Pinellas County Review
Tampa lawyer C. Steven Yerrid has received many accolades and honors throughout his career. Included in that list is having his picture in the New York Times, winning the largest defamation case in Tampa and winning a case against all odds representing the pilot of the vessel that struck the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.But when the 45 year old personal injury lawyer was selected to be a member of the Inner Circle of Advocates, his lifelong goal was reached.
“It is extremely prestigious,” Yerrid said, “I could think of no higher honor. It went right to my heart.”
The Inner Circle is an exclusive organization of the 100 best trial lawyers who represent injured clients in damage claims. The organization is limited to lawyers who exclusively represent plaintiffs.
Florida, with 15 lawyers, dominates the Inner Circle with more members than any other state.
Although the organization meets only once a year, the lawyers communicate throughout the year, exchanging information and ideas. This year, they will gather in Aspen, Colo., in July for presentations, round-table discussions and sessions to develop strategies for cases they were working on.
Members of the invitation-only Inner Circle are members for life. With the organization limited to only 100 lawyers, openings are few and far between. The organization has been criticized in the past for not admitting women or blacks. The Inner Circle, however, has since admitted two women.
In order to belong to the select organization, candidates must have won at least one jury verdict of $1 million or more and must have tried at least 50 cases.
Among his cases is a $7.5 million jury award against a manufacturer of a child’s exercise seat that he said led to the product being removed from the market.
He is also known for representing victims in a lawsuit stemming from a workplace shooting that killed three insurance company supervisors at a Rocky Point office building in 1993.
In February, Gov. Lawton Chiles chose Yerrid to be among the dream team of lawyers to take on the tobacco giants to cover the cost of treating Medicaid patients suffering from cancer or other smoking-related illnesses.
Yerrid has won a number of multi-million dollar jury verdicts. But, he said, his biggest win was clearing the 35 year old pilot of charges in the Sunshine Skyway disaster.
As a young lawyer at Holland & Knight 15 years ago, Yerrid was given the case. Few thought he would win it. The partners, he said, believed it would be good practice for him.
Yerrid used an “act of God” defense and successfully proved that nothing humanly possible could have altered the course of events that led to the deaths of the 35 people who plunged off the bridge.
The case received international attention, which landed his picture in the New York Times. The case is his most notable, however, because of the relationship he developed with his client.
“Almost anything becomes a personal struggle,” Yerrid said. “I still worry about them,” he said about his clients.
He will tell you what they are doing now, years after he represented them. The young delinquent who was shot by a police officer while he was burglarizing an automobile later went to college and turned his life around. And the freighter pilot who struck the Skyway Bridge is now stricken with multiple sclerosis. He keeps a drawer full of mementos from his clients in his desk to pick him up when the pressure becomes too great.
In a time when personal injury lawyers are referred to as ambulance chasers, legislators attempt to put caps on jury awards and the public is outraged by a multi-million dollar award for burns caused by McDonald’s coffee, Yerrid still professes faith in the American justice system.
Yerrid joins the following Florida members of the Inner Circle of Advocates: Theodore Babbitt and Robert M. Montgomery of West Palm Beach; Robert J. Beckham of Jacksonville; Walter H. Beckham, Bill Colson, William M. Hicks, Richard Nichols, Larry S. Stewart, Aaron S. Podhurst, Donald J. Post, W. Carl Rentz II and J.B. Spence of Miami; Fredric G. Levin of Pensacola; James H. Nance of Melbourne; and Sheldon J. Schlesinger of Fort Lauderdale.