It’s time for attorneys who truly represent the communities disproportionately affected by corporations’ wrongful conduct to advocate for and get appointed to lead and co-lead counsel roles in litigations seeking justice for these populations.
Historically, an embarrassingly small number of Black and Brown lawyers have been appointed to lead the large-scale cases that directly affect the lives and finances of millions of people—most often BPoC. The number of diverse attorneys appointed to MDL leadership roles is dismal; and the few who are appointed rarely exercise significant leadership roles, almost always being relegated to secondary appointments.
Through collaboration, shared resources, education and networking opportunities, and pressure on our profession, Shades of Mass aims to rectify this inequity and achieve the diversity missing in mass tort and complex litigation case leadership.
“MDL includes some of the most high-profile torts of our day —opioids, talc, Roundup — but the attorneys who spearhead these proceedings [are] predominately white and predominately male.”
University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Review
Data from Law.com shows little progress in the ethnic diversity of MDL plaintiffs’ leadership teams: from 2016 to 2019 only 5% of appointments in MDLs went to nonwhite lawyers.
Nationally recognized as a powerhouse in mass torts, class actions, products liability, workplace discrimination, and sexual assault claims, Fu Debrosse Zimmermann has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in client damages from defective medical devices or drugs, environmental contamination, corporate misconduct and civil rights abuse.
Managing partner of DiCello Levitt’s Birmingham office and Co-Chair of the firm’s Mass Tort division, Fu serves on numerous plaintiffs’ executive and steering committees in national MDLs, in addition to representing municipalities. She’s the recipient of many industry awards, including Birmingham Business Journal’s Who’s Who in Law and Women to Watch; The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 and Top 40 Under 40; The National Academy of Personal Injury Attorneys: Top 10 Under 40 in Alabama; and America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators®. Fu is fluent in French and Haitian Creole and is conversant in Spanish.
Recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2021, Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 Most Influential African Americans, and The National Trial Lawyers Top 100, Ben Crump is referred to as Black America’s Attorney General.
Through his steadfast dedication to justice and service, Ben has established himself as one of the nation’s foremost advocates for social justice, winning a number of record settlements and verdicts for victims and families that have faced injustice. His representations include the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, the residents of Flint, Michigan, who were affected by the poisoned water of the Flint River, and the family of Henrietta Lacks in a landmark reparations case. In 2021, St. Thomas University College of Law announced the creation of the Benjamin L. Crump Center for Social Justice for minority students pursuing law degrees.
Gregory Cade has over 20 years of scientific legal and experience representing individuals harmed by environmental and occupational exposures, often where complex legacy pollution has resulted in catastrophic harm to communities of color.
His background in industrial hygiene and toxicology give him the necessary knowledge to understand the science behind complex mass tort litigation with multiple multimillion dollar recoveries for governments, communities, and individuals whose natural resources, groundwater, and air were damaged by pollution.
LaRuby May knows how to build things: campaigns, policy, cases, and trust. She has spent her entire career finding gaps in the community and doing what it takes to get residents the services and resources they deserve. An inspirational lawyer, entrepreneur, and strategist, LaRuby focuses on identifying and supporting plaintiffs from a grass roots level, specifically Black and Brown communities that are often disproportionately impacted and excluded from mass tort litigation.
LaRuby serves on the Plaintiff’s Executive Committee (PEC) for Paraquat representing clients who now suffer with the terminal illness of Parkinson disease. She has represented clients injured by PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls), and currently represents individuals injured by 3M earplugs and Zantac.
Larry Taylor oversees the Mass Torts, Criminal, Employment, and Civil Rights practices of his Texas-based law firm, and leads its community involvement efforts. He currently serves as one of the lead attorneys representing Dallas County in the first Texas opioid multidistrict bellwether trial.
From the urban America client seeking to be heard, to the small town American wanting fairness, these challenges resonate with Larry’s need and desire to fight for their rights. Between growing up in Duval County, Florida, and Harris County, Texas, and raising his kids in rural Texas, Larry has gained an appreciation for those struggling for a sense of fairness. Having once needed a lawyer to represent him against a goliath corporation, he understands the complexities and care needed to make sure his clients are informed and comfortable during this most vulnerable time. Admitted to practice in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, Larry sits on the boards of a number of diverse community stakeholder entities.
Navan Ward has litigated defective pharmaceutical drug and device state and multidistrict litigation (MDL) cases for over 20 years and has served on multiple MDL leadership committees, recovering billions of dollars for victims.
Navan is a Principal at Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis and Miles, P.C. and assisted with the opening of the firm’s new Atlanta office location. He is the PEC for the Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) MDL litigation, which involves thousands of victims who ingested defective prescription and over the counter medicine for acid reflux, which resulted in users suffering kidney damage. Navan is also serving as Co-Lead Counsel for one, and PSC for two, of the various Metal-on-Metal hip implant litigations involving thousands of victims who have defective hip implants causing severe pain, metal poisoning, revision surgery, and in some cases, permanent injury. Additionally, Navan serves as the President for the American Association for Justice (AAJ).