Like many of her fellow Lawdragon 500 members, Kathy Love embodies the philosophy of taking cases that make a difference. For Love and her partners at the renowned Albuquerque, N.M.-based plaintiffs’ firm of McGinn, Carpenter, Montoya & Love, that typically means helping people during the most difficult times of their lives. Among her many verdicts and settlements, Love earned a $67.3-million verdict in 2014 against Biotronik over the wrongful implant of a pacemaker. The 1995 graduate of DePaul University College of Law is currently serving as President of the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association and Foundation.
Lawdragon: How did you first become interested in having a career as a trial attorney representing plaintiffs?
Kathy Love: I have always been committed to representing the “little guy” against the “big guys.” I started my career as an assistant public defender where I became even more aware of the disparity of power between socio-economic groups. I met my now law partner, Randi McGinn, and was struck by the positive change that can be made through plaintiffs’ litigation and knew that representing plaintiffs was what I was meant to do.
LD: Can you share a few things that you like about the practice or why it is professionally satisfying?
KL: When clients come to me, it is usually because the worst thing in their lives has happened – a catastrophic injury, the wrongful death of a loved one. It is more satisfying than anything I ever dreamed of doing to help them face their grief and make changes that will prevent similar tragedies from happening to other people in the future.
LD: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve done as a lawyer?
KL: It is hard to narrow it down to one “most interesting thing” because one of the great things about being a trial lawyer is that I am always learning new things. I have worn a hard hat and toured a copper smelting plant, I have interviewed witnesses in communities of all corners of the state. I have learned about medical procedures, carbon monoxide, police practices and all kinds of things that I never would have encountered but for the cases I handle.
LD: How do you choose what cases to take on?
KL: I take cases where I can make a difference in the community – either through changes in the law, or policy changes that will make workplaces, products, or systems safer for people.
LD: Can you describe a recent one that you’ve handled?
KL: I represented 34 people whose doctor convinced them that they needed pacemakers surgically implanted in their chests when, in fact, they did not need the pacemakers. My partner and I tried the first of 34 cases to a jury in the fall of 2014 to a $65 million punitive damages verdict. We proved that the manufacturer of the pacemakers was offering kickbacks to the doctor to implant as many of its devices as possible. The doctor, the manufacturer and the hospital made millions of dollars off the scheme. The cases have been in litigation since 2007.
LD: What has been challenging about this work?
KL: We are a small firm and were up against two national corporate hospitals, an international manufacturing company and a doctor. The challenges have always been and continue to be getting the discovery we are owed, then culling through hundreds of thousands of documents to find the buried treasures.
LD: What do you hope the impact to be?
KL: As our healthcare system becomes more profit-driven and less community-centered, there is a tension between running a business and keeping patients safe. Anti-kickback rules are intended to protect patients and ensure that medical decisions are made not for business purposes, but for patient safety. When those rules are violated, patients get hurt. This case sent a message to the medical device manufacturing industry that patient safety must come first.
LD: What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?
KL: I established my career first, and had a child later in life. I focus most of my free time on my family – traveling, hiking, skiing, playing basketball and board games.
LD: What about some of your public interest work?
KL: I have been privileged to attend good schools and have many opportunities in life, so I am a believer in giving back to the community. I have been involved in a number of local organizations like Emerge New Mexico, which trains women to run for political office; the ACLU’s reproductive health initiatives; and Equal Access to Justice, which raises money for legal aid organizations in New Mexico, among others.
LD: If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be doing now professionally?
KL: If I weren’t a lawyer, I might be a contractor. I love buying run down property and making improvements.