Steady hand: New OCBA president keeps 'good sense of perspective'

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The Anderson family took a trip to Comerica Park earlier this season to watch the Tigers do battle. Pictured (l-r) are Lorelei, Dave, Jacob, and Adam.

By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

It's a milestone year for Collins Einhorn Farrell, the Southfield firm that specializes in defense litigation.

The firm was founded 45 years ago, a time that David C. Anderson knows well.

"It was the year I was born," Anderson said with a smile, fresh with the knowledge that he has spent nearly half his life with the firm that frames itself in the context of "You don't just hire an attorney, you hire a team."

Anderson, who in June took over as president of the Oakland County Bar Association, nearly didn't make it to the starting line at Collins Einhorn Farrell some two decades ago. Then a student at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, Anderson applied for a summer clerkship with the firm. He was interviewed by Noreen Slank, a renowned appellate attorney who has served as chair of the Appellate Practice Section for the State Bar of Michigan.

"She asked me questions about a hypothetical case within a case, and I totally bombed," Anderson admitted. "Of course, she knew I was bombing, but for whatever reason she must have been somewhat impressed that I didn't get rattled and kept my composure even though things weren't going well with my explanation. I'm grateful to her for giving me a chance to prove myself. She easily could have ended my chance with the firm right there."

Now, 18 years after landing a job as an associate with the firm, Anderson has gained a reputation as a "true lawyer's lawyer," a compliment that comes from his primary mentor, Mike Sullivan, a past president of the OCBA and the co-managing partner at Collins Einhorn Farrell.

"In his specialty of lawyers' professional liability defense, Dave has become a real asset to his clients when their reputations are on the line in a malpractice case," Sullivan said. "Whether the right outcome is a dispositive motion to be won, or a jury to convince, Dave is the right man for the job.

"And he does all this while balancing a busy family two growing boys with full schedules of sports and other activities along with his OCBA responsibilities, and charity work on top of that," Sullivan added. "How does he do it? Hard work and a good sense of perspective. Nothing gets short shrift, and the most important things always come first."

In 1998, when Anderson joined the firm after graduating from UDM School of Law, Collins Einhorn had 16 attorneys, a number that has grown to more than 50 now.

"The firm's growth can be attributed to a team-oriented culture that places a premium on a total commitment to the needs of our clients," said Anderson, who graduated from the University of Michigan in 1994. "There are a number of very sharp attorneys here who are very willing to share their experience and knowledge for the good of a colleague."

Anderson remembers well his first case as a "first chair" attorney, a trial in which he represented a lawyer who was sued for recommending that a client invest in two real estate deals that ultimately went bad.

"She was at risk of losing two homes and facing financial ruin if the suit succeeded," Anderson explained. "As first chair, you quickly recognize it's all on you. There's nobody to shield you if the verdict goes the other way. Fortunately, after a two-week trial, we obtained a no-cause verdict."

Macomb County Circuit Judge Matt Switalski presided over the trial and denied each defense motion presented during the case, which ironically "turned out to be a good thing," according to Anderson.

"Since all of my motions had been denied, there was nothing to appeal once the verdict came in," Anderson noted.

Years later, Anderson defended a $63 million product liability claim that stemmed from the 2010 recall of 28 million boxes of cereal after consumers complained of a foul odor. The cereal producer issued the recall because of what the company called, "an uncharacteristic off-flavor and smell coming from the liner in the package" it said in the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

"They sued the liner manufacturer, which in turn sued the wax maker, who was our client," Anderson related. "They claimed that the faulty liners caused it to incur millions of dollars in damages, specifically the cost of the recall, loss sales, and the expense of investigating the problem.

"We were up against a 1,000-lawyer firm from Chicago, and we were defending reportedly the largest product liability case in Michigan history," Anderson noted. "Needless to say, the stakes were very high and I learned a lot about chemistry during the four years it took to resolve the case. Ultimately, our client was quite pleased with the resolution of the case, even though we can't comment on the specifics."

A Macomb County native, Anderson played basketball and football during high school, also running cross country and track.

"I still enjoy running, and my wife (Lorelei) and I ran the Chicago Marathon together before we started raising our family," Anderson said of the 2000 race through the streets of the Windy City. "I've also run the Bay Shore Marathon (in Traverse City) and try to carve out as much time as I can to stay in shape."

His father, Glenn, worked in circulation as a truck driver for The Detroit News most of his career after earning his degree in biology from Wayne State University. Anderson's mother, Valeria, was raised in southern Indiana and worked at an area hospital before retiring.

"My parents and my mother-in-law all live in Shelby Township, and they have been very active grandparents with our kids," said Anderson. "We are very fortunate that they live nearby."

Anderson and his wife, a U-M grad who works for Pfizer, have two sons, Adam, a sophomore at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Pontiac, and Jacob, an eighth-grader who is expected to follow in his brother's academic footsteps next year.

"Our boys keep us hopping with all of their interests and activities," said Anderson. "Adam is a real engineering type, who has a knack for taking things apart and putting them back together. He also is really into music, and enjoys playing guitar, piano and the ukulele. Jake has more of an aptitude for litigation, and I could definitely see him going into the law if that is a career that interests him. He is really into baseball and enjoyed a busy summer on the East Michigan Muskies, a travel team."

The "team" aspect of the OCBA has helped drive Anderson's involvement in the largest county bar association in the state.

"Mike Sullivan really encouraged me to get involved when I joined the firm, and I initially viewed it as a work-related task, but it quickly became much more than that," Anderson acknowledged. "The first few meetings as a member of the New Lawyers Committee were a bit awkward, but by the third meeting I recognized that I had friends at the table and was building relationships into a network of people."

Elected to the OCBA board in 2007 on his second try at office, Anderson rose through the ranks to become president in June, previously serving in the secretary, treasurer, vice president, and president-elect roles.

"And, believe it or not, he also has fun," said Sullivan of the new OCBA prez. "He recognizes that 'all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,' and he is sure to take the right amount of time away from it all to bond with family and friends. He has a great network of lawyers that he calls his friends, many of whom he met while coming up the ranks as a member and eventual chair of the New Lawyers Committee of the OCBA.

"Indeed, one of his best pals in the practice now serves as his counterpart as president of the Oakland County Bar Foundation, Kaveh Kashef," Sullivan said. "Dave and Kaveh have been friends for years, and have litigated with and against each other from time to time. They do it the 'old fashioned way' they fight hard for their client's position, but part friends at the end of the day. Go figure.

"Add to that he is a decent athlete, a marathoner, and cyclist often running or cycling for a cause, and you have a pretty well rounded package," said Sullivan of Anderson. "Sounds like someone who ought to be president of something."

Published: Thu, Sep 29, 2016

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