Charla G. Aldous: 2017 Trial Lawyer of the Year | Dallas Bar Association

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 09:30-- http://www.dallasbar.org/book-page/charla-g-aldous-2017-trial-lawyer-year

by Andrew M. Jones

Tough. Passionate. Persistent. Dedicated. These are just a few terms that describe the Dallas Bar Association's 2017 Trial Lawyer of the Year Charla Aldous.

When she is in the courtroom, her opposing counsel know they had better be prepared for battle because Aldous is a warrior in the legal arena - known both for her tenacious advocacy and her highly effective courtroom presence.

An apt illustration is a 1990s case where Aldous represented residents of a trailer park whose water supply had been contaminated by a gasoline additive. The additive, MTBE, caused water to taste and smell like turpentine. It has since been banned in more than 20 states and has been the subject of massive clean-up efforts. Her clients in the case were of limited means and otherwise powerless against a powerful corporate defendant. Thankfully, they found a voice in Aldous. The case settled in the tens of millions of dollars, after a liability verdict but before the jury concluded deliberations on damages.

In appreciation of Aldous' efforts, the trailer park residents gave Aldous a gold-plated guardian angel lapel pin. "They told me that I was their guardian angel, sent to protect them," Aldous recalled. "Now, I wear it to every one of my trials." The pin is very small, scarcely larger than a thumbnail. But it seems larger than life to Aldous, serving as an important reminder of the people she represents.

"I usually represent people who would otherwise not have a voice," Aldous explained. "I represent the underdog." Her practice is focused on plaintiffs' work, including personal injury, wrongful death, birth injury, and medical malpractice. She has tried some 200 jury trials. She collaborates with several lawyers, and she is involved at least in some way in every case the firm handles.

She speaks with conspicuous traces of a thick Texas accent, one that she said her children (all four of them) mocked as a "hillbilly" accent. I would tell them, Well, you know what that makes you, right? That makes you the children of a hillbilly. Her children are now grown, but when they were young, Aldous (by then a single mother) would often put pictures of her clients on the refrigerator at home. She did this to help her children understand what she was doing, especially at times when she was working very long hours on big cases. "These are my other family right now," she would tell her kids, "and I'm fighting for them, helping them."

Aldous' uptown office is brimming with mementos from notable cases she has handled. One is the framed belt of a sick client whose weight loss required him to punch in new belt holes to keep his trousers up. Another memento is a lucky two-dollar bill inside a Vietnamese New Year card from a nurse whose case made national news following the 2014 Ebola scare. Yet another is the hat of a client who had undergone chemotherapy. The client, who settled a malpractice case shortly before he died, thereby securing resources for his family, put the hat on Aldous' head when his case concluded. While the mementos often mark very sad and difficult situations, they also serve to demonstrate that Aldous' efforts have helped secure justice for her clients and their families.

Growing up in Sherman, Texas, the daughter of a Pentecostal minister, Aldous never imagined a career as a lawyer in her future. Advanced education was not an expectation or even a possibility growing up; instead, Aldous took part in a high school vocational program that allowed her to leave school at noon to go to work. When she enrolled in Grayson County Community College, her only goal was to become the best legal assistant possible. Thankfully, a history professor at Grayson County saw a different path for Aldous. The professor asked Aldous what she scored on her ACT/SAT tests. "I hadn't even taken the tests," Aldous said. But soon, at the encouragement of her history professor, she enrolled at Austin College, where she went on to graduate with her bachelor's degree. At Austin College, political science Professor Ken Street was instrumental to me. He told me, Youre going to law school. He changed my life. Aldous went straight from Austin College to the Southern Methodist University School of Law, where she graduated in 1985.

Aldous began her legal career doing insurance defense work with Henderson, Bryant & Wolfe in Sherman. She tried cases and immediately knew that she loved the work. In court, Aldous applied the public speaking skills she had developed growing up in church. She quickly made her mark as an excellent trial lawyer.

After representing the plaintiffs in the Conoco case, Aldous shifted to plaintiffs' work, and she has never turned back. She has since secured hundreds of millions of dollars in injury verdicts for injured plaintiffs. Her success has earned Aldous numerous professional awards for trial advocacy, and notably for her accomplishments in the fields of personal injury and medical malpractice. Aldous is active in numerous trial advocacy organizations.

Many of her cases have attracted media attention which no doubt helped Fox TV producers decide to reach out to Aldous recently to participate in a reality court show called "You the Jury". "I thought it was a joke at first," Aldous said, "but my media representative replied to them, and it was the real deal. The next thing I knew, I was in Los Angeles working on the set." There, Aldous and several other high-profile attorneys, including Jose Baez, Benjamin L. Crump, Mike Cavalluzzi, and Joe Tacopina, with Fox News anchor Jeanine Pirro serving as host, conducted special on-air trials regarding real disputes. Studio audience membersas well as TV audienceswould decide the cases by voting. "We put in long days and worked very hard," Aldous noted, and she laughed when pointing out that it was like nothing she had ever done before. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after just two airings in April 2017.

"I consider myself very fortunate," Aldous says. "I've been able to make a living, support my family, all while helping people. I am very fortunate." The key to her successful practice, Aldous said, is being passionate about her work.

Congratulations to Charla Aldous, recipient of the Dallas Bar Association's Trial Lawyer of the Year award.

Andrew M Jones is Senior Legal Counsel at MoneyGram International, Inc. and is Co- Vice Chair of the DBA Publications Committee. He can be contacted atajonesmoneygram.com.

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