The Man Who Made Driving Safer

Jeff Embry spotted a flaw in airbags and pushed for their redesign

Published in 2010 Texas Rising Stars Magazine — April 2010

When the dust settles after a car accident, and if everyone is safe, the passengers might want to thank Jeff Embry.

In the late 1990s, Embry handled several cases involving improper vehicle airbag designs. He says airbags were deploying too aggressively, causing unnecessary injuries to passengers. So he set about to change how airbags were made.

Embry, the lead lawyer of a team at the Turley Law Firm, finally got companies like Honda, Nissan, Toyota and General Motors to stop denying there was any problem with their designs. At his urging, auto manufacturers came up with a dual-stage airbag design. Airbags now deploy at different speeds depending on the crash severity, lessening the chance for injury to passengers.

“I believe those cases have led to safer cars on our streets,” Embry says. “For those of us that handle those cases, we see that we made a difference.”

Embry, now 39 and a partner at Dallas-based Hossley Embry, specializes in products liability and personal injury. But before litigating against the massive corporations, Embry spent time on the flip-side.

He started his law career with Gardere & Wynne after earning his J.D. in 1997 from St. Mary’s University School of Law. He specialized in labor and employment defense, litigating on behalf of some of the largest corporations in Dallas: Texas Instruments, Trinity Industries Inc. and the Spaghetti Warehouse. But he quickly learned that corporate work was not his style. He wanted to help individuals.

So in 1998, he went to work for a prominent personal injury firm, Dallas-based Turley Law Firm, where he found his way into products liability work. There he litigated cases from products as varied as rotary saws manufactured without proper guards to flawed designs in automobiles to airplane crashes.

At age 30, he became the youngest attorney to become head of the firm’s products liability department.  But even that wasn’t enough.

“I have an entrepreneurial spirit and didn’t want to work for anybody else,” he says. “I wanted to control my own destiny.” So he partnered with his wife, Renna, and another husband-wife team, Jill and Allen Hossley, in 2002.

Hossley Embry now serves clients out of offices in Dallas and Tyler, Texas.

Although he chose not to continue with the defense work he did at Gardere & Wynne, Embry believes his time there was invaluable. He says that experience gave him a focus on quality representation, an attention to detail and an understanding of defendants’ thought processes.

With those skills, Embry looks forward to each chance to go up against a big corporation, and the resources it brings to a case.

“It’s certainly intimidating at times, but I enjoy the fight,” Embry says. “It’s high risk, and can be high reward, both emotionally and financially.”

But—call it mellowing—he understands that no side is always right or always wrong.

“Wrongs are done in the business world just like they are to individuals,” he says. “If there’s somebody who needs help, we’re going to be ready to help them.”

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