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My Toughest Case: Helping A Permanently Disabled Longshoreman

Elizabeth Haecker Ryan; Firm: Coats Rose

Undergraduate degree: BA, Newcomb College (Tulane University) Law School: Tulane University School of Law

After considering a couple of other career options, Elizabeth Haecker Ryan decided to pursue law, as she recognized her strengths in reading, writing and verbal “jousting” as she fondly calls it.

A native of San Antonio, Texas, she graduated from the Tulane School of Law, and initially went into maritime law before expanded her practice to include product liability, toxic tort, pharmaceuticals, construction action and employment.

“I am fortunate to have been able to enjoy each area while avoiding being tied to only one,” she said.

Part of her success as an attorney can be attributed to her mentor, the late Wood Brown, III, who once served as president of the Louisiana State Bar Association.

“The work ethic, intellect and generosity of spirit which he modeled through his career inspired me both as a very young lawyer and to this day,” she said. “He instilled respect and no small amount of affection mixed with awe from both sides of the bar and from the bench.

One of her toughest in her 37-year-career was representing a longshoreman who was permanently disabled. It was one of just two cases she has ever handled on the plaintiff’s side.

“I was asked by a firm staff member to represent her injured father,” she said. “He was a longshoreman, which means the legal standard for winning a jury verdict was quite difficult.” Additionally, his limited education presented further challenges in the case.

“The case was tried for at least a week, and thankfully the jury came back in our favor with a large damages award,” she said. The weight of responsibility which she felt toward this man — who was a colleague’s father — was “palpable,” she says. The outcome of the case, she says taught her that “even weighty odds can be overcome by a message that speaks truth to its hearers.”



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