Engineering background helps with product liability

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorney Bob Graziani recalls a case involving a horrific rear-end accident on I-95 in Miami that resulted in three deaths and a severely burned passenger. “The technical and medical issues addressed during the discovery of this products case were both challenging and intriguing,” he says. “We were eventually successful in convincing the jury that due to the extremely high closing speed, no fuel tank at the time could withstand such an impact without rupture.”

A lawyer with Howard & Howard Attorneys in Royal Oak, Graziani has specialized in the handling and management of complex insurance coverage and products liability cases for more than 20 years.

His engineering background provides an excellent foundation in defending product liability cases, especially in the automotive and related industries.

“These product cases were always interesting from a technical aspect with respect to liability and proximate cause,” he says.

The Detroit native, who grew up in Harper Woods and attended Austin Catholic Prep School in Detroit, obtained his engineering degree from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) in Flint.

“Their co-op program of alternating six weeks of school with six weeks of work at your sponsored GM division, was an excellent way to obtain an education and ‘on the job’ experience,” he says.

Not only was the co-op program instrumental in developing invaluable problem-solving skills and introducing Graziani to all phases of the manufacturing process, a GMI business law class triggered his fascination with the law – and he went on to earn his juris doctor from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

 After the inception of tort reform, and looking for a way to expand his legal expertise, Graziani began representing a number of insurers involving complex coverage issues in professional liability, general liability, first party property and employer liability cases.

A member of the State Bar of Michigan, Alternative Dispute Resolution Section; State Bar of Ohio; Eastern District of Michigan Chapter of the Federal Bar Association; Society of Automotive Engineers; Defense Research Institute; Michigan Defense Trial Counsel; and the Italian American Bar Association, Graziani’s work has afforded opportunities to practice with attorneys throughout the United States, Canada, and in London, England.

A demanding and complex litigation case in Wayne County Circuit Court concerning a breast implant involved numerous product liability and insurance coverage issues. As a result of the number of underlying personal injury cases at issue in countries around the world, and the number of insurers providing coverage over a multi-year period of time, the matter took several years to finally resolve due to myriad factual and legal coverage issues.

“There were around 100 insurer defendants represented by over 50 separate law firms,” Graziani says. “I had the opportunity to work with very talented lawyers from law firms throughout the United States, many of which I still have contact with to this day.”

Graziani also counsels Tier 1 and 2 companies with respect to automotive related issues, contracts and business litigation. 

“It has been encouraging to see the resurgence of the automotive and related industries as they greatly benefit the Metro Detroit area,” he says. “Coupled with the amount of vibrant activity ongoing in the City of Detroit, with the number of new businesses, restaurants, and real estate being purchased and restored, Detroit is on its way to a well-earned comeback. Further needs will continue to be addressed by business and community leaders – as we all know, need is a prime driver of innovation.  We all look forward to a very promising future.” 

Named a Michigan Super Lawyer, DBusiness Top Lawyer, and Michigan Leading Lawyer with an AV Peer Review Rating from Martindale Hubbell, Graziani also has acted as a case evaluator and mediator over the years. “Being well prepared, identifying the issues, being a good listener, and treating each party respectfully, are effective traits for a mediator to successfully resolve disputes,” he says.  “Depending on the nature of the dispute, certain mediators are more effective, employing unique techniques in an effort to resolve each matter. It’s important that all parties feel they’ve had an opportunity to be heard and treated fairly.”

Graziani and his wife Debbie live in Grosse Pointe Shores, where he served on the Planning Commission for a number of years, then as a trustee and clerk for Grosse Pointe Township, followed by village clerk, and eventually as councilman.

“I would encourage those in our profession to participate in local government,” he says. “During these 18 years, it was a great learning experience – I met a lot of interesting and knowledgeable people along the way, and was determined to find ways to resolve the typical issues facing every community, especially during the years when the tax basis for real estate was diminishing. It was very rewarding and a privilege to have served.”

In his leisure time, Graziani enjoys tennis, golf and skiing, and has long been involved with Special Olympics – coaching, fund-raising, and attending special events.

“To see how these young adults, at such diverse levels of ability, compete at 110 percent, while garnering self-esteem in the process, and the smiles from each when receiving his or her medal at the conclusion of each event, is very gratifying,” he says. “If you think you have had a bad week, attend a Special Olympics event and your attitude will change significantly.”