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DBR Lifetime Achievement Award – Aaron Podhurst

It won’t surprise many who know him that Aaron Podhurst went to college on a basketball scholarship. His 6-foot-2-inch frame and broad shoulders have been a familiar sight in Florida courtrooms for 54 years. What many may not know is that he started college with the goal of becoming an engineer. The Sputnik era pushed science and engineering but he always wanted to be a lawyer.

Today, Podhurst, a founding partner of Podhurst Orseck, is one of the leading aviation attorneys in the country, a specialty he developed in his 30s when he was named lead plaintiffs counsel in the class action case against Eastern Air Lines over the 1972 crash of Flight 401 into the Everglades.

U.S. District Judge Peter Fay listened to all the lawyers fighting to chair the plaintiffs committee and then appointed Podhurst.

That appointment put him on the map, and that map is now global. The firm began taking cases in the Germanwings crash shortly after the plane went down in late March in France.

While Podhurst and the firm are considered experts in aviation litigation, he has expanded the practice into other types of complex commercial litigation. Podhurst co-chaired the plaintiffs committee in the multi district litigation against two dozen banks accused of unfairly reordering overdraft fees in order to maximize the amount the charged account holders. Banks large and small have settled for millions of dollars–so much Podhurst hasn’t even kept close count.

Outside of work, Podhurst is active in the South Florida community, chairing the board of trustees of the Perez Art Museum Miami; he is a past president of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

Podhurst counsels young attorneys to work hard, never try to “wing it” and keep their moral compasses well-calibrated.