Lifetime Achievement Award
Terry Tadysak didn’t know what awaited him when he stepped into Bob Habush’s office.
“I walked into that interview as just an ordinary guy. And I got the unique privilege, as an ordinary guy, to do some very extraordinary things,” said Tadysak, chief investigator at Habush Habush & Rottier in Milwaukee.
Nearly 40 years later, Tadysak has investigated some of the biggest and most influential cases of our time, from the infamous Miller Park crane accident to countless product-liability cases. In all of them, he has kept his eye on not only what went wrong, but how to keep the worst from happening again.
“I’m a fact-finder,” Tadysak explained. “It’s my responsibility to figure out whodunit. We’re an injury law firm, so were investigating accidents where people are either injured or killed. And the question is: How did that happen? What caused their injuries?”
Once he finds the answers, Tadysak certainly could leave it at that.
But, he said, he’s never been content to move on a case at that point.
“There’s that old expression, I think the old crimes shows coined it: ‘Save a person, save the world.’ If we can save people the pain and injury that other clients have gone through, at the end of the day, it’s a really good feeling.”
So, since he began at Habush in 1977 — a third act for Tadysak, who worked as a police officer and a Milwaukee County District Attorney’s witness-victim specialist before becoming an investigator – Tadysak has made it his mission to help “build a better mouse trap.”
For him that means not only collecting evidence, examining accident scenes and interviewing witnesses – he spoke to about 400 people in the Miller Park case. He also works with engineers to improve products that had failed.
Thanks to Tadysak, camp stoves are safer (his investigation into exploding fuel tanks led to improvements that prevent such accidents), 2-liter soda bottles are less likely to shoot caps into people’s faces (Tadysak and his team suggested adding threads inside the caps to release pressure slowly, rather than all at once, resulting in fewer accidents), and children are safer in their high chairs (Tadysak’s inquiry into high-chair-related deaths led to design improvements that prevent little ones from slipping under their trays).
It wasn’t in his job description. But, Tadysak said, it was absolutely his responsibility to help improve the products he investigated.
“Lots of folks don’t realize the benefit to the mass of mankind that results from forcing the manufacturers to look more closely at safety,” Tadysak said. “But, when you’re involved in providing suggestions or design or product changes, you know will significantly reduce the likelihood of injury or death. Knowing that you played some role in preventing other people from being catastrophically injured — it gives you a much deeper sense of gratification. It’s been very rewarding.”