It’s virtually impossible to find new adjectives to describe the outstanding career of Eric Dubin, our Attorney of the Year. Peppered with well-deserved praise and accolades, his many accomplishments have been highly publicized in dozens of prestigious publications. However, the most articulate validation of Dubin’s supreme prowess is best evidenced through the multitude of wins and monumental monetary awards for his clients.
Earning international acclaim for winning the $30 million wrongful death jury verdict against actor Robert Blake, Dubin struck big again in 2016 with a landmark $10.2 million jury verdict that created a brand-new path around the much hated MICRA. Dubin successfully argued that post-death concealment should not be limited by MICRA, and opened the door for punitive damages in wrongful death cases. In 2017, Dubin will be co-lead trial counsel on the massive lawsuit resulting from the devastating big rig crash in Orland, California.
Dubin’s is a face, name and reputation recognized and admired well beyond his California practice. Certain facets of his personality that are rarely discussed, however, are his humanity and humility. There is something decidedly salt-of-the-earth, grounded and wholly Midwestern in his nature. Despite a hailstorm of superlatives used to describe him, Dubin remains modest and steadfast in his core values. Portrayed as everything from “celebrity attorney” to “the real-life Superman,” Dubin, while admitting to being flattered, mildly eschews these epithets.
“I don’t consider myself a celebrity attorney,” he says, “just beyond proud and flattered to be mentioned along with trial lawyers that I consider to be the best in the business. To be considered at that level, is something I worked very hard to achieve, and work harder to maintain. Many of the lawyers working on the FedEx case with me are trial lawyers I have admired my entire career, just dripping with passion and talent.
“I never really got too hung up on that Hollywood stuff,” he adds. “Through all the years of worldwide attention during the Robert Blake case, I figured out how to use the power of the media only when it benefits my clients.”
Still glowing in the spotlight more than a decade later, it’s apparent that Dubin is not a one-hit wonder. While he doesn’t actively seek high-profile cases, clients typically seek him out, confident they will receive undaunting devotion and the highest level of representation.
“If someone comes to me with what might be considered a highprofile case, they know I’m not going to do things just to get my name out there. Utilizing the media is an art form that can’t be ignored in these high-profile cases, but every move must have a purpose.”
While Dubin is still often called for his legal opinions on current headline cases, he rarely agrees.
“I often get calls from ABC, CNN, and other major networks, asking me to appear on a program or comment on whatever the current case may be,” he says, “and I don’t. Having gone through a high-profile trial on that level, I understand the frustration when someone else is talking about my case and doesn’t know everything, yet goes on national TV as an expert. I’m really turned off by talking heads for that reason. So, the only time you’ll see me on TV, is if it’s involving my case, and if it’s beneficial to my client to do so. If both of those prongs aren’t met, well, the trap of celebrity in Los Angeles is something that I admire from a distance.”
GO WEST, YOUNG MAN
When Dubin left his Michigan home for Los Angeles, it wasn’t bright lights or fame he sought, but rather the sunny relief from long, cold and blustery winters. Already focused on a law career, his inherent sense of right and wrong, compelled him to choose his specialty in personal injury and wrongful death. In this niche, he’s not only found success but tremendous satisfaction.
“I always dreamed of coming to L.A. Somehow, I always knew that I’d wind up here,” he says. “When I finally did make it out here, the first time was during college, it was definitely a feeling of coming home.
“I have the utmost respect for the system, the courtroom, the bailiff, the jurors, opposing counsel, it just makes me so proud to be a part of it all. I’ve oft en teared up driving to jury trials, so proud, that I’m actually doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing.”
Dubin’s commitment to righting wrongs and preserving justice was matched only by his desire to prove worthy of the faith his mother had invested in him. He attributes his “good heart” to her, and despite his obvious financial success and subsequent material acquisitions, Dubin’s most prized possession is a seemingly long-lost photo of him and his beloved mother. Taken right before she succumbed to cancer, he was both surprised and delighted, when the L.A. Times ran the photo with a full-page prestigious profile article.
“This picture seemed to just turn up out of nowhere,” he says. “I’m not sure I’d ever seen it before, and there she is right in the center. What’s amazing, is that’s the only press conference she’d ever attended, and hence the only photo she ever appeared in. That to me, is something that’s priceless.
“She was the best friend I’ve ever had,” he continues, his voice reverberating with emotion. “When I deposed Blake, she came out. I’d come home every night with the videos and she watched them, literally from about 5 p.m. until four in the morning. And, it wasn’t because she was my mom, but because they were fascinating!”
Unfortunately, his mother did not live long enough to witness her son’s unmitigated success and national acclaim, proving actor Robert Blake was in fact, responsible for the death of his wife Bonnie Lee Bakley. Aside from winning a $30 million jury verdict on behalf of the victim’s family (aft er the state failed to prove Blake guilty), for Dubin, it was equally important for the sake of Bakley’s children, to clear their mother’s name aft er being ruthlessly slandered by Blake and his lawyers.
“As far as the Blake case,” says Dubin, “I really wanted to win for her kids and for the detectives who worked so hard and then lost in the criminal trial. I needed to prove he killed her to validate their hard work and get closure for those kids. Proving Blake guilty was naturally the prime objective, but it was also incredibly important for me to rectify the damage he and his defense had done to her reputation. In a sense, he killed her twice, first in the car and then in the media. Getting that verdict literally changed the course of those kids’ lives.”
While his sense of justice applies to everyone, Dubin is particularly moved by iniquities affecting children, and works both through his practice and on his own time to effectuate change. He was recently presented with the 2016 Hero of Hope Award by longtime friend Tom Mesereau for his work with the N-Action Family Network.
An example of Dubin’s deep-seated compassion for his clients can be found in the historic 2016 case, representing the family of a 15-year-old who died at a Mission Viejo care facility. The boy suffered from cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder, and Dubin successfully argued he died as a direct result of staff failure to administer his anti-seizure medication. This was compounded by the fact that the caregiver not only delayed calling emergency services aft er finding him unresponsive, but did not attempt CPR. It was subsequently discovered, that she was not trained or certified to do so. When EMTs arrived, she was bathing two other patients.
A heartbreaking case from the outset, Dubin was incensed to discover that even if the facility was found guilty, damages were capped at $250,000. Nor could elder abuse rights be enforced, because the child was not yet 16, qualifying him as a dependent adult.
Thanks to Dubin’s tenacious fight to find a way around the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), the parents were awarded $10.2 million in punitive and actual damages. Moreover, a law that has been in place for nearly 40 years, putting a $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice cases, has been successfully challenged and the verdict immediately snatched up for inclusion in the 2016 California Jury Instructions Handbook. This momentous win also lays the groundwork for future attorneys to attack the archaic law.
“Clearly, his death was caused by the wrongdoing of the defendant, who claimed zero liability from day one,” reports Dubin. “To prove everything the parents were claiming was true, and to have a jury unanimously say, ‘$10.2 million,’ was a moment I’ll never forget. It was literally a movie moment for this mom, who could take a deep exhale for the first time in like three years, and let it go.
“It was an American stamp of justice and validation,” he says, “and that’s who I am and that’s why I work 20 hour days to win these cases. There’s no other way to do it.”
Fully immersed in each case, Dubin says nothing else matters, in fact, he doesn’t even check his emails.
“My family and friends understand this,” he says. “Honestly, that’s how you win. I know my case better than anyone in the courtroom. I can go to a page line in the deposition in a heartbeat, and if opposing counsel strays, I can pull that page up almost from memory. It’s like I have a short-term, photographic memory. It goes away, but it’s probably because I’ve lived and breathed the material for so long.”
Doing his own “footwork” isn’t a control issue for Dubin, nor his ego, but rather, his belief that only by reviewing each piece of evidence, every witness and deposition himself, can he truly be as prepared as he wants to be before setting foot into the courtroom.
“There’s a tremendous advantage when you can pull up details,” he says. “As a trial attorney, I don’t feel that’s optional; it’s my job.”
His skills were certainly put to the test during the Blake trial, which was the biggest investigation in LAPD history. With 70 witnesses, each with about eight banker boxes of materials, Dubin handled all the review and preparation on his own. Just the way he prefers.
“It was like climbing Mount Everest without oxygen,” he quips. “Now, every trial since has been a little bit easier. When you’ve conquered Mount Everest without oxygen, you have the supreme confidence to tackle less daunting peaks.
“Preparing for, and during trials, I don’t have a life,” he continues candidly. “It’s like being a surgeon, fully focused on his patient. Cases can be all-consuming, especially when it involves wrongful death. It’s hard for that not to play tricks with your mind and take control of your psyche.”
A consummate professional, Dubin also understands the importance of balance and has a variety of ways to relax and decompress.
“I do try to pace myself, taking a breather from time to time. I enjoy yoga, music, and I like to run on the beach during sunsets. I have great friends, and feel so blessed to be living here in beautiful Southern California.”
Topping his list of favorite ways to spend his downtime are his children. Dubin and his son have season tickets for the Rams games and he says he’s had to brush up his dance skills to keep up with his talented daughter.
“My daughter is crazy talented, and we did the daddy-daughter dances in front of thousands with her dance studio for many years,” he says, “so I had to perfect my Running Man moves by drawing on my Motown swagger. And my son has already written more books than me at the age of 12, I am beyond blessed to have them both in my life.”
EMOTIONS AND EMOTING
Every lawyer develops a style, and Dubin is no exception. Previously a professor of law at Whittier College and the co-author of two bestselling books, “The Star Chamber” and “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” Dubin’s life truly centers around the justice system.
He’s particularly proud of the tutelage he received from the legendary Gerry Spence. It is from Spence, Dubin says, that he learned “people don’t go to the theatre to see if actors memorized their lines, they go to be moved by the story.”
“In the courtroom, that translates to not being about the perfect lawyer, wearing the perfect tie, and not forgetting any of your words,” says Dubin. “All of that is really counter-productive. If you open your heart to the jurors, they’ll open theirs to you.”
He goes on to offer a comparison of an ego-filled actor and one who relates to his audience.
“If an actor drops a prop on stage,” he says, “and is too pompous to pick it up, the audience is focused on that goblet lying on the stage. There’s a disconnect. The real power is to pick it up, that’s where the gold is! Let the audience in on that moment of you being human, being real and vulnerable. And then go back into character. Once I learned that, it took me to a new level.”
Armed with his complete and thorough preparation and ability to relate to jurors, Dubin claims, and without any hint of arrogance, that he “fears nobody in a court of law. Not a person, not a firm, not deep pockets — nothing intimidates me or is standing in my way.”
Part of this confidence is also derived from his emotional involvement with his clients and their families. Though it can prove physically and emotionally draining, Dubin claims that it’s unavoidable to separate the personal lives of his clients from his job as their attorney. They, in fact, become one and the same.
“I care so much,” he admits. “It’s particularly emotional when you’re fighting for the death of a child or a parent, or a permanent disability. I take all my cases very personally; I feel my client’s pain.”
Looming just over the horizon comes another tragic and compelling case for Dubin, for which he is already heavily immersed in preparations. He is co-lead trial counsel in the upcoming high-profile FedEx school bus crash jury trial, in a Los Angeles complex litigation venue in March 2017. Working with an elite team of attorneys, including Paul Kiesel and Greene, Broillet & Wheeler, the upcoming lawsuit stems from a horrendous big rig versus a bus crash, killing 10 (including five children) and severely burning 40.
“I can only say what happened to those innocent people on the bus was absolutely horrifying,” says Dubin. “We are eager to put the facts and evidence before a jury. Justice and closure has been long overdue for the victims and their families. I plan on shining for the beautiful young widow I represent, she lost her entire world in the blink of an eye.”
Of course, Dubin’s sentiment is not new, it’s the same commitment and compassion he exhibits with every case.
“Justice is addicting,” he says. “When you see the pain and anxiety finally subside, when clients get the closure of a fair verdict, it makes all the hours and sacrifices worth it. I care beyond words, and I completely live for it 100 percent. And, I’m not the only one. There are a lot of trial lawyers like me, who just live and breathe the idea of getting justice for deserving people. It’s breathtaking when you make it happen.”