Pennzoil Case Proves Jamail Deserves Title `King of Torts' / `He's All-Universe Now'

Article excerpt

HOUSTON - Attorney Joseph D. Jamail Jr., who engineered Pennzoil Co.'s landmark $10.53 billion judgment against Texaco Inc., has prove n before that he can turn the most complex corporate dispute into a winning personal, moral crusade.

Through the years Jamail has been known in Texas legal circles as ""the King of Torts,'' an informal title he earned with a string of multimillion-dollar awards in product liability cases.

After Nov. 19, Jamail was recognized as the man who beat Texaco by convincing a jury that the nation's third largest oil company wrongly foiled Pennzoil's planned merger with Getty Oil Co. in 1984.

""He's all-universe now,'' said criminal lawyer Richard ""Racehorse'' Haynes, noted for winning the acquittal of Fort Worth industrialist Cullen Davis on murder charges.

Jurors recommended a $10.53 billion judgment, the largest civil damage award in U.S. history, and a judge accepted the verdict last week. Jamail takes delight in pointing out that the award mounts at a rate of about $3 million a day, or $2,083 a minute.

Jamail, 60, said he took the Pennzoil case out of friendship for Chairman J. Hugh Liedtke and because it was a rare opportunity to make a point about managerial ethics.

He said he had not ruled out accepting similar cases.

""I would hate for corporate America to think they can continue its duplicitous double-dealing,'' said Jamail, a former Harris County district attorney who now runs a small law firm of eight lawyers, including his son, Joseph III.

The outcome of the Pennzoil-Texaco trial seemed ironic for a man who flunked a torts class his first year at University of Texas Law School.

Texaco said it would seek a new trial, and if denied, would appeal the verdict. …