Kurt W. Maier
In 1991, Kurt Maier got a referral from another attorney for a case. A woman believed her husband had died of cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange, the defoliation chemical often used in Vietnam that is largely believed to be a carcinogen. The client’s husband grew up on a farm that was adjacent to railroad tracks. The woman recalled that a railroad derailment in the 1960s dumped a chemical all over the farm, and her husband had been exposed to it. She thought the chemical was Agent Orange.
Kurt began looking for records that might prove her claim. The railroad management told him their records didn’t date back that far – and besides that, there was no chemical spill, they said. But Kurt found a newspaper article with an account of the spill. The railroad officials then admitted the spill happened, but refused to say that the spill was any sort of hazardous chemical. Kurt interviewed hundreds of people who lived in the area near the farm, and witness accounts indicated railroad workers poured the contents of barrels from the spill down a sinkhole on the farm.
A witness brought photos taken on the day of the spill that showed the client standing directly in the spilled chemicals – barefoot and without a shirt. Three trips to New Orleans produced a videotaped deposition from an official at the Port of New Orleans who confirmed that the material on the train was indeed Agent Orange, and headed for Vietnam, when the train derailed near the farm.
Over the course of five years, Kurt doggedly pursued witnesses, depositions, photos, news accounts and interviews to prove the claims of the case. And remember this: much of this was in the days before the Internet. His research was interview by interview, call by call. His persistence won the client the settlement she sought, and punished the railroad for its gross negligence in handling of hazardous chemicals.
For Kurt, pursuing the facts of the case was like solving a puzzle. “Every time we’d catch the railroad in a lie, it would spur me on to do more research,” Kurt says. “It was an exhausting case, in many ways, but we knew it was really important to the client, and my firm supported me. Even though there was no guarantee we’d prevail, no one ever told me to quit. They encouraged me and told me to keep after it.”
Much like that case, Kurt’s work today largely concentrates on representing injured plaintiffs. He has experience in products liability litigation involving a wide variety of matters, ranging from prescription drugs to automobile crashworthiness to industrial accidents. He also handles trucking litigation including catastrophic claims and determining whether the driver and motor carrier complied with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Kurt represents clients in claims involving brain injuries, auto accidents, burn injuries, construction accidents, premises liability, electrocutions, drownings and other causes of personal injury.
ELPO Law has proven to be a great place to practice law, Kurt says, as he found out early on in the Agent Orange case. Attorneys have the freedom to approach cases in the way that works best for them and their client. “Lawyers at ELPO are not similar,” Kurt says. “We do not approach cases the same way. We have an organization of individuals and our autonomy is honored. I think it makes us a better law firm and a better business.”