John Edwards was raised in Robbins, NC, the son of a textile worker and a letter carrier. Growing up, “it seemed to me that people with money, power, and status were treated differently than those who worked hard just to put food on the table. I felt like lawyers could be champions for regular people.”
Edwards used these themes in his successful 1998 campaign for NC senator and campaigns as the running mate for presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 and his own run for the White House in 2008.
David Kirby’s father was a World War II veteran injured at Iwo Jima. His father returned home to practice law committed to the greater good as payback for his fellow soldiers who died in combat. “That was the way I was raised. When I went into the practice of law, the idea of making money never entered my mind. I had this Pollyanna version that I’m going to go out and save the world, one case at a time.”
Edwards and Kirby were law school classmates at UNC School of Law, where they were moot court partners. They became besties, stayed in touch as each clerked, and practiced law. They launched their firm in 1993 to represent clients in catastrophic injury or wrongful death cases.
“We are looking for intellectually challenging cases with deserving clients,” said David Kirby. “We are hoping through our representation we can accomplish two goals. One is to change the law and the landscape so that this type of tragedy never happens again and two, do everything in our power to try to secure that family’s financial future.”
A case that fits that description perfectly was a 1996 product liability lawsuit against Sta-Rite, the manufacturer of a defective pool drain cover. The case involved Valerie Lakey, a 5-year-old who was disemboweled by the suction power of the pool drain pump. In 1997, a jury awarded Lakey $25 million. The case forced swimming pool builders to change their designs.
Bill Bystrynski joined the firm as a law student and worked on the Lakey case. “That case made sure this injury will not happen again. It was eye-opening for me to see the changes that were possible through one case,” said Bystrynski. He has been with the firm ever since.