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116 – Michael Bonamarte – What Does It Take to Win a $20 Million Verdict?

Michael Bonamarte wasn’t always set on being a trial lawyer. In college, he started out on a pre-med track, eventually discovering a passion for the law. Now, he runs a successful firm with 20 years under his belt — and a $20 million verdict. What does it take to reach this level of success?

Throughout his career, Michael soaked up knowledge from the greats in his industry. From mentors and partners to books and other educational tools, Michael made sure he was learning everything he could so that he could go to bat for his clients. Because of this passion and drive, Michael won a plethora of large cases. 

One of these large cases received a successful $20 million verdict. This multimillion-dollar case covered a difficult birthing complication, where the baby, AJ, was diagnosed with fetal growth restriction at 40 weeks. Significant changes in the fetal heart rate strips were not brought to the attending doctor’s attention, and ultimately, AJ suffered brain damage. Although he should live a regular life expectancy, AJ’s neurological function is limited and he will likely need custodial care for the rest of his life.

Due to the technicalities of the case, Michael knew he needed support from great experts. With the help of both law firm partners and medical experts, Michael was able to solidify the win. The medical experts could explain the points that matter and simplify complex terms for the jury. The defense, who argued that fetal growth restriction was caused by a genetic growth issue, didn’t have the necessary experts to strengthen their argument, which contributed to Michael and his team’s big win. 

Throughout his career, Michael has had plenty of multimillion-dollar wins. Now, as a managing partner of his firm, Michael is helping other lawyers find that same success. By investing in the firm, making himself accessible to younger lawyers, and sharing all of his insight and knowledge, Michael is helping shape the next generation of lawyers winning million-dollar verdicts.

In episode 116, Michael Cowen is in conversation with Michael Bonamarte, Managing Partner at Levin & Perconti, to get all of the details on the $20 million verdict. Michael walks through the big case, from the opening statement and jury selection to the closing arguments and ultimate win. On this insightful episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Michael also discusses what it’s like running a law firm, how he built up his skills early in his career, and the best ways to bounce back from a loss.    

Featured Guest

Name: Michael Bonamarte

About: Michael Bonamarte, IV is a nationally recognized trial attorney who has achieved outstanding results in a number of high-profile nursing home, wrongful death, birth injury, and medical malpractice cases. He is committed to protecting and vindicating the rights of people who have been injured due to systemic flaws and corporations choosing profits over people. Michael is currently a Managing Partner at Levin & Perconti law firm in Chicago, Illinois.

Company: Levin & Perconti

Connect: Email | 312-516-1129

Key Points

Top takeaways from this episode 

  • You have to be a sponge to develop your skills as a trial lawyer. Michael Bonamarte has a passion for representing people who have been wronged. But passion doesn’t always mean you have the skills to succeed. So how do you develop your skills? According to Michael, you have to be a sponge and soak up all of the insight from other lawyers, mentors, and resources in your field.   
  • A strong argument requires the right experts. Especially if you’re working on a technical case, you need the right experts to guide you through complex terms and concepts. Additionally, experts serve as credible sources to support your argument during trial.  
  • Give the case your all. No matter how great of a lawyer you are, you won’t win every case. In order to bounce back from the losses, it’s important that you give every case your all. When you know that you did everything you could for a client, a loss is somewhat easier to bear. 

Episode Highlights 

[02:23] The beginning of an outstanding law career: Michael Bonamarte talks about his journey in the field of law and his work at Levin & Perconti.

[06:23] Developing trial skills: Michael shares how he went from a pre-med path in college to becoming a successful trial lawyer. He also discusses the people who have influenced his law career and how he stays educated.

[08:45] The $20 million verdict: Michael gets into the details of a difficult birthing case, sharing the complications of the birth and why it was such a big case. 

[18:44] The defense of the case: According to Michael, there was an overwhelming number of expert witnesses for the case. But the defense, who argued that fetal growth restriction was caused by a genetic growth issue in this case, didn’t have the necessary experts to strengthen their argument.

[22:33] Michael’s strategy for winning the case: Because the case was extremely technical, Michael attributes much of his success to his partners and medical experts. These experts could simplify things for the jury, explain the relevant case points, and ensure that all information was accurate. 

[27:05] The jury selection: Michael walks through the jury selection process specific to the case, how he set up a foundation of mutual respect, and how he exposed bias through a lighthearted example (deep dish or thin crust pizza?). 

[36:06] The opening statement: Michael’s partner, Margaret, did the opening statement, and they chose to start off with the base premise of a healthy birth. They presented what should happen during a healthy birth, and then they presented plan B — what happens when that first scenario isn’t possible.  

[44:47] Why presentation matters: Michael talks about a lung cancer case with a 40-year smoker and how he presented questions and information to win the case. He also shares the story of the shocking cross-examination during the birthing case and how he successfully delivered the closing argument.

[53:04] Getting the jury to fight for you: During the closing argument, Michael tapped into his emotions and personal experience of having a daughter the same age as AJ, the baby in the birth defect trial. Michael connected with the jury — especially the parents who may empathize with AJ’s family.

[58:49] What it takes to be a managing lawyer: As a managing lawyer, Michael often comes in at the end of the case after others have worked up the case. In order to get great workup done by others, Michael focuses on the bigger picture, utilizes the unique skills of the firm’s lawyers, and makes himself accessible to younger lawyers.   

[1:05:58] Bouncing back after a loss: For Michael, it’s easier to come back from a loss knowing that you did everything possible for your client. As long as you put everything out there and give it your best shot, you’ll feel more positive about the situation — even if the outcome isn’t what you wanted.

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In this popular and award-winning podcast for trial lawyers, noteworthy author, sought-after speaker, and renowned trial lawyer, Michael Cowen explores critical topics distinctive to the legal profession with some of the biggest names in the industry – specifically focused on developing extremely efficient law practices, securing a competitive edge in the industry, and wildly excelling in the courtroom.

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