Cooley Godward fights $25m accident liability

Cooley Godward faces the prospect of sharing liability for the death of a teenager struck by a car driven by one of its associates.

As reported on www.the lawyer.com (10 September), a jury in Virginia will be asked next week to determine whether former Cooley associate Jane Wagner is liable for the death of a teenager struck by her car.

Her firm may be held jointly responsible because questions have arisen over whether Wagner, who was an associate at the firm at the time, was working as a lawyer at the moment of the crash.

The civil case will ask whether Wagner caused the death because she was talking on a mobile phone while driving, and whether she was working because the phone call was to a client. Both points are being contested.

Lawyers of the teenager’s family are seeking $25m (£15.7m) compensation. It is unlikely that Wagner could pay this so the lawyers, Washington DC’s Bode & Grenier, would have to connect the crash to Cooley.

Cooley has denied that Wagner was doing firm work at the time of the accident.

Wagner was fired after the accident and pleaded guilty to the felony crime of failing to stop at the scene of an accident. She served one year in jail, with four more suspended, and was disbarred.

Thomas Cawley, managing partner of the McLean, Virginia, office of Hunton & Williams, and Trichilo Bancroft McGavin Horvath & Judkins partner John McGavin are advising Cooley.