Edwards Kirby is led by John Edwards, a tireless proponent for social and economic justice. As a proven advocate who will fight for fairness, equality, civil rights and equal opportunity under the law, there is no attorney more dedicated than John Edwards.
Throughout his national political service – as U.S. Senator from North Carolina, 2004 Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee and candidate for President of the United States – John tirelessly fought for progressive social policies aimed at eliminating poverty, reforming health care, safeguarding civil rights and protecting the environment.
Long before his service in the political arena, John was widely recognized as one of the best trial lawyers in the country. As a plaintiff’s attorney, he represented clients contesting the actions of corporate and commercial interests, held companies accountable for reckless, unsafe or unsound practices, and gave a voice to those seeking just and fair treatment under the law.
In 1978, John joined the Nashville law firm of Dearborn & Ewing, practicing corporate law alongside the future Tennessee governor and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander. He returned to North Carolina in 1981, joining the Raleigh firm of Tharrington, Smith & Hargrove, where he started a civil litigation division. In 1984, he won his first multi-million dollar verdict in the Antabuse case, which he followed the next year with a $6.5 million verdict for a 6-year-old girl who had suffered brain damage at Pitt Memorial Hospital.
In 1990, John was the youngest member ever inducted into The Inner Circle of Advocates, a group of the nation’s top 100 trial lawyers. In 1993, he founded his own firm with David Kirby. By the mid-1990s, John’s reputation as a master litigator was firmly established. He won a $23 million judgment on behalf of the parents of a baby who suffered severe brain damage by oxygen deprivation during labor, the highest medical malpractice verdict in state history.
A defining case in John’s legal career came in 1997 after four years of litigation against Sta-Right Industries, makers of a swimming pool drain that had severely injured a small girl in Wake County, N.C. Following settlement offers that started at $100,000, John eventually secured a $25 million award, the largest product liability verdict in state history. In his closing argument, lawyers and spectators packed the courtroom to hear what Mark Dayton, editor of North Carolina Lawyers Weekly hailed as “the most impressive legal performance I have ever seen.” The Los Angeles Times wrote that “for 90 minutes, politely but persistently, Edwards spoke, without notes, without missing a key point. Many here that January day in 1997, including the presiding judge, remember it as the best closing argument they had ever heard.”
That year, John and David Kirby earned the American Association for Justice’s national award for public service.
John was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998, and in 2000 was on the short list to join the Democratic ticket alongside presidential candidate Al Gore. During John’s Senate tenure he co-sponsored 203 bills, served on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. In 2004, he joined presidential candidate John Kerry as his vice-presidential running mate. Following the re-election of George W. Bush, John turned his attention to grassroots causes, visiting homeless shelters and job training centers, advocating an expansion of the earned income tax credit, increased protections against predatory lending and support for housing vouchers for minorities. During this time he also served as co-chair of the Council on Foreign Relations task force on U.S.-Russian relations.
In 2006, John launched his bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, campaigning on the elimination of poverty, fighting global warming, providing universal health care and withdrawing troops from Iraq. He eventually endorsed front-running candidate Barack Obama.
John’s dedication to the cause of the common man is a driving motivation. He has devoted time to understanding the needs of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised around the world, visiting impoverished regions in Africa, the Middle East, Central America, and Haiti. In the U.S., he has spent time with community leaders in more than 200 local poverty centers to better determine what can be done to bring hope and opportunity to those who need it most.
This mission for economic and social justice has led to the founding of Edwards Kirby, in which the team will seek cases that result in positive change.
John grew up in the small mill town of Robbins, N.C., where his father worked in a textile plant and his mother ran a small store. John was the first in his family to attend college and graduated with honors from N.C. State (B.S. ’74) and the UNC School of Law (J.D., with honors, ’77), where he met his future law partner, David Kirby.
- $15 million settlement Baby suffered severe brain injury after a nurse failed to properly replace her breathing tube.
- $13 million settlement during trial for an infant who was permanently injured when EMS failed to adjust an oxygen tube that clearly dislodged, causing brain damage.
- $6 million settlement for a child who suffered from paralysis caused by an injury at a recreation center.
- $30.9 million settlement (following $25 million verdict) for a 5-year-old girl who lost most of her intestines when she was trapped on a defective pool drain at a neighborhood pool.
- $4 million settlement after a truck driver dropped a delivery load on a customer, leaving him paralyzed.
- $23.3 million verdict for a child who suffered brain injuries at birth, including cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia.
- $8 million settlement for a child who suffered injuries at birth from a delayed C-section.
- $6.5 million verdict in a truck accident wrongful death of minister and his wife.
- $2.9 million settlement for injuries received when a worker on a construction site fell through an unguarded hole.
- $4.5 million settlement in unfair trade practices involving stolen business.
- $8 million settlement for a child who lost his legs because of malpractice.
- Lawyer of Year, Lawyers Weekly USA (1996);
- National Steven J. Sharp Public Service Award (1997);
- D.C. Bar Association Hero in Law Award (2000)
- National Patient Advocate Humanitarian Healthcare Award (2001, 2004)
- George Moscone Memorial Award for Outstanding Public Service (2001)
- Paul Wellstone Award, for leadership in social and economic justice (2007)
- Best Lawyers in America, 2017
- Medical Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs
- Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs
- Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs
- Professional Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs
- Best Lawyers in America – 2021 Lawyer of the Year – Medical Malpractice (Raleigh metro area)
- Super Lawyers (2018-2021)