Baylor Law Alumnus Named AAJ Most Outstanding Young Trial Lawyer of the Year

August 8, 2012

Baylor Law alumnus Matt Morrison, a partner at the Waco firm of Harrison Davis Steakley Morrison, P.C., received the F. Scott Baldwin Most Outstanding Young Trial Lawyer Award by the American Association for Justice (AAJ) at its annual convention in Chicago, Illinois on July 30, 2012. Jackalyn Olinger, the 2011-12 Chair of the New Lawyers Division of the AAJ, presented the award to Morrison.

The F. Scott Baldwin Award is given to a lawyer who has made a significant contribution to the New Lawyers Division of the AAJ and has attained one or more outstanding trial verdicts. It was established to honor and recognize F. Scott Baldwin of Marshall, Texas, a world-renowned trial lawyer, whose efforts have produced outstanding damage awards for injured victims and their families. The F. Scott Baldwin Award is presented in recognition of the legendary degree of excellence and compassion that Scott Baldwin has brought to the profession and the significant time he has invested in training, preparing and encouraging lawyers of the profession of trial law.

Morrison received the award following a year with a number of significant verdicts in favor of his clients. He primarily deals with litigation involving deaths and injuries caused by the prescription drug methadone. While methadone previously was used to treat heroin addiction, in the 1990s doctors began prescribing it as a pain killer.

"It is the number one narcotic prescription killer in the United States, with more than 4,000 deaths a year," Morrison said.

Morrison has represented plaintiffs in methadone cases in Texas, California, Utah, North and South Carolina, Maine and Nevada, to name a few. The two cases for which he was nominated for the Baldwin Award were Robinson v. Paul Ray Taylor, M.D. and Whalen v. Stephen Weisberger, D.O. The Robinson v. Taylor trial, which took place in Salt Lake, Utah, returned a verdict in the amount of $3,303,213 on behalf of Morrison's clients. This unanimous jury verdict is believed to be the largest medical malpractice verdict in the history of Davis County, Utah, and the only case in which a jury awarded punitive damages against the largest malpractice insurer in Utah. Less than a month later, Matt completed Whalen v. Weisberger, a two-week trial in Bangor, Maine. In that case, the plaintiff suffered a brain injury from a methadone overdose. After less than two hours of deliberation, the jury unanimously returned a verdict in the Plaintiff's favor in the amount of $1,912,934. Neither defendant was open to settlement offers prior to the verdict.

Morrison graduated from Baylor University with a bachelor of business administration degree and earned his J.D. from Baylor Law in 2001. While in law school, he served as the senior articles editor of the Baylor Law Review and president of the Harvey M. Richey Moot Court Society.

"Baylor Law taught me to be meticulous in my trial preparation and prepare for the worst case scenario. The preparation required in law school and Practice Court carries forward to my professional practice. As a result, I walk into court knowing that I am prepared to deal with any situation, which is a practice that pays dividends everyday," he said.

He has been repeatedly recognized by Texas Monthly magazine as a Rising Star in Texas law. Morrison's work protecting patient safety also extends to prophylactic measures. He was an invited lecturer to an Austin, Texas hospital residency program where he addressed the resident physicians regarding the mistakes he sees physicians make when prescribing narcotics to patients. He is a member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, American Association for Justice, the Waco-McLennan County Bar Association and the Waco-McLennan County Young Lawyers Association.

"We are so proud of Matt, but not really surprised because he was an excellent law student," said Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben. "At the law school, we teach students to be ready for anything and to expect anything unexpected while in trial. We believe this gives our students a confidence in themselves and sharpens their skills. Matt is a testament that Baylor Law's methods work in the real world of trial practice."

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