LaBarron Boone has built a legal career around a sole mission: to make the world a better place. This simple yet profound ethos towards his practice has led to record-setting verdicts and, more crucially, improved the safety of consumer products, such as smoke alarms and cab guards, to prevent future harm.
He secured a landmark verdict in Alabama last year for a young man who was left paralyzed after the 1998 Ford Explorer he was a passenger in rolled over when the driver swerved to avoid an animal – a case he discussed recently as a guest speaker at the 2020 National Trial Lawyers Summit.
Boone originally went to school for engineering, but was drawn to the law as his greatest chance to make a difference in the world. A graduate of University of Alabama School of Law, Boone is a partner at Beasley Allen and a member of the firm’s executive committee.
Lawdragon: Will you describe for our readers the mix of work you do within your practice?
LaBarron Boone: Our firm is divided into four sections: products liability, fraud, mass torts, and toxic torts. Being a shareholder and member of the executive committee allows me an opportunity to try cases in all sections. Two in particular stand out in my mind. In Merriweather v. Whirlpool, we received the largest individual plaintiff verdict in the history of the nation for consumer fraud, $581M. Most recently, last year in Smith v. Ford, we received the largest product liability verdict in the history of Alabama and gave hope to a young man who now requires care for his basic needs.
LD: Aside from incredible results like those two, what motivates you with this work? What do you like about it?
LB: I am a passionate, caring person raised by a mother who demanded I serve and “make this world a better place.” Each one of my cases involves catastrophic harm and loss to people and families. I am most proud of those that effect change in a real way, like improving the cab guard on logging trucks or improving smoke alarm safety.
LD: Can you walk us through a case you’ve handled that stands out as having that type of broad impact?
LB: The Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone tire blowout and subsequent Ford Explorer defective design lawsuits. Firestone tires were detreading on vehicles at highway speeds, causing serious injuries and deaths. In early August 2000, the second largest tire recall in United States history was announced, 6.5 million tires. Tires continued to detread on highways, causing thousands of unnecessary deaths. While taking a deposition for a Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone case we learned that the spare tire recall was sent third-class mail. This failure on the part of Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone led to nationwide recall policy change so that recall notices are sent first class to ensure timely delivery and forwarding when necessary.
While the Ford Bridgestone/Firestone litigation continued it was discovered that certain Ford Explorers were defective in design. Both Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford were forced to make changes to improve safety of their products.
LD: You mentioned a recent big win in Smith v Ford. Can you tell us about that one?
LB: A jury in Dallas County, Alabama, found Ford Motor Company at fault for a rollover crash of a 1998 Ford Explorer that left Travaris “Tre” Smith paralyzed. The jury awarded Tre $151,791,000, which consisted of $51,791,000 in compensatory damages and $100M in punitive damages. The jury found that Ford failed to meet its own safety guidelines for the Explorer’s rollover resistance requirement and attempted to cover up the vehicle’s defective design. Mr. Smith is a young man who now needs 24 hours per day care for the most basic needs. His life expectancy has been reduced substantially by Ford’s callous conduct.
With the jury verdict, Mr. Smith will have a home he can access with the wheelchair he now needs. He and his family can afford health care to take care of his daily needs and provide him a comfortable life. Mr. Smith said it himself, he would take being able to walk again any day, but the money will help to make his life after the rollover one he can enjoy.
LD: Why did you pursue a career in the law in the first place, LaBarron?
LB: The most significant thing that paved this road to law school was my mother. She always asked me to “make the world a better place.” I admired Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. After reading his book about his lifelong fight as an attorney against segregation the desire to work in the legal field started to take hold.
LD: I saw that you have an engineering degree. How did you make the pivot to law school?
LB: After studying engineering, I worked as a project manager. Board discussions centered on the money spent on outside legal counsel. These cost control discussions led to the engineering firm allowing me to attend law school. There was a need for that knowledge to be readily available; it positioned our firm well going forward. As for me, I found another path and have never looked back.
It is now clear to me God led me to the practice of law. It was not my plan. It was simply a matter of happenstance.
LD: Did you have any early mentors in the legal field that made an impression or helped shape the course of your professional life?
LB: Jere Beasley, the founding partner of our firm, told me after I got a $581M verdict that, if I wanted to be a continued blessing to our firm, I needed to put God first, my family second, and my job third. He said if I did that, everything else would work out for our clients. I have done that and believe that was the best advice I have ever taken. At the time, our firm probably had 10 lawyers and 20 staff. We now have 80 lawyers and 250 staff and he still gives that advice to his attorneys and staff. I believe it has worked well for us all.
LD: Can you tell us more about what you like about your firm?
LB: I like that Beasley Allen is based on the same principles my mother instilled in me: God and family. My mother’s catch phrase, “make the world better for your being here,” embodies Jere’s principle of God first, family second, and work third. We fight injustice everywhere we find it, and when corporate greed leads to catastrophic suffering, we are there to fight for those families injured because of the tragic choices of others.
LD: What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?
LB: I love spending time with my wife, son, and daughter. Taking family trips abroad and watching my son play basketball and my daughter play violin make all the hard work worthwhile. All the summers we spent on the road following my son’s AAU basketball team, the Montgomery Fire, led to Micah receiving offers to play college basketball from multiple schools. He ultimately chose to play college basketball at MIT in Boston, Massachusetts. Occasionally, I get an opportunity to play golf but, since I don’t have much free time, I am not very good anymore.
LD: Will you tell us about your community involvement?
LB: I serve on the Cleveland Avenue YMCA Board of Management, Resurrection Catholic Church Board of Trustees, Child Protect Board of Trustees, the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Foundation, and the Board of Medical Outreach Ministries (MOM). I also serve on the Central Alabama Community Foundation Board of Trustees (CACF), one of the largest charitable foundations in the state of Alabama, with assets exceeding $27M. I was selected to serve on the Alabama State University 2011 and 2013 Presidential Search Committees as well.
My wife and I also created the Lori and LaBarron Boone educational foundation to provide scholarships to college students who have the aptitude, but not the financial means to pay for college.
LD: Do you have a favorite book or movie about the justice system?
LB: My favorite books about the justice system are “The Audacity of Hope” by Barack Obama and “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.