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South Florida Legal Guide  - 2011 Edition

Whether running a marathon, promoting the arts or taking on the biggest names in corporate America, Lewis S. ‘‘Mike” Eidson is a high-energy competitor. “I work seven days a week, so I run about 30 miles a week” he says.“Exercise helps me stay sharp, and it’s an important part of my life.”

A nationally recognized trial lawyer with more than 30 years experience, Eidson is a partner at Colson Hicks Eidson in Coral Gables, known for his work in automotive product liability cases. At age 29, he won the first case against Ford for a defective fuel system on its Pinto model. He was involved in the Chrysler Minivan latch case that led to the recall of 4 million vehicles, and served as national lead co-counsel in the Ford-Firestone tire case.

In May, Eidson was appointed to serve on the leadership committee in multi-district litigation against Toyota Motor Corp., which is facing hundreds of lawsuits involving sudden unintended acceleration. “I have been a witness to history in the product liability field,” says Eidson, a founding member and past chair of the Institute for Injury Reduction. “Thousands of lives have been saved, and many products are safer as a result of our litigation.”

Certainly, Eidson has come a long way from his early days in Atlanta, where his parents ran a barbecue restaurant and raised their six children. Born in 1946, he was a good athlete in high school, earning a basketball and track scholarship at the University of South Carolina. He earned six varsity sports letters in college, was named the Atlantic Coast Conference student athlete of 1968 and set four conference records in track while earning a 4.0 grade point average. He also expanded his horizons, spending his junior year abroad studying history at Warwick University in England. “That trip was my introduction to the arts,” Eidson says. “I started going to museums and concerts in London, and wrote a paper comparing Florentine historians for my senior thesis.”

In fact, Eidson thought about becoming a historian, before choosing law. He earned a scholarship to Emory University Law School, where he married a nursing school graduate and returned to Atlanta. His wife, Dr. Margaret Eidson, later became a clinical professor in pediatric endocrinology at the University of Miami School of Medicine. The Eidsons have three children.

Eidson spent two years in the U.S. Army’s Adjutant General Corps, before moving to Miami in 1972. He went to work with the legal department at Southern Bell, while Margaret taught nursing at UM then entered medical school. Two years later, he was one of 100 attorneys interviewed for an associate’s position at Colson and Hicks, one of the nation’s leading personal injury firms. The co-founders Bill Colson and Bill Hicks were well established trial lawyers and Colson Served as president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), now known as the American Association for Justice (AAJ). They liked college athletics, they liked Atlanta and they liked Mike Eidson, who got the job as an associate. Eidson rapidly built his own trial practice, and became a name partner in 1982. When founders Colson and Hicks retired in the mid 1990s, they sold the firm to Eidson and Colson’s son, Dean.
Eidson and Colson continued to recruit new trial attorneys and gradually grew the firm. Last year, Colson Hicks Eidson relocated to a new office at 255 Alhambra Circle, giving the 16-attorney firm a higher profile in Coral Gables.

In 2006, Eidson became the second member of the firm to serve as president of ATLA/AAJ. He was recently recognized with the David S. Shrager President’s Award for his lifelong commitment to the AAJ. “Mike Eidson is one of the finest plaintiff attorneys in the country,” says current AAJ president C. Gibson Vance, shareholder, Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, PC in Montgomery, AL. “Mike’s record both in the courtroom, and as a former AAJ president is remarkable. There is no stronger advocate of the civil justice system.”

In 2008, the AAJ’s Women for Justice Education Fund established the Mike Eidson Scholarship in his honor, awarded annually to a female law student. Eidson and his wife and the firm also established three scholarships for women law students at Emory University Law School. “Being well educated is the foundation to being an excellent trial lawyer,” he says. “Like being a dancer, you may have some native skills, but you have to learn the technique.”

Eidson is also a respected legal writer. In 1995, he co-authored “Defective Products: Evidence to Verdict,” a guide to product liability suits and in 1997 co-authored “Florida Practice Guide: Personal Injury,” a two-volume treatise on trial law in Florida. He also wrote the chapter on Products Liability in AAJ’s Litigation Tort Cases.

Today, Eidson handles a wide range of litigation, from business torts and class actions to personal injury and wrongful death cases. Last year Eidson was lead counsel for the employees of U.S. Sugar Company in a class action arising from a proposed corporate buyout. He is litigating several international aviation cases, and has taken on Expedia, an online travel company, in a mass tort suit over local taxes, representing a number of Florida governmental entities.

Eidson also serves on a national ad hoc committee of about 24 attorneys developing procedures and guidelines for handling private claims for damages against BP arising from the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill. His partner, Ervin Gonzalez was recently named to the BP Multi-District Steering Committee handling all federal court cases arising out of the oil spill in New Orleans. Talk to Eidson for five minutes and he will not stop bragging about the talents of the other lawyers in the firm.

Meanwhile, Eidson has stepped into the spotlight in South Florida’s cultural circles as chair of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. “The board has very ambitious plans about the Arsht Center’s role in our city,” he says. “We want this to be a destination like Lincoln Center in New York, an engine for economic growth and development in downtown Miami.”

Eidson also wants the Arsht center to serve as an incubator for young talent and introduce more Miami-Dade students to the performing arts. “Surveys show more than 90 percent of parents want their kids to have an opportunity to shine in the arts. This is a fundamental part of the educational process and the Arsht center can play a strong role.”

Eidson has been a supporter of the arts for more than two decades, serving on the board of the Coconut Grove Playhouse and board president for 7 years of the prestigious Miami City Ballet. “Mike Eidson continues to be a champion, a provider of resources, and a major force in the development of Miami City Ballet,” says artistic director Edward Villella. “His tireless efforts and support have been instrumental in the ballet’s rise to national and international prominence.”

Looking ahead, Eidson plans to remain active in the arts, while managing the law firm, bringing in new clients and handling major cases. “I enjoy all these roles,” he says. “I look forward to the challenges of every day.”

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