Joe Jamail, who is considered one of the greatest trial lawyers in American history, died early Wednesday in Houston, the Austin American Statesman reports.
The Texas icon known for his swearing and swash-buckling style died from complications from pneumonia. He was 90 years old.
Jamail was best known as America’s “King of Torts” and his courtroom reputation earned him respect, not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars.
Joseph D. Jamail Jr. was born in 1925 in Houston and graduated from St. Thomas High School. Rather than go into the family grocery business, he went to the University of Texas to study pre-med, but poor grades led him to join the Marines where he served in the Pacific during World War II.
In 1946, Jamail returned to UT, but this time to study pre-law.
Law degree in hand, Jamail went to work for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office before forming his own personal injury law firm in 1955.
In 1962, he won a first-of-its-kind more than half-million dollar judgment for a client who lost his hands and foot to a faulty electrical box. Jamail made the Guinness Book of World Records for a 1978 $6.8 million settlement, the largest in history, against Remington Arms after a client was killed in a hunting accident. The judgment resulted in the recall of 200,000 rifles. Lawsuits against the drug Parlodel and Honda ATVs also resulted in huge settlements and product recalls.
Most famously, in 1985, Jamail won an $11 billion verdict for Pennzoil in its suit against Texaco. The payout ended up at $3 billion, but Jamail made nearly $400 million on the case.
Representing workers killed in numerous plant explosions, most recently the BP Refinery, kept Jamail’s net worth in the hundreds of millions, keeping him on Forbes’ list of top earners year after year.
Jamail and his wife, Lee, who passed away in 2007, donated generously to their beloved UT and the Jamail name can be seen on various buildings on campus.
The Jamails also gave to Rice University and other Houston charities. In 2008, a downtown public skate park, was named in their honor.
Having fought for decades for both the big and little guy, Jamail remained focused, passionate and always down to Earth.