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CAALA: Trial Lawyer Member of the Month

Jim Osborne: Fulfilling the Walter Mitty Dream

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Consumer attorneys of Los Angeles has more than 2000 attorney members and has been in existence for more than 50 years. While each member has unique traits, characteristics and accomplishments, it's safe to say that none can quite compare to Jim Osborne.

Osborne's professional background and recent professional accomplishments are truly one-of-a-kind. He's been a CAALA member since 2000, 3 years after he formed his own law firm, Osborne and Associates. His offices is in the San Fernando Valley and he has successfully tried cases in insurance bad faith, corporate breach of fiduciary duty, aviation, medical malpractice and serious personal injury.

Osborne graduated from Southwestern University Law school in 1984 and following employment with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, spent time with the firms of Morgan, Wentzel & McNicholas; Engstrom, Lipscomb, & Lack; and Fonda & Garrard. Later he joined the plaintiffs firms of the Law Office of Emmett Gantz, and Butler, Dan, Allison & Reback (later, Butler Butler and Osborne), specializing in aviation and pharmaceutical the litigation.

In addition, Osborne has served as a Judge Pro Tem in the Van Nuys and Glendale courts, was trained as a mediator for the Los Angeles Superior Court by the Strauss Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University, and was a volunteer for AIDS Project LA for the Los Angeles County Bar Association.

Representing victims on a contingency basis has required Osborne to represent his clients on appeal, and in addition to other cases, his firm has three cases of first impression in the state of California. These include Hellenger v. Farmers Insurance Group (2001) 91 CA th 1049 upholding the constitutionality of Code of Civil Procedure 34 0.9 (enacted in response to the Northridge earthquake); Kotlar v. The Hartford (2000) 83 CA 4th 1116, redefining the term "additional assured", and Estate of Brenner (1999) 76 CA4th 1298, which expanded the definition of a written holographic will to include a Xerox copy.

Many CAALA members have a somewhat similar professional background. Few, however can match Osborne's recent court room success against the major nemesis of many trial attorneys-Mercury Insurance company. In February of this year, Osborne tried a case against Mercury than may be one of the most significant results ever obtained by a CAALA member against the carrier. An LA Superior Court jury returned a special fraud verdict in the trial, warning more than $3 million in damages to Osborne's clients, a pair of Russian immigrants denied payout after their print shop was flooded by a burst pipe.

Osborne' s clients claim that during the four-year dispute with Mercury, their Sherman Oaks business suffered a slow "death by asphyxiation" while the insurance company repeatedly denied their claims it ignored letters for help. As many CAALA members can attest, this is typical behavior for Mercury.

But it wasn't the unanimous decision, nor the amount of the verdict, nor the amount of the verdict that made the case significant. For the first time, evidence was introduced in the trial confirming Mercury's policy to delay, deny and defend. In fact, Osborne was able to introduce evidence of an internal company training manual describing Mercury adjusters instructing Mercury adjusters, as the Los Angeles Daily Journal reported, "how to low-ball customers, drag out their claims and remind them they could be found at fault in trial." The Los Angeles Daily Journal reported, " Although Osborne said proving bad faith was rather cut and dry, he believes getting the special-fraud verdict was sealed by the training document."

While not quite as significant, Osborne's personal achievements before becoming a lawyer also unique. Osborne said that while he was in high school, he read the short story, " The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," and it has significant impression upon him. Unlike the anti-hero in the story, Osborne was inspired to fulfill his fantasies. And, those personal experience are like those of any other CAALA member. Osborne became a lumberjack in Oregon, then a taxi cab driver in New York City, followed by a New York State patrolmen and the video news producer. Finally, he fulfilled his fantasy to become an airline pilot. He worked at all of these unusual jobs before he chose to enter law school and began a career as an attorney representing plaintiffs in civil tort cases.

When not practicing law, Osborne is a national referee for the American Youth Soccer Organization; and the area referee administrator for AYSO in the San Fernando Valley.

Osborne is a father of three daughters, Rachel, Leah and Colleen, and says they are his most important responsibility and greatest joy. "Without them," says Osborne, "my life would not be the same."

As a CAALA member, Osborne was one of the charter members of the CAL LA listserv and is always done his best to support other listserv members. Many times he is served as an unofficial mediator for CAALA member disputes with other members. Because of his accomplishments in the courtroom, his dedication to CAALA and its members, and his unique personal background, Jim Osborne is recognized as Consumer Attorneys Member-of-the-Month.

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