Deborah Chang is the founder of Athea Trial Lawyers, a trial lawyer, and Of Counsel with Panish Shea & Boyle LLP in Los Angeles. She focuses her practice representing plaintiffs in complex catastrophic injury/wrongful death cases and has achieved some of the highest verdicts and settlements in the country.
Deborah has been an integral part of the trial teams in significant and important trials, including the Michael Jackson wrongful death case, the first ASR model hip implant trial tried in the country, and a nightclub liability case resulting in a $160,500,000 verdict that led to necessary changes to the security guard industry. Many of her cases of first impression led to vast improvements in standards and protocols that enhanced safety for the public, including the following:
- A record $17 million verdict in wrongful death of adult child that ensured that visually impaired patrons using trains would be protected from falling in the gap between cars–thereby setting the stage for changes throughout the industry nationwide (Cuthbertson v. LACMTA).
- After a nearly ten-year battle in the trial court, Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court, Deborah prevailed in a landmark case that established that colleges and universities in California have a duty to protect students from known dangers in the classroom (Rosen v. The Regents of the University of California).
- Bringing the first class action in the country on behalf of prisoners with AIDS in a maximum security prison, which led to a landmark settlement that established medical, programming, and housing protocols nationwide and was cited with approval by the 1991 Report to the President and Senate by the National Commission on AIDS. She thereafter drafted enacted Connecticut legislation that permitted the release of terminally ill prisoners, and established the first medical scholarship for individuals pursuing a nursing degree to work with patients with AIDS.
- In 1996, she brought the first lawsuit in the country based on the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. section 13891 (VAWA) and successfully argued for the upholding of the constitutionality of the statute in the first federal court to consider the issue. After reaching a settlement in the case, she lectured extensively on the issue of gender-motivated violence, and was a guest commentator on several national television shows regarding the statute, both before and after the United States Supreme Court eventually ruled that the civil remedy portion of the statute was unconstitutional.
- A record $160,500,000 jury verdict for a traumatic brain injury sustained at a nightclub
- A $37,500,000 global settlement for plaintiffs sustaining injuries and damages resulting from two truck accidents occurring on Loma Vista Drive in the City of Beverly Hills
- A $24,000,000 settlement for plaintiffs sustaining injuries in a products liability lawsuit
- A $20,500,000 verdict for the wrongful death of a child at a school crossing
- A $20,000,000.00 settlement for a bicyclist in a dangerous condition of roadway case
- A $17,000,000 verdict for the wrongful death of a visually impaired man who fell in a gap between rail cars at a LACMTA station
- A $14,900,000 settlement for a motorcyclist struck by a car
- A $8,100,000 settlement for a motorcyclist striking a paper roll that dropped on a roadway
- The largest wrongful death verdict for non-economic damages for the death of an adult child in Los Angeles County and Orange County
- The largest personal injury verdict ($17,400,000) in North County, San Diego (Vista)
- The largest personal injury verdict in Imperial County (El Centro)
- The largest personal injury verdict in San Francisco
- The two largest wrongful death verdicts in California in 2014
- Four of the top 25 verdicts in California in 2015
- Four of the top 25 verdicts in California in 2016
- The second largest settlement obtained in California in 2017, and the largest motor vehicle settlement in California in 2014
Prior to her practice at Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, Deborah represented both plaintiffs and defendants throughout the country in products liability, commercial litigation, professional liability securities fraud, and complex torts cases. She previously served as local, regional, and national counsel for a variety of companies, insurers, and manufacturers, including AIG Excess and Ford Motor Company. Understanding how defendants and insurers analyze and prepare cases has been invaluable to Deborah, and helped her achieve record settlements and verdicts.
As part of her trial practice, Deborah has been extensively involved in jury research and focus groups. In 2000, she helped conceptualize and launch one of the first companies to provide online focus groups from a unique database of nearly 3.5 million Internet users. The service is used by trial attorneys and insurers in prominent cases pending throughout the country, and was recognized by The National Law Journal as a helpful tool for assessing the strength and value of cases. For over a year, she served as its CEO and General Counsel.
California, Florida, and Connecticut
- President of ABOTA (2022)
- Best Lawyers in America (2021)
- President of CAOC (2021)
- Vice President of ABOTA (2021)
- Finalist for CAOY Attorney of the Year (2020)
- Recipient, 2019 California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year (CLAY) Award for her work in Rosen, which has also been listed by the Daily Journal as the Top Appellate Reversal of 2018
- Selected as one of the 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers by Lawdragon (2019, 2020)
- Selected by the National Law Journal/ALM as one of the 2018 Elite Trial Lawyers in the inaugural Elite Women of the Plaintiffs’ Bar category. The finalists were selected after thorough research analysis, and vetting by editors and reporters at VerdictSearch, Law.com, and the National Law Journal
- Included in The American Lawyer’s 2018 Titans of the Industry
- Selected by the National Trial Lawyers as Top 100 Plaintiff Attorneys
- Named in various years by the Daily Journal as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in California, one of the Top Plaintiff Lawyers in California, and as one of the Top Women Lawyers in California
- Recipient, Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC) Consumer Attorney of the Year Award in 2014, and was a finalist for that award in 2012, 2016, and 2017
- Recipient, CAOC Women’s Caucus 2017
- Women Consumer Advocate of the Year Award for outstanding commitment to furthering the education and careers of women trial lawyers
- Selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers for Southern California and Best Lawyers in America
- President-Elect, Consumer Attorneys of California
- Los Angeles Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA); Executive Committee and National Board Member: Vice-President, 2022
- Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA)
- Los Angeles County Bar Association, President’s Advisory Committee on Women
- American Association for Justice (AAJ), Member, Diversity Committee
- American Fellow, International Society of Barristers: Membership is by invitation only which is proceeded by a rigorous screening process that considers the lawyer’s ability, experience, accomplishments and ethical standards as assessed by trial lawyers and judges
- Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America, a trial lawyer honorary society composed of less than one-half of one percent of American lawyers
- National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Plaintiff Attorney: Membership is extended only to the select few of the most qualified attorneys from each state or region who demonstrate superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature and public profile measured by objective and uniformly applied standards