Jock Smith, 63, who was a law partner with the late Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., died last Sunday of an apparent heart attack while watching television at his home in Montgomery, Ala., said his law partner Sam Cherry.
Smith won what the National Law Journal called America’s largest civil verdict in 2004, a $1.6-billion judgment against Southwestern Life Insurance and one of its agents. The suit was later settled out of court for an undisclosed amount for a mother of three who alleged she paid the agent thousands of dollars for an insurance policy that didn’t exist.
Smith also was one of the attorneys who got a $700-million settlement with Monsanto, Pharmacia and Solutia in 2003 for residents of Anniston, Ala., affected by pollution from a plant manufacturing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, next to a low-income neighborhood.
Born in 1948, Smith grew up in New York, where his late father, Jacob Smith, was a lawyer. In 1970 he graduated from what is now Tuskegee University, then earned his law degree from the University of Notre Dame. He spent a year in New York and returned to Alabama in 1974 to work in the state attorney general’s office. He left in 1977 to open a law practice in Tuskegee, Ala.
He did both civil and criminal work but built his reputation as a plaintiff lawyer. He gained a national reputation in 2000 when he won an $80-million judgment against Orkin for an elderly woman who alleged her home was destroyed by termites. He became friends with Cochran when he visited Montgomery in 1996 and later became a partner and eventually president of Cochran Firm, the national law practice that Cochran built after helping gain the acquittal of O.J. Simpson on murder charges.