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Home / 2011 Leaders in the Law / Habush built personal injury powerhouse

Habush built personal injury powerhouse

Robert L. Habush – Habush Habush & Rottier

Lifetime Achievement Award

Photo by Kevin Harnack

Photo by Kevin Harnack

By Casey Laughman

Robert Habush had always planned to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an attorney.

But circumstances led to a dramatic deviation from one particular part of that plan.

“I had planned to be a tax lawyer or a business lawyer,” Habush said. “I had got an accounting degree and I was studying for my CPA exam and had taken some interviews in Chicago when my father suffered a heart attack.”

His father, a general practitioner in Milwaukee who had started his firm in 1930, needed help with his practice while recovering.

So Habush jumped in and quickly found a new career path as he was forced to quickly prepare for a number of automobile injury cases.

“For quite a while, I didn’t win any of them,” Habush said. “Little by little, I was able to start winning some of them. By the time he came back to the office in good health, I gave up my plans to become a business lawyer.”

That experience led to a string of successes in personal injury cases in the 1960s, including a $650,000 award for a sawyer who lost his legs in a sawmill accident and a $642,000 for two workers injured in a methanol explosion at a Firestone plant.

“At that time, none of the insurance companies or defense lawyers took me all that seriously,” Habush said. “They thought I was just lucky. So I rarely got offers that would even allow me to consider settlement.”

Defense counsel quickly learned to take him seriously. After a series of significant victories over the years, Habush Habush & Rottier has become known as a powerhouse firm that has won multiple multi-million dollar awards. Habush himself was the lead attorney in the state of Wisconsin’s settlement with tobacco companies.

But his most well-known case is also his personal favorite. After three workers were killed during the construction of Miller Park, Habush was hired to represent their widows, who had no interest in settling. The award of $99 million is considered one of the most significant outcomes  in the history of Wisconsin.

“It wasn’t that the negligence was hard to prove, because this supervisor was negligent as hell; it was the punitive damage aspect of it that was a challenge because there had never been a punitive damage case like that in Wisconsin history,” he said.

Soon to be 75, he still enjoys playing an active role at the firm.

“It’s still fun for me; I still love to teach; I still enjoy mentoring the other lawyers in my firm,” he said, “helping them with their cases and getting involved when asked.

“It’s still fun and I’m still pretty good at it.”

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