ONCE A VICTIM, NOW SHE FIGHTS FOR OTHERS IN COURT
New York Law Journal, January 24, 2000
MADELINE Bryer knows how hard it can be to find an attorney
knowledgeable about crime victims' legal issues and sensitive to
their emotional needs.
Twenty years ago, Ms. Bryer, now a plaintiff's negligence attorney
in Manhattan who concentrates on advocacy for crime victims, was
sexually assaulted by a superintendent at her work place. Along with
a criminal suit, Ms. Bryer, then a social worker, searched long and
hard to find a good attorney to handle a civil suit against Columbia
Presbyterian Hospital, her employer.
"It was a very traumatic experience. I had trouble finding an
attorney who could understand that I was functioning but that I
suffered an injury," said Ms. Bryer, who after the assault became
active in organizations advocating for victims' rights, such as the
Downstate Coalition for Crime Victims.
With the money recovered from her civil suit, Ms. Bryer enrolled in
Brooklyn Law School, intent on using her personal experience, her
social work skills and the legal system to advocate for crime
victims in the courtrooms and the Legislature.
After graduating from law school in 1986, and working for a couple
of years for attorney Philip M. Damashek, and then for Wilson, Elser,
Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, she struck out on her own to focus on
recovering money for crime victims.
Even though Ms. Bryer said that money does not get rid of the pain,
money does give victims new opportunities. "I was only able to go to
law school when I realized that I was coming into money from a civil
suit. I was able to get an education that was not available to me
before," said Ms. Bryer. "That's the whole civil system. It doesn't
replace or repair what happens, but it somehow gives you something
that you didn't have before that hopefully can add something to your
life," she said.
She said that all of her experiences helped her better understand
her clients. For example, Ms. Bryer freely tells-her clients that
she too was sexually assaulted, and even has it written on her
resume. "I am more understanding of what their fears are," she said.
"Clients see that I survived, and it gives them hope."
Now 13 years after starting her own practice, Ms. Bryer has won
large verdicts for victims of rape, lead poisoning and assault, at
least six of which were over $1 million dollars. She recovered one
of her larger sums in 1996 from New York City, when she won $2.4
million for four children who were injured due to lead exposure
caused, in part, from the City's delay in making repairs.
Currently, she is representing a woman against her employer, Dunkin'
Donuts. The suit alleges that Dunkin' Donuts created an unsafe
workplace by allowing her client, who was raped, to work in the
middle of the night, alone and unprotected.
And, in a highly publicized case, Ms. Bryer is representing a gay
banker who is suing his former employer, Dresdner Bank, which is
based in Germany. The Harvard- and Yale-educated banker, groomed to
become a vice-president in the bank's North American branch, alleged
that he was fired because of his sexual orientation.
Ms. Bryer, who has multiple inkwells decorating her simple, private
office across from Grand Central Terminal, said that she takes on
only large cases. Although her 25 current cases she got by word of
mouth, that was not always the case.
For the first four years as a solo practitioner, Ms. Bryer
struggled. She advertised to no avail in small newspapers, worked on
her own cases at night and on the weekends, and earned money from
handling 18-B cases. She worked out of her two-room studio in
Manhattan, while renting a space on Wall Street for client meetings.
One of her first cases was against a nightclub, The Tunnel, where a
young woman claimed she was raped in the club's unisex, multi-stall
bathroom. In 1992, Ms. Bryer settled with The Tunnel for $1 million.
She said that it took her four years "just to round that corner,"
and to finally have a profitable business. Now Ms. Bryer no longer
works in her apartment, and she has two full-time associates who
help prepare her cases.
Although some might say she is merely seeking deep pockets when she
names as defendants the City or other responsible third parties, she
would disagree. Ms. Bryer referred to her work, in an editorial to
the New York Law Journal last November, as "a matter of proper
lawyering on the part of plaintiff's counsel.... [For example,] if
the City is negligent in the discharge of voluntarily assumed
obligation, an attorney would be less than vigilant if the City were
not named as a defendant."
Ms. Bryer, a first-generation American whose Austrian-born parents
fled Hitler, also advocates and lobbies for crime victims outside of
her practice. Her walls are adorned with newspaper articles that
discuss her cases and a 1990 certificate of appreciation for her
role on the Mayor's Task Force Against Sexual Assault from 1986 to
"It's challenging work because you are trying to obtain justice not
only for your client but also trying to obtain justice for those who
follow," said Ms. Bryer. "Negligence and discrimination, these are
just words, but they really can devastate a person's life."
<< Back to News Stories
Attorney Advertising. Prior
Results Do Not Guarantee a Similar Outcome.
Copyright © – Madeline Lee Bryer, P.C. – Attorneys at Law
Serious Injuries, Personal Injury Lawyers, Victims Rights,
Burn Injuries, Lead Poisoning, Burn Injuries, Scald Burns, Violent Crime, Third Degree Burns, Car Accidents,
Wrongful Death, Rape, Sexual Assault, Faulty Designed Products, Medical Malpractice
Consultwebs.com, Inc. – Law webs for law firms, lawyers