Michael A. DeMayo: ‘People Over Profits’

Michael A. DeMayo
2024 Feature Nominations

Michael A. DeMayo was faced with a constant challenge in 2003. His then 11-year-old law firm DeMayo Law Offices, LLP, had handled a broad array of personal injury cases, from auto accidents to wrongful death. “We have been the voice for those who have no voice,” said DeMayo. “But the most heart-breaking and troubling cases involve drunk driving accidents.”

“I was overwhelmed by the many times I counseled mothers and fathers telling them they had an angel up in heaven, a son or daughter looking down on them, because their child died in a wreck involving alcohol. I decided that enough was enough and to go at it from another angle, to prevent parents from losing their children.”

This year marks the 21st year of the Michael A. DeMayo Arrive Alive Scholarship Program. It offers high school seniors a $2,500 scholarship based on their essay, brochure, billboard or TikTok submission on how the community could help curb underage drinking and driving. Since 2003, the firm has awarded 260 scholarships totaling more than $700,000. A second program, Arrive Alive, went into 50 local schools and illustrated real cases and consequences of impaired and distracted driving.

“If we’ve saved one teenager, if we saved the heartache from one parent, it was an investment well made,” said DeMayo.

Life Is Invaluable

The firm made headlines earlier this year with a $12 million settlement from a September 2019 case. Behzad Abedi and his wife, Angela, were at a building materials store in Charlotte, looking at marble samples, when 28 stacked marble slabs, each weighing 1,000 pounds, fell on Behzad. He died on the scene 15 minutes later.

On behalf of the family, the firm alleged both premises and products liability claims. The claims included liability related to how the building materials were stored and the rack on which the slabs were stacked. It was clear that the rack had been over and unequally loaded, and little to no care had been given to public safety.

“Life is invaluable. If you could see what this family has gone through,” said DeMayo. “I could have given them a check for $50 million or $100 million, and they would have ripped it in pieces to have had just one more day with their dad.”

Camp LeJeune Law Firm

DeMayo formed DeMayo Law Group, PLLC nine months ago to exclusively handle Camp LeJeune claims. He has hired 150 lawyers, medical professionals, and staff to handle all Camp LeJeune claims nationwide and serve as North Carolina co-counsel for national firms. The litigation involves up to 300,000 Marines and their families and base personnel who worked there from 1953 to 1987. They drank, cooked and bathed in tap water contaminated with harmful toxic chemicals. Victims claim that government leaders concealed knowledge of the problem and did not act properly to resolve it or notify former residents.

“For 30 or more years, the government knew that the water was contaminated by chemicals known to cause all kinds of cancers and health conditions,” said DeMayo. “The Marines complained about the color, the substance and the taste of the water. They would be told, ‘That’s because the water in North Carolina contains more minerals. Drink more of it.’ Meanwhile, the government knew that the water was contaminated.”

DeMayo said he believes his firm is uniquely qualified to represent these cases. “We made a commitment to go all in on Camp LeJeune and created DeMayo Law Group to represent those who have served our country,” explained DeMayo. “It is a distinct honor to get the best recovery possible for these Marines and their families.”

Lawyer and Entrepreneur

DeMayo started his law firm 30 years ago and said he had learned that he had to be both a lawyer and an entrepreneur. “Most lawyers are not trained to be effective businesspeople,” said DeMayo. “When you start a law practice, you have to be a technician, a manager and an entrepreneur.”

He said that in the early years of his practice, he felt as if he had done everything wrong at least once. After beating himself up about it, he vowed never to make the same mistake twice.

He listed the five things he said are the keys to a “successful and thriving law practice.”

“First, you need to be focused and completely goal oriented as to why you want to open up a law practice and know what is driving you. Second, you need to be more than just a good lawyer. If you don’t have something that distinguishes yourself, makes you unique, and genuinely connects to clients, you won’t be successful in business very long.

“Third is communication. The number one complaint clients have about lawyers is they never return phone calls. We have a team approach. Every client is assigned a paralegal whose primary purpose is to support clear and concise communications. Number four is to hire and and surround yourself with the best team of lawyers and support staff who will get the best results for your clients. I want people who are smarter than I am, better than I am and who will push me.

“Number five is reputation. In this business, all you have is your reputation. We get great results and are passionate about the people we represent. We’ve been doing it for thirty years,” said DeMayo. “I love what I do. I literally get up every morning, and I’m excited to go into the office to help people who don’t have anyone else to help them and who need an advocate.”

Bob Friedman

Robert "Bob" Friedman is the publisher of Attorney at Law Magazine North Carolina Triangle. He contributes articles and interviews to each issue.

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