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Flamboyant Personal-Injury Attorney Dies

Personal-injury lawyer Harry Lipsig, who gained fame and riches by showing, among other things, that a man had been frightened to death by a car and that a hotel was to blame for a shark attack, has died at age 93.

Energetic, flamboyant and driven by a passion for perfection, Lipsig became known as the “King of Torts” and “The Equalizer” for a string of huge settlements in seemingly long-shot cases.

Lipsig won $740,000 for a heart-attack victim’s family by convincing a jury the man had been frightened to death by a car that rolled onto his lawn.

Lipsig once proved that an Acapulco hotel was to blame when a shark attacked a guest because the hotel had dumped garbage into the ocean and failed to warn guests that it might attract sharks. Such victories helped win him adoring profiles in Time magazine and The Wall Street Journal.

In 1988, Lipsig acted not only as a lawyer but as an exhibit when he argued that a 71-year-old psychologist, run over by a police car driven by a drunken officer, could have earned money for years to come.

“He could well have outlived me,” argued Lipsig, then 86. City lawyers settled the case for $1.25 million.

Also in 1988, Lipsig won a $25 million judgment against convicted strangler Robert Chambers on behalf of “preppie murder” victim Jennifer Levin. Lipsig made an estimated $6 million that year, Forbes magazine said in placing him 15th on its list of America’s top-paid trial lawyers.

In a 1989 Associated Press interview, Lipsig dismissed claims that aggressive personal-injury lawyers have cost taxpayers millions in lawsuits against city governments and caused insurance rates to skyrocket.

Lipsig talked instead of his feelings for the plaintiff - “some poor devil torn to shreds or living in that vilest of prisons one can conceive … helpless on a hospital bed, paralyzed.”

He also explained his courtroom demeanor: “Bore a jury and you’ve lost the case.” And he made no apologies for immodesty: “What is vanity but the blood brother of self-respect and confidence?”

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