Washington, Georgia, native Henry G. Garrard III learned lessons at the School of Law that he has taken with him throughout his career and strives to share with others.
Garrard, a shareholder with the Athens-based firm Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley, recalled that one of his professors offered sage advice to the 1970 Double Dawg that still resonates with him today.
“He impressed on me to always protect your integrity and that if you ever, ever lose your integrity or let it be compromised you can’t get it back, and I think that has stayed with me as much as anything else,” Garrard said.
After graduating from the School of Law, Garrard served in the U.S. Air Force from 1971 to 1975. As a judge advocate, he quickly gained experience in the courtroom, trying more than 100 cases — including murders, forgeries, assaults, thefts and AWOLs. One case in particular involved the prosecution of a man who shot multiple people in a base hospital, killing three and seriously wounding four.
“I convicted him,” he said. “That was a pivotal case because it was a big case, but it was also pivotal in that we tried the case for 59 straight days, seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The entire time my wife and I were under armed guard, so that gets your attention.”
Ultimately his years in the Air Force were a tremendous learning opportunity for Garrard, and in 1975 he returned to Athens and began his career in the Classic City, continuing to uphold his integrity.
Since then, as a personal injury and plaintiffs’ litigation lawyer, he has handled a wide variety of cases, and several of them are memorable examples of Garrard doing what he felt was right.
Garrard represented the defense in one of the largest class action suits to take place in federal court in Texas – Cinimo v. Raymark Industries – that involved more than 2,000 claimants. While the case did not end the way Garrard hoped, “it was a cutting-edge trial that led me into ultimately doing a lot of litigation with large groups of cases,” he said.
In 2005, he was approached by three women who had been injured after a medical procedure. After reviewing their cases, Garrard said he felt it was not an instance of malpractice but rather a flaw in the mesh medical device being used.
He called the doctor who had performed the procedures on the women and explained he thought the case was a product liability matter, then asked if the doctor would be willing to speak with him. The doctor agreed and offered an interesting reason why – Garrard’s honesty.
Years prior Garrard had sued him, but as the case evolved he had decided the doctor did not belong in it and dismissed him. Garrard noted that if he had treated that doctor differently he may have been unwilling to work with him later. Ultimately the doctor connected Garrard to 32 individuals who had been injured by the faulty product.
Over the course of the case, Garrard began representing women across the United States, serving as co-lead counsel for all of the transvaginal mesh multidistrict litigation mass accumulation, eventually involving more than 100,000 individuals.
“I’m proud to say that through the work I’ve been part of I’ve gotten a significant number of bad devices off the market,” he said.
Garrard also recalled representing a woman who worked in the Georgia prison system. She slipped at work and was burned by a harsh cleaning substance on the floor. The woman struggled to find a lawyer who would take her case and with 30 days before her statute of limitations ran out, Garrard agreed to take it on but worried he would be unable to help her.
“I said I probably can’t win your case. I probably can’t do much with it, but I’m going to try,” he said. In the end, he was successful and the woman was awarded more than $1 million.
“I have been so proud of that, that I did something I thought was the right thing to do and really and truly didn’t think I could succeed,” he said.
In each of these cases, Garrard’s sense of right and wrong ultimately led to favorable outcomes.
“It’s an overriding thing in my mind,” he said. “Always protect your integrity. Always treat people the right way and it makes a difference.”
Garrard also pays this lesson forward when speaking to incoming students at the School of Law.
He said he encourages the lawyers-to-be to “seek out mentors who will help you learn how to do things right and never ever forget the difference between right and wrong.
“I hope people watch me and identify that there are right ways to do things and there are wrong ways to do things, and I have always tried to do things the right way and maybe that has some influence on people,” he said.
Editor’s note: This summer, the School of Law honored Garrard and his wife, Carolyn, by naming Hirsch Hall’s second-floor patio after the couple.