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PaTLA: fostering public awareness and understanding of the role of the trial lawyer in the administration of justice.

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Gallagher: Fight injustice by getting involved in PaTLA


John M. Gallagher, a trial lawyer from Media, is PaTLA's 36th President.
by Craig Giangiulio

(7/20/2004) -- John M. Gallagher, the newly elected President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association (PaTLA), told his fellow trial lawyers at the Association’s annual dinner July 10 that only by getting involved and supporting consumer causes can trial lawyers continue to take on the insurance industry and corporate wrongdoers and win. Gallagher then urged his colleagues from big cities and small towns to step up their commitment to PaTLA and pro-consumer groups and become more active politically. “We can’t leave ourselves defenseless and give up our clients’ rights and our practices because some of us play the role of Cleopatra, relaxing while the rest of us sweat, rowing her barge up the Nile,” Gallagher told an audience of lawyers and legislators.

Also at the awards dinner, PaTLA members thanked immediate past president Richard J. Schubert and presented state Sen. Jay Costa Jr. (D-Allegheny) with PaTLA’s President’s Award. Members also honored two of their own—Joseph P. Moschetta, of Washington, winner of the Milton D. Rosenberg Award; and David C. Harrison, of Philadelphia, recipient of the George F. Douglas Jr. Amicus Curiae Award.

In his speech, Gallagher cited the Ford Explorer-Firestone cover-up of defective tires that caused the SUVs to lose control and crash at highway speeds. It took a determined trial lawyer, Tab Turner, to lead the litigation charge against the manufacturers that became one of the biggest product liability cases in history and served as a model for all future auto safety lawsuits. According to Gallagher, the discovery that manufacturers knew of the safety hazards and Detroit automakers’ reluctance to build safer cars—a story uncovered by Public Citizen’s Joan Claybrook—demonstrates the important work of trial lawyers. “As trial lawyers, these are the kind of people we have to deal with,” Gallagher said. “People who will deny that documents are pertinent, or relevant, or that they even exist at all, until the Friday before trial when they make the big delivery of documents onto your office doorstep.”

Gallagher told his colleagues to get involved locally by joining PaTLA’s efforts as well as supporting Citizens for Consumer Justice, a Pennsylvania-based citizens’ advocacy group, and nationally through Public Citizen. He also advocated reaching out to legislators and the media, and grassroots commitment to local trial bars. He then asked the audience to tell three other PaTLA members what they decided to do here. “Think of this dinner as PaTLA’s annual sales conference,” Gallagher said. “Go out there and sell other PaTLA members and non-members on PaTLA and the work we’re doing here.”

Gallagher is a partner in the Media law firm of Gallagher, Schoenfeld, Surkin & Chupein, P.C. He concentrates his practice in defective products, medical and professional negligence, personal injury, municipal and commercial litigation.

Since graduating from Temple University School of Law in 1969, he has been involved in numerous professional associations and community leadership roles, and served on many PaTLA committees. He is a past president of the Delaware County Bar Association and a former state delegate to the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. He currently serves as Solicitor for the Zoning Hearing Board of Adjustment, Borough of Media. He is also a member of the ACLU and a life member of the NAACP.

Gallagher has given over 50 CLE presentations, including many courses he taught for PaTLA. He resides with his family in Media, Pa.

Craig Giangiulio is PaTLA's Director of Communications & Publications

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