Photo of Michael Lyons (left) and Chris Simmons provided by the firm.
For proof that tenacity and skill are more critical to courtroom results than firm size, look no farther than Dallas-based Lyons & Simmons LLP. The boutique trial firm led by co-founders Michael Lyons and Chris Simmons have won hundreds of millions of dollars for injured plaintiffs and their families in jurisdictions both in and out of Texas. The tightknit team focuses on catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death cases while also handling high-stakes business disputes.
Lawdragon: How did you first become interested in representing injured people and their families?
Chris Simmons: As founders of the firm, Michael and I are dedicated to helping people who have been injured, killed and wronged. For us, it is our life’s calling. We formed Lyons & Simmons to carry out that mission.
Michael Lyons: The ability to help people who are experiencing a tragedy, to hold wrongdoers accountable, and to create positive changes to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future motivates us to outwork and outperform our opponents. Helping victims who often face their worst adversity in life is a solemn undertaking the firm takes seriously and compassionately. Vindicating the rights of victims also happens to be personally satisfying.
LD: Are there any trends you are seeing in your practice in terms of the types of matters keeping you busy these days?
ML: The firm’s involvement in larger, high exposure multi-party cases ensures the types of matters we handle come in many different shapes and sizes. The common thread oftentimes is the complexity and expert intensive nature of our cases. In the state of Texas, for example, the all-to-familiar trend that we have kept close watch over in our cases is a political climate centered on outcome-determinative results for big business and big insurance, limitations on damages, restrictions on access to the courts and super-legislative, hyper-partisan political constructs designed to protect businesses and block access to the courts for ordinary citizens. These trends aren’t limited to Texas, and the long-term implications are bad for anyone who is an ordinary citizen. These issues invariably play heavy into many of our cases.
LD: Can you describe a recent matter that you’ve handled?
CS: Recently, we were honored to represent a widow and her three children in a battle against a multi-national corporation that designed and manufactured an industrial machine that killed her husband. The allegations sounded in products liability, negligence and gross negligence for defective design and defective warnings. The case was resolved collectively for an amount that is believed to be a record settlement for a wrongful death case in that particular parish in Louisiana. Importantly, our work also identified a giant disconnect between the machine’s engineered design capabilities and the foreseeable risks of its operation without proper warnings. Lives will be saved as a result of this case.
LD: Interesting. Can you talk more about the impact of the case?
ML: This man loved his family and their security was his priority. His death created an overwhelming sense of personal loss as well as financial hardship for his wife and children. Lyons & Simmons was able to obtain life-long financial security for his family that they can use to create a legacy honoring the memory of their husband and father. For the industry, our firm identified a blind spot in the way in which product manufacturers, including this one, design, warn (or fail to warn), and instruct regarding the use of their products. Further, we identified a blind spot in the way that employers train their employees on the use of these types of machines. As a result, the manufacturer and the man’s employer were called upon to take corrective action to prevent other people from experiencing a similar tragedy.
LD: What were some of the key challenges of getting this result?
ML: The manufacturer had sold many of these machines to clients around the world. As a result, the manufacturer wanted to prevent us from gaining access to information that would show the extent of the manufacturer’s negligence in the design, warnings, and instructions relating to this machine. Like many other companies, the manufacturer tried to hide the clues that would reveal crucial evidence in a mountain of production hoping that our firm would miss the information. Our relentless pursuit of the truth, coupled with our tireless evaluation of the documents, resulted in us locating the key evidence and using it to prove our case. Ultimately, we convinced the manufacturer that its product was defective and unreasonably dangerous and achieved victory for the family of this man.
It takes courage for normal people to stand up for what is right and fight against large companies to prevent future tragedies. It takes courage to fight for a loved one who has been killed by corporate negligence. This family’s courage and commitment to obtaining justice was humbling and awe-inspiring. When people stand up for what is right, they can make something positive out of a terrible tragedy. L&S is honored to represent and fight for those people.
LD: Is there another case that stands out?
CS: The firm’s 2019 representation of a victim of the Rig 219 disaster in southeastern Oklahoma resulted in a historic settlement. That case arose out of a well control disaster that claimed the lives of five men drilling a gas well. In particular, the case required expertise in the oil and gas industry because it dealt with various, complex aspects of well control—from engineering decisions and complex mechanical operations of well control equipment, to the design and marketing of drilling rigs. The legal issues, factual development, and expert-intensive issues make it one of the most interesting cases we have handled.
LD: How would you describe your style as lawyers?
ML: We believe in being strategically aggressive and intentional in our approach to representing clients. Each client is unique and deserves a custom-tailored and deliberate approach to their case. We are tireless workers who are dedicated to developing innovative methods to win for our clients. Our firm as a whole is committed to integrity, loyalty, and helping people in need. Our adversaries respect us because they know that we will fight honorably, but we won’t back down. We have earned a reputation among our peers as lawyers who lead by example, who win by fighting hard, but who always put our clients’ interests ahead of the firm’s.
LD: What are some of the challenges you face in running the firm?
CS: The challenge to continue to evolve with our competitors so that we are always at the forefront of innovation and creativity on our approach to our cases. In the space Lyons & Simmons operates, we feel that some of the very best and brightest trial lawyers operate, transcending all practice areas. Many of these lawyers aren’t just peers, we consider them our friends and our colleagues in a fight to represent those who cannot speak for themselves. Our challenge is to never stop watching, listening, learning, in an effort to continue providing our clients with the best possible representation.
LD: What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?
CS: Both of us enjoy spending time with our families. I’m also an accomplished musician and enjoy attending live music concerts—across many genres. I also love spending time in the mountains or the ocean.
ML: I enjoy travel, water sports, and cars. I grew up loving horse racing and co-own thoroughbred racehorses that I love watching and following. I am an avid sports fan and attend as many sporting events as I can.
LD: Can you discuss the firm’s pro bono or public interest activities?
ML: Lyons & Simmons is dedicated to helping make the community we call home a better place. We have made significant contributions to Access to Justice in the State of Texas as well as remain politically involved in ensuring a qualified judiciary and making sure average citizens have access to the greatest legal system the world has ever known.
LD: Do you have a favorite book or movie about the justice system?
CS: I’ve been inspired by “Erin Brockovich.”
ML: For me, it’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
LD: What would each of you be doing professionally if not a lawyer?
CS: I don’t think either of us could imagine doing anything other than being trial lawyers.
ML: I agree.