For more than 40 years, Bernard Smalley, Sr. has devoted his legal career to advocating on behalf of victims of corporate or professional negligence. He has secured for his client’s scores of seven-figure recoveries through his combination of intellect, perceptiveness, and warmth.
As a young man, Mr. Smalley cut hair in his father’s West Philadelphia barber shop where he met William H. Hastie, the first African-American to become Chief Judge of a Federal Court of Appeals in the United States. It was then that Chief Judge Hastie planted the seed, along with Ronald Davenport, later Dean of Duquesne Law School, Pat Swygert later of Temple Law School and President of Howard University, and Judge Harvey N. Schmidt, to launch a career of serving his community by being an attorney.
Later, as a Deputy Court Administrator in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Bernie was privileged to work for and be influenced by Judge Stanley M. Greenberg. It was while working for Judge Greenberg that Bernie saw for the first time the work of a true trial lawyer fighting for his client, Arthur G. Raynes.
A well-recognized and accomplished trial attorney, Mr. Smalley is a Fellow of both the prestigious International Academy of Trial Lawyers and the American College of Trial Lawyers.
He has been selected to the Philadelphia Super Lawyers list every year since 2004 and has frequently been selected by his peers to be named as one of the Top 100 lawyers in Philadelphia as well as one of the Top 100 lawyers in Pennsylvania. He has frequently lectured on trial techniques before national, state, and local trial lawyer and bar associations.
Mr. Smalley served as president of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association and received its Justice Michael A. Musmanno Award. Mr. Smalley has also received the President’s Award from The Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, the Soaring Eagle Award from the Minority Caucus of the American Association of Justice (formerly ATLA), and the Pursuit of Justice Award from the American Bar Association, as well as the Justice Thurgood Marshall Award of Excellence.
He is a member of the National Bar Association, and the Barristers’ Association and has been consistently named Most Influential by the Philadelphia Tribune Newspaper. Smalley sat as Chair of Hearing Committee 1.14 for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board and was a standing member of The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Evidence Committee.
In 2014, Smalley received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Philadelphia Legal Intelligencer.
He was elected by the Judges of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to a lifetime appointment to the Board of Directors of City Trusts. In January of 2021, Bernie Smalley was unanimously elected President of the Board of Directors of City Trusts. He is the first African American to serve as President in the Board’s 153-year history. He also serves on the Board for the Ellis Trust and the Chairman’s Council of the Mann Center for the Performing Arts. He is a former Board Member of the Philadelphia Zoo. He was elected to the Board of The Philadelphia Tribune Newspaper in 2019
Smalley received his bachelor’s degree from Temple University in 1971 and his law degree from Widener University School of Law in 1980. He and his wife, Jacquelyn, live in West Philadelphia where they both grew up.
Protecting the Health of Our Children
Children are the most vulnerable group in our society. When companies don’t provide them a safe place to play, the results can be catastrophic. Erin J. was among a group of very small children who visited the well-known Montgomery County petting zoo and working farm known as Merrymead Farms. Naturally, young Erin petted the animals. Merrymead Farm, however, didn’t provide any hand washing stations and Erin contracted E-coli. Erin became terribly ill, lost a kidney, suffered permanent liver damage and needed life-time medical monitoring. Without hesitation, Erin’s father donated his kidney to help save Erin’s life. Erin’s parents then turned to Bernie Smalley to not only hold Merrymead Farm accountable for what it did, but also work to ensure that the same thing didn’t happen to any other child. Bernie firmly established that the owners of Merrymead Farm were negligent and then strenuously worked to ensure a financial recovery that would protect Erin for the rest of her life. The result was a multi-million dollar confidential settlement. Bernie is most proud that Erin’s plight caused by Merrymead Farm resulted in the Pennsylvania legislature enacting a law which mandated hand-washing stations in all petting zoos and farms in Pennsylvania.
Edith Kuys v. Dr. Henry Berkowitz and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
Conveying Your Client’s Life Story
In his very first jury trial, Bernie Smalley had the privilege of representing Mrs. Edith Kuys, whose husband died because his physicians did not promptly and effectively treat his impaired blood circulation. Every major trial has within it a life story that has been forever altered, and it is the responsibility of the skilled trial lawyer to tell that story in a way that fully depicts that loss. In this life story, the widow, Edith Kuys was a Jewish refugee who had escaped Nazi Germany during World War II with the help of the brave, Dutch underground. Although not involved in her escape, Edith’s husband-to-be was a member of the Dutch underground and was injured while helping Jews escape Nazi Germany. Years later, the two met in the United States, fell in love and married. During the course of the two week trial, Bernie was able to convey this history and their love story. Edith fought for the memory of her husband, who she loved and believed in, just as he had fought years earlier for what he believed in, freedom for Jewish people trapped in Nazi Germany. At the end of the trial, Defense counsel argued in his closing that the defense medical expert should be believed because the expert had an 86 page resume touting all of his accomplishments. During rebuttal, Bernie reminded the jury that surely former President Richard Nixon had a resume which exceeded 86 pages in length and that Nixon had no trouble playing fast and loose with the truth. After a hard fought two week trial, the jury rendered a seven-figure verdict on a Friday afternoon. That same afternoon, defense counsel told Bernie that there would be no appeal and that the following Monday the insurance company would deliver a check for the verdict’s full amount. The defendant kept its word. For years after the jury delivered its verdict, Bernie would receive on his birthday a small gift of gratitude from wherever in the world Mrs. Kuys was traveling at the time. He has kept each and every one of those tokens of gratitude to this day. The privilege of representing this incredible husband and wife and in allowing the jury to hear their story, was in many ways gift enough.
Psychiatric Malpractice Confidential Settlement
Even though she was younger than 18, a young woman, with a history of psychiatric issues, was admitted to the adult psychiatric unit at Albert Einstein Medical Center and placed with the general population. Without adequate supervision and surveillance, the young woman was sexually assaulted by two adult men. She suffered significant physical injuries as well as emotional trauma from the assault. Bernie Smalley filed suit against Einstein Medical Center on her behalf, establishing that the Medical Center was grossly negligent. After defense counsel heard the compelling testimony of the young lady’s father, Bernie Smalley was able to secure a significant, seven-figure confidential settlement. As part of the settlement, this young lady insisted that part of her settlement funds be set used to help create a foundation to support the post-high school education for other young women with similar circumstances. That foundation exists today.
Three Police Captains Falsely Accused of Cheating by The Philadelphia Daily News
Confidential Defamation Settlement
A police officer’s good reputation is earned over years, most often decades. But it can be lost instantly when a newspaper falsely reports that the officer has cheated on a promotion exam. For three Philadelphia Police captains, who had spotless reputations, the Philadelphia Daily News, without even investigating the facts, broadcast on its front page that they were “cheaters!” Through their hard work and study, these three gentlemen finished first, second and third in the Department-wide exam for Police Inspector. After the results were published, the Philadelphia Daily News received a “tip” that the officers cheated. Without investigating whether the tip was actually true, the Daily News put the story on its front page. The three Philadelphia police captains – two African Americans and one Hispanic – turned to Bernie Smalley to vindicate their reputations and hold the Daily News accountable. Through his cross-examination of the reporters and editors for the Daily News, Bernie Smalley was able to prove that the reporters lacked proper investigative journalistic skills and failed to fully investigate the story before publishing it. Bernie was able to demonstrate that cheating on this test was a practical impossibility. The three officers did not cheat; they could not have cheated; and a responsible investigation would have revealed the “tip” to be a lie. Faced with this evidence, the Daily News entered into a substantial confidential settlement. Each officer went on to complete their restored careers as Inspectors, and one as Chief Inspector for the Philadelphia Police Department.
Child’s Hand Severed When Driver Flips School Bus in Collision With Truck
On July 5, Deneke was on her very first school bus trip, traveling back with her sister, Desha, from the Baltimore Aquarium. Just north of the Maryland House on I-95, the bus collided with a tractor trailer truck. The inexperienced bus driver overcompensated, causing the school bus to flip onto its side. As Deneke was tossed from her seat, her right arm went out the window because the bus’s windows were open on this warm summer day. Her right hand was severed just above the wrist. Due to the heroic efforts by First Responders and the Maryland State Troopers, Deneke’s life was saved. Desha was also seriously injured. The girls’ family turned to Bernie Smalley to investigate the accident and establish responsibility for their injuries. Through accident reconstruction and re-enactment, Mr. Smalley established that both the truck driver and the bus driver were at fault. Supported by the compelling testimony of Deneke’s and Desha’s doctors, Mr. Smalley secured for them a confidential multi-million recovery. Close to the second anniversary of the accident, the girls’ family held for the First Responders a thank you party, complete with balloons, food and music at the Aberdeen Maryland Firehouse. Tough Maryland State Troopers and first responders cried when Deneke gave them hugs of thanks.
Dr. Gosnell Hit With a $3.9 Million Verdict Against Him for Death of Patient
After nineteen years in a Nepalese refugee camp, the Mongar family finally was able to immigrate to the United States. Less than 4 months later, Karna Mongar, the matriarch of the family, was killed by the criminal neglect of Dr. Kermit Gosnell and his assistants. Mrs. Mongar died at the age of 41 while seeking to have a legal abortion in the City of Philadelphia. Because Dr. Gosnell was charged criminally for the death of Ms. Mongar and additional infant deaths, the family had to wait years for their day in Court. Once Dr. Gosnell was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for the death of Mrs. Mongar, Attorney Bernie Smalley presented her case to a civil jury. The family was awarded $3.9 million. Because of Dr. Gosnell had squandered his assets, insufficient funds were readily available to satisfy the verdict. Mr. Smalley continues to this day to fight to collect this award on behalf of the family.