Mardirossian Honored With First Ferrahian Alum Award
L.A. Litigator Mardirossian Honored with First Ferrahian Alum Award
ENCINO – Neither trial lawyer Garo Mardirossian nor US District Judge Dickran Tevrizian had a hint they would be making a bit of history last Friday, May 2nd until they arrived for Ferrahian Armenian High School’s alumni banquet. Minutes after walking into the party, Judge Tevrizian got the tap on his shoulder that drafted him to present a wighty crystal trophy to a very surprised Mardirossian naming him the school’s most outstanding alumnus. Mardirossian is the first alum ever selected for the honor in the 39-year history of Ferrahian High – the first Armenian day school established in the United States.
“I had never attended one of these events, and I didn’t even know there was an outstanding alumni award before I got there. But I was delighted to present it to him because Garo is one of the finest attorneys in the country,” Judge Tevrizian said.
“He’s phenomenal. He’s articulate, bright, very persuasive and juries like him. And he cares about the clients. He cares about the individuals not about the money. he’s really a fighter,” the judge said.
One of Southern California’s most consistently successful plaintiffs lawyers, Mardirossian won his first million-dollar verdict at his second trial soon after he was admitted to the California State Bar in 1981. His dedicated representation of his clients has resulted in a thriving law practice and earned him kudos from professional organizations, including Consumer Attorneys of California and the American Board of Trial Attorneys. Most of Mardirossian’s clients are first-and second-generation Americans, like himself, who have suffered serious physical injuries from defective consumer products.
The 2,500 member Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, one of the largest bar associations in the US, named Mardirossian Trial Lawyer of the Year 2000 in recognition of his having won $80 million for clients in the preceding five years in verdicts and settlements, often against extraordinary odds. Among those victories was a $15.9 million verdict for 36 victims of police brutality and false arrest by Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriffs. It was the largest verdict a US jury had ever awarded in a police misconduct lawsuit.
Judge Tevrizian called Mardirossian “A true American success story. And making it in the legal profession is even more amazing because of the language differences that he had to conquer.”
Stunned when Tevrizian announced the award, Mardirossian admitted he, too, had never before attended a high school reunion until Friday’s event which celebrated the 29th anniversary for his graduating class. But he wasted no time crediting Ferrahian High for building the solid academic foundation necessary for his success.
“The teachers at Ferrahian cared about me. They were not only good teachers but they also monitored my learning. It made my whole life better than it would have been otherwise,” Mardirossian said.
The school’s founding principal, Gabriel Injejikian, said supporters and alumni of Ferrahian High School decided the time had come to formally honor its most successful graduates.
“They are role models who show the students in our school today that all the hard work we demand of them really helps them in their lives, ” he said. “And we are proud of them!”
“They are role models who show the students in our school today that all the hard work we demand of them really helps them in their lives,” he said, “And we are proud of them!”
Ferrahian Armenian High School opened in 1964 as the first Armenian day school in the United States. The school later expanded to include Holy Martyrs Elementary School. Injejikian helped organized the school, was principal until 1990 and continues working for the school in a part-time consulting capacity.
With the opening of its new administration building in February, the Holy Martyrs complex celebrated complete construction. In addition to church and school offices, the new building houses local offices for Armenian community and cultural groups, including the Armenian Youth Federation, the Armenian revolutionary Federation and the Armenian Relief Society.
Mardirossian was 11 and spoke no English when his family moved from war torn Lebanon to the U.S. in 1967. Mardirossian had mastered English quickly and had no problem fitting in at each new American school he attended before high school. His passion, however, was sports. He helped carry his Hollywood High soccer team to third place in citywide finals, and he played on the school’s fledgling handball team.
Unfortunately, his academic performance lagged far behind his athletics. He knew he was needed to make good grades to get into a good college, but it was just too easy not to do homework or prepare for tests, he said. Frustrated by his lack of self-discipline, he asked his parents if he could enroll at Ferrahian High for his junior year.
Principal Injejikian said Mardirossian’s 1972 telephone call requesting admission was unforgettable.
“Garo was the first and only student who himself called and asked to be admitted to the school,” Injejikian said. “Most high school boys don’t want to leave the fun of a big public school and come here where the work is harder, where they have to learn Armenian and take other courses they wouldn’t have to take in public high schools. Other students may have wanted to come here, but they either kept it a secret or had their parents call for them.”
Mardirossian explained, “My parents weren’t that thrilled that I wanted to go there, because it would cost them more money and they didn’t have a lot of money then. They agreed that if I could get myself accepted, I could go, but I had to make the call. I had to do the work to get in.”
“I asked him why he wanted to come to Ferrahian and he told me some of the reasons. I said, ‘where are you attending now?’ He told me Hollywood High. I asked, ‘Do your parents know about it?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘okay, come over.'”
“So he came over, and he was a good student. We were proud of him, and now we are even more proud of him.”
“I was lost in the shuffle at Hollywood High. I was a C student there, a C-minus student. Once I got into Ferrahian, I became an A student. And as an A student, I was able to get admitted to UCLA and then to Whittier Law School,” Mardirossian explained. “It would be hard to overestimate its importance to my career.”
Mardirossian graduated from Ferrahian High in 1974. He earned his undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA in 1978 and his law degree from Whittier in December 1980. After passing the July 1981 bar exam, he went into partnership with two other civil litigates, but withdrew a year later to launch his own law firm.
Today, Mardirossian & Associates is one of the top plaintiff law firms in Los Angeles. The firm’s six lawyers have earned the respect of bench and bar for their tenacity and deft handling of product liability, personal injury and civil rights cases. In the past decade, the firm has tackled more and more “complex” cases that require extensive discovery that often results in tens of thousands of documents to review and depositions of dozens of scientific, engineering, medical and economic experts. Trials in these cases can take months to present to a jury.
Among Mardirossian’s most important legal victories was the landmark $15.9 million civil rights verdict in Dole v. Los Angeles in August 1995. Calling it “The Most Important Case You’ve Never Heard Of,” California Lawyer magazine reported it as the largest police-misconduct case in history. Last year, Mardirossian obtained a jury finding that will have a significant impact on all future Ford-Firestone litigation nationwide. A San Bernardino jury found that Ford’s design of the Explorer Sport is defective and is a contributing factor in rollover accidents involving Firestone tire blowouts. Though the decision had no bearing on the damages awarded in that particular case (the jury pinned liability primarily on the dealership for selling the defective car), the jury finding is important as the first legal finding of product defect in the Ford Explorer design. Mardirossian & Associates continues to handle several Ford Explorer rollover cases as well as other SUV rollover and product liability cases.
Mardirossian is married to Kathy Mardirossian, also a partner in Mardirossian & Associates. They have two daughters and a son (none of whom are yet students at Ferrahian High).