Graham Esdale is a principal in Beasley Allen Law Firm’s Personal Injury and Product Liability Section. His primary responsibilities have been in the areas of products liability and workplace injuries. He has been involved in the firm’s tobacco litigation and other notable cases, including a $114.5 million verdict against a bucket truck manufacturer and a $3 million verdict against Alabama Power Company involving an electrical accident. Graham was also a leader in the investigation of claims of personal injury and death related to Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA).
Graham was one of the first attorneys in the country to file a lawsuit against Toyota alleging that SUA caused a personal injury and wrongful death. In January of 2010, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. announced the suspension of manufacturing and sales of many of its bestselling models after a series of safety recalls involving millions of vehicles. The recalls involved both Toyota and Lexus vehicles, and mainly had to do with SUA. Graham had been actively investigating SUA problems for about two years prior to the first recall, which happened in September 2009. Graham traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the congressional hearings.
In October 2013, an Oklahoma City jury in Bookout, et al v. Toyota found that electronic throttle defects were to blame for a 2007 crash that killed one woman and left another seriously injured. The jury awarded $1.5 million to the families of both women, who were riding in a 2005 Camry when it suddenly accelerated off an Oklahoma highway and careened into an embankment. Before the jury could deliberate on punitive damages, Toyota reached a separate confidential settlement with the families. The New York Times notes the verdict “most likely spurred Toyota to pursue a broad settlement of its remaining cases.” In March 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Toyota would pay fines of $1.2 billion to settle a four-year criminal investigation into its handling of sudden unintended acceleration defects in millions of its vehicles.
Awards and Ratings
Graham has been named one of America’s “Best Lawyers” and “Super Lawyers” for consecutive years. He also was selected as one of the 2014-2015 Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America. Lawyers included in the Lawdragon 500 guides are selected from a combination of editorial research by Lawdragon staff, submissions from law firms, and an online nomination form that allows visitors to recommend and comment on their favorite lawyers. In addition, he has received was named one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators and received a lifetime achievement award from America’s Top 100 Attorneys. Only 100 attorneys in each state are selected for Lifetime Achievement Membership among America’s Top 100 Attorneys. The honor is based on the candidate’s professional experience, lifetime achievements, significant case results, peer reputation, and community impact.
Graham was selected as a finalist for Public Justice’s 2014 Trial Lawyer of the Year, along with the other members of the trial team, for his work in the verdict against Toyota in Oklahoma. This award is given by Public Justice to the lawyer or trial team making the most outstanding contribution to the public through precedent-setting litigation in the last year. He also was named Beasley Allen’s 2014 Products Liability Section Lawyer of the Year.
Graham was elected to the Alabama Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), which is a distinct recognition and privilege. ABOTA is a national organization comprised of both plaintiff and defense trial attorneys and is committed to the preservation of trial by jury. To be eligible for consideration, a lawyer must have tried at least 20 civil jury trials to verdict as lead counsel. Graham is a member and fellow of ABOTA and serves as national board representative.
In addition, he is a member of the Federal Bar Association and the State Bar Judicial Liaison Committee.
After obtaining his B.S. degree in marketing from Auburn University before going to law school, Graham attended the University of Alabama School of Law and graduated in 1989. He started his law career with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, where he was involved in over 150 trials. He was a member of the homicide and sex abuse division, which focused on the prosecution of these complicated and sensitive crimes.
Graham left the District Attorney’s Office in 1994 to enter civil practice where he chose to focus on products liability and workplace litigation. Graham left Birmingham in the fall of 1996 to join Beasley Allen.
He is married to the former Leigh Ann Hibbett of Florence, Alabama, and they have two children, Whitney and Robert. Whitney is a physician assistant in cardiovascular surgery at Huntsville Hospital. Robert is a 16-year-old music lover. He apparently has the goal of obtaining every musical instrument known to man. His latest requests are for a harp and a cowbell.