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Virginia’s Go To Lawyers for Medical Malpractice Law

Virginia Lawyers Weekly is pleased to present the next group of honorees in our program recognizing the leading lawyers in a particular field of law. In this edition, we showcase “Virginia’s Go To Lawyers” for medical malpractice law, from the plaintiffs’ and defense side.

The attorneys featured on the following pages were nominated by their colleagues and chosen by a panel from Lawyers Weekly. We expect some readers will argue there are some excellent lawyers who should have been included. Let us know! And please nominate them for future lists. Other practice areas for 2023 editions of Virginia’s Go To Lawyers will be announced soon.

Please join us in congratulating these outstanding medical malpractice law attorneys.

Kelly Caplan
Group Editor

Read each profile below, or click here to read the full section in a separate window.

Lynne Jones BlainLynne Jones Blain
Partner, Harman Claytor Corrigan Wellman
Glen Allen

Lynne Jones Blain has nearly 40 years of experience defending clients in the most complex medical cases, including claims of traumatic brain injury, medical malpractice, nursing home and long-term care, and products liability.

Active in the legal community, she is the former chair of the Defense Research Institute’s Products Liability Committee Seminar, and is a current member of the Lewis F. Powell Jr. Inns of Court.

Blain, a former professor at the University of Richmond T.C. Williams School of Law, is also a frequent and sought-after speaker on the lecture circuit. She has presented at a variety of conferences and seminars over the years, on issues including analysis of life-care plans; documentation in a nursing home setting; the ethics of the relationship between the defense counsel, the insured and the insurer; and numerous other topics.

Irving CantorIrving Cantor
Partner, Cantor Grana Buckner Bucci
Richmond

One could say — quite accurately — that Irving Cantor wrote the book on being an effective trial lawyer. In 2014, Cantor and Judge Samuel Johnston, wrote “The Art and Science of Mastering the Jury Trial,published by the Virginia Trial Lawyers Foundation.

Cantor parlayed his passion for appealing to juries into Jury Impressions, a consulting company that he founded to provide a variety of services to trial lawyers across the country, including arranging mock trials and focus groups.

Traumatic brain injury cases comprise the largest portion of Cantor’s practice. After a noteworthy four-decade career, a significant volume of his cases come from referrals from other trial lawyers, and numerous professionals in the field — including attorneys, judges, claims adjusters and physicians — have sought him out to represent them in their own injury cases.

Anthony CottoneAnthony Cottone
Attorney, Byrne Canaan Law
Richmond 

Anthony Cottone has established himself as one of the premier up-and-coming defense attorneys in medical malpractice litigation. He has already secured favorable results for a wide variety of specialized health care providers in courts across Virginia, and is a prolific speaker and writer on health law issues and risk management.

A demonstrated leader in the profession, Cottone chairs the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys Medical Malpractice Section and the Professional Liability Defense Federation’s Healthcare Malpractice Claims Committee. He has also contributed articles to numerous legal publications, including The Virginia Journal of Civil Litigation and the Professional Liability Defense Quarterly.

Prior to joining Byrne Canaan, Cottone practiced medical malpractice defense and general liability defense law in Pennsylvania.

Jason DavisJason Davis
Member, Kaufman & Canoles
Norfolk

Combining impeccable litigation skills with the wisdom of a trusted adviser, Jason Davis guides and defends complex medical malpractice cases for every major health system in Hampton Roads.

Davis is well known for his effective presentation style in front of a judge or jury, but he extends his expertise well beyond the courtroom walls. He routinely shares his experience and industry knowledge with healthcare providers on EMTALA and HIPAA-related matters, healthcare decisions, medical staff matters and other risk issues.

Davis is also a skilled leader. He is a member of the Kaufman & Canoles Executive Committee and co-chairs its Health Care Practice Group. Davis is also president of The Williams School, second vice president of The Norfolk Forum, and the immediate past president of the Norfolk SCPA.

Robert DonnellyRobert Donnelly
Senior Partner, Goodman Allen Donnelly
Glen Allen

“Nobody does it better.”

It’s hard to imagine more effusive praise than that — and that’s just how colleagues have described Robert Donnelly.

Known as a humble, self-effacing, well-prepared and knowledgeable attorney, Donnelly is recognized as one of the best-known and most respected medical malpractice defense attorneys in Virginia.

He has represented clients in more than 70 malpractice jury trials and is a leader in the profession. A founding member of Goodman Allen Donnelly and a fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America, Donnelly’s knowledge of both medicine and the law qualifies him to defend virtually any type of medical malpractice action.

Based in Richmond, he defends cases across the state, from Galax to the Eastern Shore. His years of experience have led him to build relationships with numerous experts in almost every field of medicine.

Lauren EllermanLauren Ellerman
Partner, Frith & Ellerman
Roanoke

Empathy is a hallmark of attorneys who successfully represent plaintiffs in medical malpractice matters, and Lauren Ellerman is a prime example. She demonstrates compassion both inside and outside her practice.

But lest anyone be lulled by her caring demeanor, Ellerman has demonstrated prowess as a tough litigator, earning the respect of her colleagues who practice on the other side of the courtroom.

Devoted to enhancing life in the Roanoke community, Ellerman volunteers for variety of local nonprofits, included as founder of Turn the Page, a nonprofit that aims to provide free libraries for every child in Roanoke.

Ellerman sometimes worries that she might care too much for her clients, but her colleagues disagree. They applaud her for her compassion; indeed, they believe she is a go-to lawyer as much for her heart as her legal skills.

Yvonne T. GriffinYvonne T. Griffin
Partner, Tucker Griffin Barnes
Charlottesville

Known as a whip-smart attorney with a 35-year track record of success, Yvonne T. Griffin can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to practice law.

Before going into private practice, she was assistant commonwealth’s attorney for two years in Hampton, where she tried hundreds of cases, and used that experience to develop her courtroom style.

Griffin also has an MBA and taught business law classes for the University of Maryland in South Korea during her husband’s two-year military assignment there.

The American Society of Legal Advocates selected Griffin as one the top litigation lawyers in Virginia, and the National Association of Distinguished Counsel named her as a member of the nation’s top 1 percent. She is also a past president of the Albemarle County Police Foundation and a trustee of the Blue Ridge National Multiple Sclerosis Chapter.

Powell M. “Nick” LeitchPowell M. “Nick” Leitch
Partner, Gentry Locke
Roanoke

With over 150 medical malpractice jury trials under his belt, Nick Leitch is known as a “walking encyclopedia” on the subject. In addition to his prolific jury experience, he has resolved hundreds of cases through mediation.

After three decades practicing on the defense side, Leitch switched to representing plaintiffs five years ago. As a defense attorney, his clients have included a wide variety of healthcare providers, giving him a vast knowledge of the field that he uses to benefit patients injured by substandard care.

Because Leitch understands first-hand the way malpractice laws work from both sides, he can provide rare and essential advice to his clients and an accurate evaluation of the merits of the case.

Colleagues laud his ability to speak to a jury and have referred to him as a “master” of medical malpractice law.

Gary Brooks MimsGary Brooks Mims
Managing Partner, Frei, Mims, Perushek
Fairfax

After amassing more than 20 years of medical malpractice defense work, Gary Brooks Mims now uses his wealth of experience in the field to benefit plaintiffs.

Mims began practiced law at the dawn of the ‘80s. While he has earned many accolades during his distinguished career, he feels his greatest reward is earning justice for his clients.

A former counsel to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics, Mims gives back to his profession through service on numerous boards and committees, including the Virginia Association of Trial Lawyers board of governors and as a master in The George Mason American Inn of Court.

Mims is also an adjunct instructor at the Antonin Scalia Law School, a lecturer at Washington & Lee University and a member of the Virginia State Bar Harry L. Carrico Professionalism Course, as well as a devoted mentor to students and other attorneys.

Michael E. OlszewskiMichael E. Olszewski
Partner, Hancock Daniel
Fairfax

Over the past 20 years, Michael Olszewski has steadily built a list of clients that any medical malpractice attorney would envy.

In addition to running his bustling practice, Olszewski heads the Hancock Daniel Appellate Advocacy group, representing clients before the Virginia Court of Appeals and the Virginia Supreme Court.

Colleagues recognize Olszewski for his thoughtful analysis and wise judgment, and for using the most advanced technologies and trial techniques available. He has built a reputation both in and out of the courtroom for his ability to provide clear and intelligent representation.

Olszewski says his success can be attributed to the empathy he feels for his clients.

“After all their years of study and training to become part of the healing profession, a malpractice claim can deal a heavy blow to a provider’s confidence,” he says.

Douglas E. PennerDouglas E. Penner
Attorney, Crenshaw, Ware & Martin
Norfolk

A prolific attorney with a unique background in hospital risk management and claims, Douglas E. Penner is well known for defending almost every medical specialty in malpractice lawsuits across Virginia.

Penner has earned a sterling reputation for his skill in representing healthcare providers before the Department of Health Professionals Licensing Boards. He also works with providers to analyze regulations and statutes to ensure compliance and mitigate liability exposure.

His board practice includes nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, pharmacists, physicians, dentists, nurses, and other healthcare providers in Virginia, and he has tried cases to verdict in courtrooms across the state. His varied experience in claims and risk management gives him an uncommon edge when it comes to understanding and counseling clients on risk prevention measures.

Elizabeth Guilbert PerrowElizabeth Guilbert Perrow
Attorney, Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black
Roanoke

Elizabeth Guilbert Perrow has been earning accolades for her advocacy and litigation skills from virtually the start of her legal career.

She benefited from early guidance from respected Roanoke defense attorney George Wooten, and over the years has continued to hone her craft by collaborating with some of the best attorneys in the business.

Just 10 years into her career as a practitioner, the Roanoke Bar Association named her “Young Lawyer of the Year.”

In 2012, she became the second-youngest attorney to serve as president of the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys, and only the second woman to serve in that role. She is also a Ted Dalton Inn Master of the Bench.

Victor O. Cardwell, president of the Virginia Bar Association, said of Perrow: “She maintains the highest professional and ethical standards of any lawyer I know.”

Scott PerryScott Perry
Partner, Breit Biniazan
Arlington

Relying on his penchant for challenging the status quo to raise the bar in trial practice, Scott Perry has racked up numerous multi-million-dollar verdicts and settlements.

Perry, a board-certified civil trial lawyer, has focused his practice on the most complicated medical malpractice cases across Virginia and beyond.

He believes trial lawyers and juries can and should help the system level the playing field between well-funded parties and those who have fewer economic resources. For years, he has spent significant time at the Virginia legislature advocating for changes in caps for medical malpractice suits, and continues to do so today.

Passionate about helping brain injury victims, Perry supports and volunteers with Brain Injury Services. In 2021, he joined the Inner Circle of Advocates, an exclusive membership of the top plaintiff trial lawyers in the country.

Shyrell A. ReedShyrell A. Reed
Partner, Moran Reeves Conn
Richmond

Shyrell A. Reed’s reputation for thoroughly preparing her clients for depositions and successfully resolving lawsuits or claims against them is second to none.

Known for her impressive 21st-century track record of success, Reed has secured a litany of favorable results arising from complaints filed in the Virginia Department of Health Professions. She has also successfully mediated or settled many cases to the providers’ advantage.

A recognized legal leader, Reed was named a fellow of the Leadership Counsel on Legal Diversity in 2018 and continues to participate as an alumnus of the program. She is also a mentor for the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Success.

Reed served as the first diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Moran Reeves Conn and is a former chair for the firm’s summer associate program.

Anthony RussellAnthony Russell
Partner, MichieHamlett
Roanoke

Described by one colleague as one of Virginia’s “top three” medical malpractice attorneys — and one he would recommend to his closest family members — Anthony Russell has a prolific record of success in the courtroom.

Russell has prevailed in over 100 jury trials, many of them resulting in seven-figure verdicts, including the largest verdict in Virginia in 2017.

He is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, a fellow in the Litigation Counsel of America, and a fellow of the American Bar Foundation.

In addition to his active legal practice, Russell is an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Russell’s passion for the law may be matched only by his passion for animals, especially his own four-legged “children”: Bernie, a black lab mix; Max, a jack russell terrier mix; Middie, a domestic shorthair cat; and Champ, a pit bull mix.

Jessica Hass SuraJessica Hass Sura
Partner, Blankenship & Keith
Fairfax

The proof of Jessica Hass Sura’s success is not just in the positive outcomes of her cases, but in the longstanding relationships she has forged with her clients, as evidenced by their ongoing satisfaction, trust and return business.

A former court clerk with expertise in local practice and procedure, Sura focuses on representing Northern Virginia’s major health care providers, including Virginia Hospital Center and Inova Health System, and their employees.

In 2010, Sura received the Trial Lawyers Association Trial Advocacy Award. In addition to her undergraduate and law degrees, Sura was a University of New Mexico Title VII Graduate fellow in 2004 and received a master’s degree in Latin American Studies.

Sura worked was a paralegal before entering law school at The College of William Mary.

C.J. Steuart Thomas IIIC.J. Steuart Thomas III
Attorney, TimberlakeSmith
Staunton

C.J. Steuart Thomas’ 36-year legal career encompasses a nearly unparalleled track record of defending hundreds of medical malpractices cases and trying over 60 cases to verdict.

As leader of TimberLake Smith’s renowned Medical Malpractice and Health Care Law Section, Thomas is well known for his handling of numerous high-profile representations, including that of the University of Virginia Hospital in a baby-switching case that ended up being tried before the Virginia Supreme Court.

A fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and a professor at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Thomas is also the past president of the Virginia Bar Association.

In 2017, he received the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association Civility and Professionalism Award. Thomas has also served many years on the board of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.

Derrick WalkerDerrick Walker
Partner, Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen
Richmond

With over 20 years of experience practicing medical malpractice law, Derrick Walker has leveraged his passion for representing injured individuals into a standout career as a plaintiffs’ attorney.

Walker makes it his mission to tip the scales in favor of his clients when faced with what he calls the David v. Goliath struggle between an injured person and an insurance company.

He serves on the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association board of governors and the American Association for Justice executive committee, and is an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia. He is also a frequent speaker on ethics and trial techniques at numerous conferences and seminars.

Colleagues specifically laud Walker’s preparation and attention to detail as unparalleled, and his litany of impressive case outcomes reflect his noteworthy preparedness.

Edward L. WeinerEdward L. Weiner
Founding Partner, Weiner, Spivey & Miller
Fairfax

From his firm’s Annual Law Day Weiner Roast to his Jazz4Justice event, Edward L. Weiner has marshalled the power of the Fairfax area bar and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Legal Aid pro bono and student scholarships.

In 2020, Gov. Ralph Northam named Weiner as Senior Citizen Volunteer of the Year for his work with Jazz4Justice and Law Day. (Weiner is said to have disputed the “senior” reference but was nevertheless proud of the award.)

As the founding partner of Weiner, Spivey & Miller, Weiner has demonstrated passionate advocacy for his clients for more than 40 years, having won numerous multi-million-dollar verdicts along the way and earned a reputation as a highly effective pre-trial negotiator.

Weiner served as the 77th president of the Virginia State Bar in 2015-2016 and is a member of the National Conference of Bar Presidents.

Chuck ZauzigChuck Zauzig
President, Nichols Zauzig
Woodbridge

Elvis. Denzel. Madonna. As they approach the zenith of their professions, some standouts’ surnames are simply no longer required. In Virginia’s medical malpractice circles, when someone mentions the name “Chuck,” most people know exactly who they’re talking about.

Chuck Zauzig’s passion and preparation for trial are legendary, and his lectures always draw a crowd. For example, colleagues recall the occasion on which his presentation on “Persuasive Demonstrative Exhibits” at an AAJ national convention attracted 2,000 attorneys.

Zauzig is the past president of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association and remains active on the advocacy front. He currently chairs the organization’s political action committee.

As Elliott Buckner, VTLA’s president in 2020, said, “It’s fun to watch Chuck walk into a room. You can feel the dynamics change and when he starts to talk, people listen.”