Nadeem Bezar grew up around doctors. Now he sues them
Published in 2009 Pennsylvania Super Lawyers magazine
By Michael Y. Park on May 21, 2009
Back in 1998, Bob McGinty needed a lawyer. Recently in the hospital for a routine medical procedure, nurses had accidentally broken his right arm, which no longer rested properly in its socket. He figured negligence would be easy to prove; damages another story. The reason: He’d have to show that his life had been made substantially worse due to the lost mobility in his arm, and he didn’t have much in the first place. He’s a quadriplegic.
Still, he figured he was owed compensation. He went to a Philly firm and met with a veteran attorney, who viewed the case as a non-starter. He was passed off to a new guy. Nadeem Bezar. Who told him he thought they could win.
Bezar grew up the son of two doctors from India. His father, Shafi, is an emergency room trauma surgeon; his mother, Sultana, a pediatrician. Raised in Scarsdale, N.Y., he saw from a young age how earnestly his father went about giving back to the community. His father explains: “I saw people in the ER waiting for hours for treatment that wasn’t as good as it should have been.” So he helped start a private clinic in Harlem. “My aim was twofold: to give these people reasonable dignity, and to show them that we’re not just Muslims who came to this country to make money. I wanted to pay back and serve the areas that ‘American’ Americans didn’t want to go.”
Meanwhile, his son was growing up, for the most part, an American-American.
“Being Muslim wasn’t a big issue, except that on Sundays we’d go to Queens for Muslim Sunday school, so I couldn’t go to Pop Warner baseball,” Bezar says, chuckling. “If I were to break my life into two halves, in the first half I was trying to fit in because I was different, while in the second half I’ve been embracing the differences more.”
He started out thinking he’d follow in his parents’ footsteps. They didn’t exactly discourage the idea.
“When I was growing up, everyone would get fire engines and construction trucks,” Bezar says, “but I was the kid who got the scrubs my father could grab from the hospital, and stethoscopes, things of that sort.”
All was going according to plan until his sophomore year at Bates College when he took organic chemistry. That ended that. He ended up getting his B.A in psychology, and, at the University of Massachusetts, he went on for a master’s in industrial engineering. Strangely enough, that is what led to law school.
“I had an ergonomics professor who testified quite often as an expert witness, and he thought the combination of an engineering degree and a law degree would be terrific,” he says.
At Temple University Beasley School of Law in 1991, Bezar flirted with the idea of patent prosecution, knowing his engineering background would be an asset. But something didn’t fit.
“There wasn’t much trial litigation,” he says, which is what he wanted. Moot court competitions had taught him that. He loved them and did well, receiving a lot of compliments. Including one rather back-handed one.
“One of the judges said, ‘I want to congratulate you on your oral argument, and I want to acknowledge that your use of the English language is excellent,'” Bezar says. He laughs it off today as just a sign of the times. “I don’t know of many South Asians who were litigators 17 years ago.”
After law school, he stayed in Philadelphia, spending a year at White and Williams, then signing on as an associate at Kolsby, Gordon, Robin & Shore (now Kolsby, Gordon, Robin, Shore & Bezar). He started representing plaintiffs in medical suits, developing a specialty in botched Lasik surgeries. The fact that he was opposing medical professionals wasn’t lost on his family.
“It felt awkward at first that he was going against doctors,” his father admits, “but when he discussed some of the cases with us, I realized he goes very deep, and that in some of the medical things he knew more than I knew. I was impressed.”
“He still believes doctors are gods,” says Bezar’s wife, Gina, “but he realizes they make mistakes.”
As his law career developed, Bezar’s cases became darker and more complex. He pursued lawsuits for people who’d been physically or sexually abused in hospitals, and sought restitution for children who’d been assaulted while in the custody of the city. The work made him appreciate his own good fortune. “You’re representing somebody who’s had bad luck their entire life, and that’s the opposite of what I’ve had,” Bezar says.
In 2005, he was hired to represent the 11-year-old sister of Portia Bennett, a girl beaten to death by her aunt’s boyfriend in Philadelphia in 2003. His client, who also suffered brutality, won a substantial settlement that will allow her to go to college.
“The cases involving kids are the things that trouble him the most,” Gina Bezar says. “I can’t tell you how many times I’d wake up and he’d just be sitting in a chair thinking about it. He’d say, ‘If you read these autopsies, these reports, you’d just want to go and save all of these kids.’ I think sometimes he has guilt that our life is so nice.”
Like his father, he gives back to the community by, among other things, serving on numerous bar committees. No longer the lone South Asian in the courtroom, he helped found and is now president of the Philadelphia South Asian Bar Association.
Observes Judge Sandra Mazer Moss, coordinating judge of the Complex Litigation Center for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, and someone before whom Bezar has appeared often, “They adore him, the young lawyers at the bar association dinners.”
As do clients like McGinty.
Bezar argued in court that McGinty—who has a law degree and had been looking forward to learning to drive with the aid of technology—could no longer perform basic functions like feeding himself or draining his urine bag and deserved compensation. The case went to trial and the jury agreed, and McGinty received a $1.3 million award from the hospital to pay for enhanced care and services. The win started Bezar off down a career in which he would go on to secure many seven-figure verdicts for clients, often in cases with long odds.
Bezar and McGinty still talk today, on a variety of topics—McGinty even called him recently for advice on mutual funds.
“He’s as close as a phone call,” McGinty says. “And I’m very thankful.”
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