(1925 - 2015)
Joe Jamail flunked civil negligence in law school and barely passed the bar exam but went on to be known as the "King of Torts," and for his passionate, aggressive, and sometimes abrasive advocacy on behalf of his clients.
Joe wasn't just zealous, he was brutal. During a deposition in a wrongful death case, Joe repeatedly warned a Baker Botts partner to quit asking the surviving widow abusive questions about her marriage. When the lawyer (unwisely) persisted, Joe broke his nose. By way of explanation, if not absolution, Joe was an ex-Marine (as if anyone can ever be an ex-Marine) who saw combat duty in the Pacific in WWII, the only subject he avoided recounting.
There was, however, one combat-related story he did tell. In the eighties, Joe represented a 16-year-old girl who flipped over in a Honda three-wheeler, leaving her paralyzed. During the deposition of its Japanese designer, Joe grew tired of the tedious translations and, skeptical that he even needed a translator, snapped "I'm sure the son-of-a-bitch speaks English." Immediately, without benefit of translation, the witness came across the table at Joe, who quickly ended the confrontation peacefully, remarking, "I killed seven of you motherfuckers. Want to make it eight?"
In 1985 Joe represented Pennzoil in a lawsuit against Texaco and "didn't win the biggest lawsuit in the history of the world by being a sweetheart." Joe's style was emotional, intuitive, and brilliantly quick. He understood the depths of prejudice in the popular mind and he knew that the most logical appeal wasnt necessarily the best. He could sense when jurors wanted a witness punished, and he didnt mind doing it. Joe won the case and received a $10.53 billion verdict for his client with a contingency fee of $335 million. But he was most proud of the award he won in a 1973 products liability case against General Motors for Elnora Spriggs Williams, left a quadriplegic following a traffic accident the first million-dollar verdict for a black person in Texas and the verdict which qualified him for membership in the Inner Circle.