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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 Newport Richey Florida who died in a rollover of a Ford 15 passenger van after the left rear tire tread separated.
- 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 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.
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.