Bruce Brusavich and Jerry Agnew. Photo by Brad Jacobson
Over the past 30 years, Jerry Agnew and Bruce Brusavich have earned reputations for being among the foremost attorneys in the South Bay for catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases. One reason for their reputations as tough litigators is they prepare for every case as if it is going to trial.
The partners handle a broad range of civil matters, including personal injury, product liability, vehicular accidents, medical malpractice and elder abuse. Agnew, who competes in velodrome cycling, said he’s particularly proud of his firm’s work representing bicycling and motorcycle victims.
“We pride ourselves on our hard work, integrity and our experience,” Agnew said. “But we’re only as good as our next case as opposed to bragging about our last, which keeps us focused on what are pretty serious matters for the people we represent. Some of the cases we handle are life changing.”
Recently the pair represented victims of two high-profile cases, one involving a professor at Marymount College student who was fatally struck by a car in Rancho Palos Verdes in 2009. Last year, they represented the family of a man killed in a traffic collision with a horse in Rolling Hills Estates. The long list of their multimillion dollar settlements may be viewed on their website.
“We’ve made a profound impact on hundreds of thousands of people’s lives,” Brusavich said. “Many times we’ll help structure some amount of income that they’ll have forever. It might mean they’ll be able to send their kids to college. It feels great.”
Being able to provide some financial compensation to the family of a lost loved one or the medical care a victim needs is extremely satisfying, they said.
“It’s always rewarding,” Agnew said. “Some are folks with a severely injured child where there’s a sense of satisfaction that the child can now get the needed care.”
On the product liability side, the pair has prosecuted cases that have led to wide-scale recalls, such as for Jeep auto-transmissions that slipped out of gear, leading to accidents and in some cases deaths. The pair has the transmission on display in their office.
“It’s nice when we can not only help the client, but we can tell the client you helped make a change in society,” Brusavich said.
Because they work on contingency, they are able to help clients who can’t afford the costs for expert witnesses and accident reconstructions, which can exceed $100,000. The firm often conducts videotaped mock jury trials to prepare for cases.
“It really levels the playing field to let David take on Goliath, especially when lawyers have the resources to properly take on the case,” Brusavich said.
Agnew and Brusavich have been active in efforts to outlaw confidential settlements. Oftentimes, a confidentiality agreement is demanded by defendants, leaving plaintiffs in a predicament.
“They’ll say they’d love for their settlement not to be kept secret but they have to do what’s right for their family,” Brusavich said.
“That puts us in a conflict of sorts,” said Agnew, “because we’d like to tell and shout it to the world.”
Agnew said they’d like to see the state legislature ban confidential settlement agreements, similarly to what has been done for nursing home cases. They want to the ban applied to defective product settlements, in cases such as cars rolling over, tires falling apart and hospital errors.
“If there was a rule that good faith settlements couldn’t be signed and sealed and tucked away in somebody’s drawer, I think we would have a safer environment,” Agnew said.
“A father who lost a child in a Firestone tire separation case couldn’t believe these cases were litigated and settled for two years and he didn’t know about it,” Brusavich said.
Both men are involved in attorney organizations and giving back to the community. Both are longtime diplomat members of the American Board of Trial Advocates and former presidents of Consumer Attorneys of Los Angeles. Brusavich went on to head the state chapter of American Consumer Attorneys, which helps protect trials by jury. Agnew is a member of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. The group only accepts 500 attorneys nationwide. The pair also volunteer as arbitrators and mediators at the local district court.
One of their proudest achievements is their scholarship program, now 17 years in the running. It h as helped more than 500 students continue on to community colleges. The 20 to 25 students who receive scholarships each year must enroll in the honors transfer program, which almost guarantees their acceptance into a UC school. The law firm holds an annual awards dinner for the recipients and their families.
“The parents really appreciate it and we enjoy it,” Agnew said.