Over her career as a trial lawyer, Mary Alexander has dedicated her practice to helping individuals injured by the negligent, preventable actions of others. Her work has obtained answers and accountability for victims with nowhere else to turn, and she continues to handle some of California’s most high-profile cases.
Most recently, Alexander and her firm were appointed lead counsel for the plaintiffs in litigation stemming from a deadly warehouse fire that claimed the lives of 36 people in early December 2016. Alexander led the first lawsuits in the case, and is now representing 10 families who lost loved ones in the blaze.
“This was the deadliest building fire in the United States in more than a decade, and it could easily have been prevented,” Alexander says, “had it not been for the irresponsible actions and inactions of the building owner, the chief tenant, the people associated with the music event taking place that evening, and others.”
On the night of the fire, the Oakland warehouse, known as Ghost Ship, was hosting a music event. As many as 100 people were in the building, and when the fire broke out, their escape was impeded by a lack of clear exits: the 10,000-square-foot, two-story building had been illegally converted into a maze of makeshift rooms and stairways.
“The warehouse didn’t have smoke alarms, warning lights, exit signs, or fire sprinklers, and its configuration prevented those inside from getting out in time,” Alexander explains. “To have this happen is gross negligence of the highest degree, and we are committed to seeing justice done for the victims’ families.”
Alexander has a history of significant recoveries, including a recent $1.15 billion judgment in a public-nuisance lawsuit against companies Sherwin-Williams, NL Industries, and ConAgra for promoting the use of lead-based paint in homes. Alexander served as co-lead counsel in the case, representing 10 cities and counties in California that sought the removal of lead-based paint from millions of homes.
Following this result, Alexander and the team were honored by the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association and the Public Justice Foundation, with both organizations recognizing them as “Trial Lawyer of the Year.” In reflecting on this success, Alexander, who has also been inducted into the California State Bar Litigation Section’s Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame, credits her unique technical background.
“Prior to becoming a lawyer, I spent 10 years working in environmental and occupational health research, and I use that scientific knowledge every day in my practice,” she says. “It ensures that my clients are well represented in these complex matters, whether the case involves the toxic effects of lead-based paint, fire cause and analysis, or any other public health issue.”