Two La Verne College of Law Board of Visitors members received awards in January at a gala for the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest association of plaintiff attorneys.

BidartMichael J. Bidart, a managing partner with Shernoff Bidart Echeverria Bentley, LLP in Claremont and a member of University of La Verne’s Board of Trustees, received the Trial Lawyer of the Year award for being a prominent jurist who has made significant contributions to protecting the civil justice system.

“Being honored by my peers at Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA) was a wonderful experience because these are people I grew up with in the law, so to speak. I’ve become friends with them, practiced law alongside them, and to have them honor me as 2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year is humbling,” Bidart said. “Making the award even more special is that a tremendous young attorney at our firm, Danica Crittenden, was also honored.”

Bidart is a preeminent consumer attorney who has made a major impact on the nation’s healthcare system. Leading the firm’s HMO Litigation and Property/Casualty Departments, he has developed the firm’s health insurance practice by successfully prosecuting bad faith disputes against insurers and HMOs.

His landmark $120.5 million verdict against Aetna in 1999 was the largest jury verdict ever rendered against an HMO.

CrittendenDanica Crittenden, who received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of La Verne in 2010, earned the Rising Star Award at the event in Beverly Hills. The award recognizes an association member who has practiced law less than 10 years, and is based on case success. Crittenden considered it an honor to be awarded, particularly on the same evening as Bidart, her mentor.

“Working with tremendous lawyers and clients is already reward enough, and to have been recognized in this way at this time is just unimaginable,” she said.

Crittenden was part of a trial team that achieved a $28.2 million medical malpractice jury verdict against Kaiser Permanente Medical Center for its treatment of a teen girl suffering from bone cancer.

Two other members of the College of Law’s Board of Visitors have also received recent accolades.

The Consumer Attorneys of California named Gregory G. Rizio Consumer Attorney of the Year in November at the organization’s 54th annual convention in San Francisco. He was honored for his work helping a Temecula couple gain resources to care for their son who requires lifetime care due to severe car crash injuries. Rizio is a senior partner with Rizio & Nelson in Riverside.

William Shapiro, partner with Robinson Calcagnie Robinson Shapiro Davis, Inc., was named Trial Lawyer of the Year by the California Chapters of the American Board of Trial Advocate in 2015. It is considered the highest honor a California trial lawyer can receive, and recognizes excellence in advocacy, a distinguished career, and a reputation for civility, ethics, and fair play.

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