Just causes: Detroit attorney goes to bat for victims of police brutality

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorney Brian McKeen, founder and managing partner of McKeen & Associates in Detroit, has long been a leader in the field of medical malpractice law—but for a large part of his career, he has also handled a fair share of civil right cases.

“This part of our practice is expanding due to the hire of some key people, such as attorney Paul Broschay, a former police officer, with deep expertise in the area of police brutality,” McKeen says.

“We’ve taken numerous cases under 42USC1983, police brutality, such as a case of a man in southwest Michigan who was beaten by police, with no provocation. In fact, there was no reason the police even pulled him over or apprehended him—he was essentially ‘driving while black,’” McKeen adds.

“We’ve done many cases for prisoners who suffered under the care of prison doctors who were negligent to their medical needs. It’s important for us to represent and advocate for those who do not have voice.”

Medical malpractice remains and will always remain an important part of his practice for McKeen, who has been practicing law since 1982.

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing more—not less—of medical malpractice cases because of the lack of hospital administration oversight,” he says.

These lawsuits have become much more difficult because of the procedural hoops attorneys have to jump through, including severe restrictions on expert witness qualifications, resulting in the need for several witnesses instead of just one.

As a result, McKeen notes, fewer lawyers are willing to take on the risks, expense and workload. But it’s work he and his colleagues find immensely satisfying, with the goal of achieving full recompense for clients.

Birth trauma cases are particularly satisfying, when a successful outcome of financial recovery means parents can get more therapies for their child, can afford to build barrier-free homes, and buy special equipment for transportation. While most of McKeen & Associates cases are based in Michigan, the firm takes cases across the nation. 

The firm, according to McKeen, has generated many of the top verdicts in Michigan history, including securing the state’s largest medical malpractice verdict on record in 2001, when jury rendered a verdict award of $55 million in the case of Hall v. Henry Ford Health System after a 5-year-old girl suffered severe brain damage from improper treatment for respiratory arrest.

The firm also topped all Michigan verdict awards in 2002, with an award of $22.5 million in the case of Blazo v. McLaren Regional Medical Center, et al; in 2006, with an award of $16 million in the case of Lowe v. Henry Ford Health System; in 2007, with an award of $35 million in the case of Oppenheim v. Aeneas C. Guiney; and in 2016, with an award of $19 million in the case of Sabrie Nash v. Children’s Hospital of Michigan; and a record-setting verdict of $130 million in 2018 and subsequent $35 million settlement in 2019 in the case of Tran v. Beaumont Health System.

“I wish we could go back in time to before the destruction of the tort system with damage caps,” McKeen says.

Inducted to The Inner Circle of Advocates in Philadelphia in 2009, and named among Top Attorneys in Michigan as published by The New York Times in September 2012, the Cooley Law School alumnus currently serves on the executive boards of the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ) – where he served as president in 2017 – and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). He formerly served as served as chair of the AAJ Professional Negligence Section, Medical Negligence Exchange Group and Birth Trauma Litigation Group (BTLG). In 2013, he was honored with the Dan Cullan Memorial Award from the AAJ Birth Trauma Litigation Group.

The Bloomfield Hills resident, whose favorite law-related movie is “The Verdict,” with Paul Newman, routinely represents victims of some of the world’s worst physician practices including former hematologist/oncologist Farid Fata, who committed one of the largest health care frauds in U.S. history; neurologist Yasser Awaad, accused of falsely diagnosing epilepsy in hundreds of children; John Verbovsky, a doctor who traded prescription drugs for sex; and convicted serial child molester Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics national team doctor and osteopathic physician at Michigan State University.

Away from his work, McKeen relaxes by hitting the links. An avid golfer whose dream is to hit every green in regulation, he enjoys playing tournament golf. Several years ago he qualified for the Golf Association of Michigan Championship and continues to hold a single-digit handicap.




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