The Story Teller
David Bianchi is a natural story teller. More than three decades after his first personal injury case, he can tell you about tracking down the facts associated with a plane crash in Australia, a crippling accident at a Fort Myers laundromat, and a metal cleat that smashed into the face of a Florida International University student causing permanent blindness.
“I believe a good trial lawyer needs to be able to talk to the jury so they feel comfortable with you,” says Bianchi, founding partner at Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A. in Miami. “You can be very smart, but if you can’t communicate with the jury in plain, simple terms about what you are trying to prove, it’s very hard to win. You want to present your case so that the average person will identify with what you’re doing and get an immediate gut feeling that you’re right.”
In his 33 years as a trial lawyer, Bianchi has had plenty of opportunities to tell his stories in the courtroom. He has represented clients in a wide range of cases, including business disputes, defective cars and trucks, class actions, suits arising from poorly constructed homes, medical and legal malpractice, automobile accidents, negligent security claims, claims against insurance agents and insurance companies, airplane crashes and many others. To date he has obtained verdicts and settlements in excess of $150 million.
“Our firm accepts only a few cases at a time, because we want to keep the quality up and the volume down,” he says. “It is a formula that has worked well for more than three decades.”
Bianchi has also been a leader in the legal profession, serving on The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors, as past chairman of the Trial Lawyer’s Section of the Florida Bar, past chairman of the Joint Committee of the Trial Lawyers Section and the Conference of Circuit and County Court Judges, and past president of the Young Lawyers Division of the Florida Bar. In 2000 he received The Florida Bar president’s award for his “outstanding” contributions to the Bar and to the citizens of Florida.
With his wife Julia, Bianchi has been actively involved with the Red Cross, co-chairing the annual fundraising dinner, and with Kristi House, a Miami organization that supports sexually abused children. “For the past three years I have been the auctioneer at the Kristi House fundraising dinner, and Julia has been on the board for ten years ,” he says. “It is a most important charity for us.” Bianchi is also a leader at Plymouth Congregational Church in Coconut Grove, serving as chairman of the Board of Trustees, chairman of the Annual Fund and other positions.
Setting His Course
Growing up on Long Island in Bellport, NY, Bianchi knew early in life that he wanted to be a lawyer. “I was appointed by our congressman to be a page in Congress when I was in high school and worked with people from all over the country at an early age,” he says. “It was a fascinating experience and cultivated on me an interest in the law when I was very young.”
After earning his bachelor’s degree at Tufts University (magna cum laude), Bianchi went on to Boston College Law School. “I was indifferent to much of what they taught us in law school, but I immediately gravitated to the trial practice courses,” he recalls. “I quickly became interested in the mock trials and was selected to represent our law school in a national competition. I was sold — there was no doubt about what I wanted to do.”
After sending out resumes across the country, Bianchi was hired in 1979 by Frates Floyd Pearson Stewart Richman & Greer, and soon got involved in the firm’s cases, including an aviation crash in Australia that killed six people. “They put me to work on the case but didn’t tell me what to do,” he says. “I had been practicing for just two years and travelled to Australia to take depositions. It was a great experience. There was no better place to learn.”
Not long afterwards, partner Larry Stewart asked Bianchi to represent a client who lost her hand in an accident at a Fort Myers laundromat — a tragedy that could have been prevented by a single lock nut on the 1926 commercial ironing machine. “It was a product liability case before the days of a statute of repose, and I was asked to find out what a single lock nut would have cost in 1926,” Bianchi says. “I realized that Sears might still have some vintage catalogs that could answer the question.” Long before there was Google, Bianchi called a Sears archivist in Chicago, who found that 100 lock nuts could have been purchased for $2 that year. Shortly thereafter, the case settled.
But those cases turned out to be warm-ups for an even bigger product liability suit against Chris-Craft over a torpedo-shaped metal cleat. In 1979 a sailboat with Florida International University students aboard was being towed into Bimini by a wooden Chris-Craft when the tow line ripped the stern cleat from the Chris-Craft striking a student on the sailboat square between the eyes. He was immediately blinded. After Bianchi and Stewart filed the case, the manufacturer initially denied responsibility claiming that the boat had been poorly maintained and was not in its original condition. Bianchi and Stewart proved otherwise.
Next, the defense argued that the Chris-Craft cleats were not designed for towing. But Bianchi learned of a similar case decades earlier in Michigan, flew to Detroit and uncovered the long-lost case file in the basement of the Wayne County Courthouse. Sure enough, Chris-Craft had filed an interrogatory answer in that case in which it stated that the stern cleat was specifically designed for towing.
The defense then argued that the cleat had been improperly installed by a third party. To rebut that defense, Bianchi tracked down the same model Chris-Craft built the very same year and found it had the identical installation. “It was a high-profile case,” Bianchi recalls, “and the jury awarded our client a $7.5 million verdict which was a lot in those days.” Shortly thereafter, Bianchi and Stewart were hired to represent a family in New York whose young son received a brain injury when a Chris-Craft cleat ripped from the deck of the identical boat model in the Hudson River. That case settled shortly after suit was filed.
For Bianchi, those were the first of a long string of big cases, including suits against Toyota, Nissan, Chrysler, Suzuki and Ford. A decade ago, Bianchi obtained the first U.S. verdict against Mercedes Benz in a case involving a defective airbag system. In 2004, he obtained the largest fraternity-hazing verdict in the country representing the parents of Chad Meredith, a University of Miami student who drowned in a campus lake. After making their $14 million decision, the jurors waited for an hour outside the courtroom to give big hugs to Bianchi and the rest of his team. As Bianchi says, “In a trial, so much depends on how you present your case. It all boils down to your ability to talk to people.”
South Florida Legal Guide Midyear 2012 Edition
Back to Personal Injury Attorneys Back to Midyear 2012 Edition