This story is one in a series written and paid for by Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer, an Oakland-based law firm dedicated to helping people who are injured and suffering get the compensation and results they need to move forward.
When Winston Moody was working as a clerk at Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer in Oakland more than a decade ago, he not only realized that he wanted to be a lawyer, but also that this was at the very firm where he wanted to practice law. Moody was recently named the firm’s newest partner.
“It’s an exciting place to work. It has this David vs. Goliath atmosphere of fighting the good fight on behalf of the little guy,” Moody said.
Moody studied at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, and practiced law there for several years. In 2016, he was overjoyed when Gary Gwilliam invited him to come back to Oakland to be an associate attorney.
“It was kind of effortless for me to fit into the culture of the firm,” Moody recalled. A bonus perk: Moody plays guitar, and several of the firm’s partners are accomplished musicians as well.
He also liked the can-do attitude and the persistence of the partners when pursuing claims on behalf of their clients.
Case in point: One of Moody’s first assignments back in 2008 was helping conduct intake interviews of a large number of former Lawrence Livermore Lab employees who claimed they were unfairly laid off to cut costs following the privatization of the federally funded lab by a joint venture of the Bechtel Corporation and the University of California.
When he came back to the firm during his summers in law school, Moody continued helping Gwilliam fight on behalf of those former Lawrence Livermore Lab employees. In the end, it took seven years of litigation, including two monthlong trials, before the plaintiffs got a $38.25 million settlement.
“It was inspiring to be involved in a very big case that was such a long, hard-fought battle — and to see what it takes to get something like that done,” Moody said.
Since his return, Moody has had a wealth of experience representing the firm’s clients on a wide variety of cases, including lawsuits alleging employment discrimination, personal injury, wrongful death, and even malicious prosecution. He said all of the firm’s partners have been mentors to him.
Now as the firm’s newest partner, Moody looks back and recognizes the amazing journey he has been on and how he has personally and professionally grown as an attorney.
“My work is not routine. Every case really forces you to think outside the box, dig into the law and facts, and figure out what about the particular situation you can use to your client’s advantage,” he said.
Moody counts himself lucky for having had the opportunity early in his career to represent clients in depositions and hearings and to present oral arguments in state court, the state Courts of Appeal, and federal court. He said getting the chance to participate so actively in so many ways is one of the benefits of working at a locally owned and independently operated firm.
“I got to dive right into the deep end,” Moody said.
A native of Pensacola, Florida, Moody first came to the Bay Area for a semester as an exchange student at Sonoma State University. After graduating from college in his hometown, Moody moved to Berkeley and got a job as a clerk at Gwilliam Ivary Chiosso Cavalli & Brewer while he considered whether to pursue the law.
Moody fell in love with the region for the top flight concerts it draws and the many outdoor activities, notably surfing and biking. He used to be primarily into mountain biking but after commuting to work on two wheels came to love road-biking as well.
Unfortunately, Moody got a taste for how dangerous it can be for road bicyclists when he was hit by a motorist. He was not seriously hurt, but his bicycle was damaged, and he was glad to be able to draw upon his legal skills to get an out-of-court settlement.
“It was a very personal way to see how practical our profession can be. There was a problem, and we got it sorted out,” said Moody. “That’s what we do for our clients.”
Moody would like to take on more bicycle-related cases. Bicycling, he said, is an environmentally friendly alternative to driving motor vehicles, and it should be safe for people to choose that greener option.
“Biking accidents happen all the time, and people get hurt very seriously,” Moody said.
Recently, Moody worked on a case in which a bicyclist was hit by a vehicle while heading to his job at a fast-food restaurant. The victim suffered broken bones and had to have surgery. The insurance company ultimately settled out of court by paying the policy limit.
A similar type of claim Moody’s firm handled involved a person skateboarding to work in a bicycle lane in San Francisco who was hit by the driver of a sport utility vehicle; he suffered a broken vertebra.
Moody said his firm doesn’t take that many cases, and when it does the lawyers truly get to know the clients they represent.
In one particularly tragic case, a man in San Francisco died in 2017 when he fell off a curb and hit his head after being accosted by an angry man.
The victim’s daughter was upset that police did not charge the other man for her father’s death, and when a settlement was finally reached earlier this year, the relief she felt was obvious, Moody said.
“You could see it on her face,” he said. “It meant so much for her to have it validated that her dad was an important person and that the defendant would be held accountable.”
Every case involves its own unique challenges, but it can be enormously satisfying to see a victim get some closure when a settlement or award is won, Moody said.