(1930 - 2008)
Bob Montgomery was the first lawyer to ever beat Big Tobacco, and who chalked up more than 65 million-dollar judgments - by his own count and squabbled with nearly every lawyer he ever partnered. They called Bob the "Big Daddy of All Trial Lawyers," but also called him their mentor and friend. He was a giant in the legal community and the community at large. He helped hundreds of people in desperate need financially, and he did it without fanfare.
Although he started out defending insurance companies, hospitals, and airlines, Bob earned his reputation challenging those same corporations. He was the lead lawyer in Florida's $13.5 billion settlement with tobacco companies in 1997. He earned million-dollar judgments for Kimberly Bergalis and others who contracted AIDs from Jensen Beach dentist David Acer in 1991 in a case that earned national headlines. "I'm a tragedy lawyer," Bob said in a 1999 interview. "I deal in children's deaths. I deal in airplanes going down."
Behind his Alabama drawl and $2,500 Brioni suits was a fierce competitor skilled in cross-examining witnesses. He would catch them off guard and embarrass them. Although bullheaded and strong willed, Bob had a great sense of moral outrage and was spectacular to watch in the courtroom. He had a unique ability to relate to people. It has been said that Bob could take a file without even looking at it and walk into the courtroom and win the case.
His reputation long established in Palm Beach County, Bob took the cases he fancied. He defended Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore when she was under siege for the butterfly ballot of the 2000 presidential election. In 1994 he took Burt Reynolds' side in the actor's divorce from Loni Anderson. He sued the distributor of a cheap handgun that was used by middle school student Nathaniel Brazill to kill Lake Worth Middle School teacher Barry Grunow. In that case Bob sought $75 million, but the jury awarded $1.2 million and the verdict was later overturned.
During the tobacco case, it was reported that on the way to the courthouse Bob picked up a colleague in his Bentley, The colleague said he hoped to have a Bentley himself someday. "If we ever win this damned case I'm going to give you this Bentley," said Bob, who did just that. A friend told him it was the classiest thing he had ever heard of. "Hell," Bob answered, "if I had any class, I would have bought him a new Bentley."