequent lecturer and author, Chris has shared her expertise on various trial techniques including demonstrative evidence, direct and cross-examination methods, written discovery and demonstrating head trauma injury in children. Among the organizations she has addressed are CAALA, CAOC, AAJ, the American Bar Association, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and Trial Lawyer associations in Colorado, Connecticut, Missouri, Washington, and the Western Trial Lawyers Association.
- U.S. District Court Central District of California
- U.S. District Court Northern District of California
- Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, California
- University of California, Los Angeles, California
- A Cite for sore eyes: Buell-Wilson I, Advocate Magazine, August, 2010
- Punitive Damages Evidence: The scope from the Auto Manufacturer, Advocate Magazine, June, 2000
- “Forum”, Editor-in-Chief, CAOC, 1995
- “Advocate”, Editor-in-Chief, CAALA, 1994
- Amicus Brief in Soule v. General Motors, Co-Author, CAOC, 1994
Professional Associations & Memberships
- American Association for Justice, Board Member, and Past Chair Product Liability Section
- American Board of Trial Advocates (inducted in 2004)
- Attorneys Information Exchange Group, (AIEG) President, 2010-2011
- Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA), President, 2002
- Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC), President, 2009
- International Association of Trial Lawyers (IATL) Board Member
- International Society of Barristers (ISOB) Board Member
- Judicial Council of California Committee on Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (1997 – present) (Appointed by the Chief Justice)
- Public Justice
- Litigation Counsel of America
- Loyola Law School of Los Angeles Board of Overseers
- Rand Institute for Civil Justice Board of Overseers
- American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys
Classes / Seminars
- Lecturer, Demonstrative Evidence
- Lecturer, Direct and Cross-Examination Methods
- Lecturer, Discovery and Demonstrating Head Trauma Injury in Children
Honors & Awards
- Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers Guide, 2020
- Named 2019 California Trailblazer by the California Recorder
- America’s Top 100, Personal Injury Attorneys, 2019
- Top 30 Plaintiff Lawyers of California, Daily Journal, 2017 – 2018
- Consumer Attorneys of Los Angeles Hall of Fame Inductee, 2018
- Southern California Super Lawyers, 2004-2019
- Named one of “10 Best Female Attorneys” for California, American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys
- Best Lawyers in America, Best Lawyer, Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs, 2007 – 2019
- Best Lawyers in America, Best Lawyer, Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs, 2007 – 2019
- California Super Lawyers Peer-Nominated Listings, Top 50 Women Southern California Lawyers, 2004 – 2020
- Named “Lawyer of the Year – Product Liability Litigation (Los Angeles)” – Best Lawyers in America, 2013
- 2012 Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Trial Lawyer of the Year
- Ranked as One of the Top 100 Most Influential Attorneys in California, Los Angeles Daily Journal (2016 – 2019)
- California Super Lawyers peer-nominated listings, Top 100 Southern California Lawyers, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 – 2013, 2015-2019
- Received The 2017 Rage for Justice Lifetime Legal Achievement Award, Consumer Watchdog
- Named Daily Journal Top 50 Women Lawyers list 2004-2019
- Southern California Best Lawyers, (Personal Injury, Product Liability), 2011
- Named in Daily Journal’s Top Verdicts of 2011, >Mauro v. Ford Motor Company
- Most Outstanding Young Trial Lawyer of 2001, F. Scott Baldwin Award, American Association for Justice, New Lawyers Division, 2001
- Recipient, 2001 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award, Loyola Law School, 2001
- Named by lawdragon.com, Inaugural List of “The Lawdragon 500 Plaintiffs Lawyers” in the United States