Hilliard MuÃ±oz Gonzales Robert Hilliard does his homework.
Besides reading up on the precedents, he says he performs a "self-archeological dig" to find out what will make jurors tick.
"My bailiwick is — I find the real story. Sometimes people don't look hard enough at what the real story is," Hilliard said. And that sometimes includes his clients, whom he has learned to put at ease in front of a jury, even though "a courtroom is kind of antiseptic, it's a difficult place to relax."
Hilliard is now one of three co-lead court-appointed counsel for the plaintiffs in multidistrict litigation against GM over ignition-switch defects.
When former client Vanice Wilson asked for $2.9 million in her suit against a Coca-Cola truck delivery driver who was on a cellphone when the driver struck her car, the jury awarded $22 million. "They call him the bulldog," Wilson said, but "he was a very charming attorney."
Donnie Contreras, a paraplegic man who sued Holiday Inn after scalding water burned his legs in one of the chain's hotels, said "I've always felt comfortable since I first met him." And yet, he added, "I wouldn't want to go against him."
Hilliard has employed the same approach in litigating personal injury suits, wrongful death actions and civil rights cases. "We really get to know and understand the client's story," he said. — Lalita Clozel
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