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Melvin Bowen Wright
Partner, Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter
Address: 801 North Orange Avenue Suite 830 Top Floor Orlando, Florida 32801
Phone: (855) 880-4741
Melvin Bowen Wright was born in Albany, Georgia on August 1, 1959 and was raised on a family farm still in operation in Warwick located in rural South Georgia. He moved to Central Florida in 1985, is married and has two children.
- Trial Practice – Civil:
- False Claims Act/Whistleblower/Qui Tam Liability
- Class Actions
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree from the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Georgia College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences in 1981, Mr. Wright was admitted to the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.
The University of Georgia was founded in 1785 and was the first state supported university in the United States. Mercer University’s law school was founded in 1873, is one of the oldest law schools in the United States, and was the first law school in Georgia to be accredited by the American Bar Association. It is named after 1901 graduate Walter F. George who became a justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia before becoming a U.S. Senator from Georgia.
Experience and Accomplishments
Mr. Wright began the practice of law in 1985 in Orlando with an emphasis in wrongful death and personal injury litigation and represented both the injured and the insurance industry until 1993. He now exclusively handles cases of serious personal injury and death for accident victims.
Mr. Wright has substantial experience in all types of personal injury and wrongful death litigation including automobile accidents, on the job injuries, child care negligence, drowning and other premises liability, cases involving negligent security at retail establishments, product liability and medical malpractice. Mr. Wright has extensive experience in nursing home and other institutional abuse and neglect cases, having led a team of nursing home neglect and abuse attorneys at another Florida law firm and having lectured nationally at seminars on institutional abuse and neglect cases from 1997 to 2004. Mr. Wright has experience in representing clients in mass tort cases, including pharmaceutical products and compounded drugs.
Mr. Wright is admitted to practice in all state courts in Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee and to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida and the Northern District of Florida. He has tried numerous civil jury cases in both state and federal courts. He has also handled numerous appeals to several of Florida’s district courts of appeals, the Supreme Court of Florida, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Mr. Wright practices primarily in Florida but has also handled cases in Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, New York, and Massachusetts in association with law firms having principal offices in or near those states or upon admission pro hac vice.
Mr. Wright has been board certified as a civil trial specialist by The Florida Bar, Board of Legal Specialization and Education since 1996. Board certification as a civil trial lawyer is the highest level of recognition by the Florida Bar of the competency and experience of an attorney in the field of civil litigation. Board certification is intended by The Florida Bar to help consumers find an attorney who has demonstrated ability and experience in specialized fields, including civil litigation. Board certification requires:
- A career concentrating in civil trial law
- Passing a rigorous written examination
- Passing peer review
- Completion of numerous hours of continuing legal education.
Board certification also requires an attorney to have demonstrated substantial experience in the specialty of civil trial law and to have that ability and experience favorably evaluated by judges and other attorneys. Only 7% of Florida lawyers are board certified in their field of expertise, and only 1% of all Florida lawyers are board certified in civil trial law.
Since 1999, Mr. Wright has also been board certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and the National Board of Civil Pretrial Practice Advocacy of the National Board of Legal Specialization and Certification, organizations accredited by the American Bar Association to certify attorneys in the specialty of civil trial law and civil pretrial practice.
Board certification by the NBTA also requires passing an examination, favorable peer review, and substantial experience in a career concentrating in civil trial law. Less than 1% of attorneys nationwide are board certified in civil trial advocacy. He is a Board Certified Civil Pretrial Advocate and a Board Certified Civil Trial Advocate.
Beginning in 2009-2010 Mr. Wright has also served as a member of the NBTA advisory committee. Consumers who select attorneys who are board certified by the NBTA can be assured that they are retaining a highly experienced and specialized practitioner. As the United States Supreme Court stated in its opinion:
“There is no dispute about the bona fides and the relevance of NBTA certification…. Disclosure of information such as that on petitioner’s letterhead both serves the public interest and encourages the development and utilization of meritorious certification programs for attorneys.”
Peel v. Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of Illinois, 110 S.Ct. 2281 (1990).
- The State Bar of Georgia
- The Florida Bar
- The Trial Lawyers Section of the Florida Bar
- The Central Florida Trial Lawyers Association (CFTLA)
- The American Association for Justice (AAJ)
- The Motor Vehicle Collision, Highway and Premises Liability Section of the AAJ
- The Professional Negligence Section of the AAJ
- The Nursing Home Litigation Group of the AAJ
- The AAJ’s Section of Toxic, Environmental and Pharmaceutical Torts
- SuperLawyers 2018
Mr. Wright is an EAGLE Member of the Florida Justice Association. He has also served as the chairperson of the Florida Justice Association Nursing Home Committee in 2008-2009 representing the interests of nursing home residents and their families in regulatory and legal reform in the Florida Legislature.
Mr. Wright is member of the Southern Trial Lawyers Association, which promotes the fellowship, learning and networking among trial attorneys in the 13 southern states. Membership is by nomination only, by a member of the board of directors of the STLA, with approval from board members from the state of the nominee. Members participate in annual conventions that reflect the warmth and friendliness of the southern tradition and have access to the very best continuing legal education programs in America. Reserve funds from the annual conference are used to benefit a variety of philanthropic causes.
Mr. Wright was appointed to serve on the Florida Bar Advertising Committee from 2010-2015, to serve as Vice Chair from 2013-2014, and to serve as Chair of the Advertising Committee from 2014-2015. Mr. Wright has been nominated four times by the Florida Bar to serve on the Ninth Judicial Circuit and Fifth District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commissions charged by Article V of the Florida Constitution with the responsibility of nominating appropriate and qualified candidates for appointment by the sitting Florida Governor to fill open seats in the judiciary.
In 2014 Mr. Wright was nominated by the Florida Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates and appointed by Chief Judge Belvin Perry to serve as its appointed member of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Professionalism Panel created by mandate of the Supreme Court of Florida to address in a cooperative and non-punitive manner allegations by judges, lawyers and non-lawyers of improper behavior by attorneys in the Ninth Judicial Circuit.
In 2015 Mr. Wright was appointed by the Supreme Court of Florida as a member of the Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases. The Committee members selected him from among numerous applicants, and the Supreme Court approved his appointment. The Committee assists the Court in drafting standard jury instructions in civil cases that are then approved for publication by the Florida Supreme Court.
Every year since the first polling in the State of Florida in 2006, Mr. Wright has been selected a “Super Lawyer” in the State of Florida by Law & Politics magazine, and again in 2017. Law and Politics performs the polling, research and selection of Super Lawyers annually in a process designed to identify lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.
Super Lawyers is a comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys, representing a wide range of practice areas, firm sizes and geographic locations. Each year Law & Politics sends a ballot to the active lawyers in the state or region who have been in practice five years or more. The ballot asks lawyers to nominate the best attorneys they’ve personally observed in action. Only five (5%) percent of the lawyers in each state or region are named Super Lawyers.
It begins with notifying and inviting members of the Florida Bar to participate in balloting by providing the names of Florida lawyers they hold in the highest regard – lawyers they have worked with personally or would recommend to others. An independent research firm tallies the votes, and a Blue Ribbon Panel of prominent lawyers reviewed the list of attorneys who garnered the most votes.
In 2013, Mr. Wright was nominated and selected as a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. ABOTA was formed in 1957 by a group of top American lawyers in response to attacks upon the jury system. Today, the preservation of trial by jury in civil cases remains the primary purpose of ABOTA which is a nationwide “invitation only” organization comprised of both plaintiff and defense attorneys.
ABOTA seeks attorneys who display skill, civility and integrity to help younger attorneys achieve a higher level of trial advocacy and to educate the public about the vital importance of the Seventh Amendment. Thomas Jefferson was of the opinion that the right to trial by a jury of fellow citizens was a more important safeguard of personal liberty than the right to vote.
With a jury, the rights and duties of each of us will be decided by our fellow citizens, not by some bureaucrat or governmental functionary. ABOTA agrees with Jefferson and is a leader in the fight to preserve and protect your right to a jury trial. ABOTA is dedicated to “Justice by the People.”
Mr. Wright is also a fellow of the ABOTA Foundation which is the educational arm of ABOTA and dedicated to preserving the constitutional vision of equal justice for all Americans and our civil justice system for future generations. through sponsoring youth civics education, professional education and training of skilled trial lawyers.
In 2017, Mr. Wright was recognized by Top Verdict for the 35thranked top verdict in Florida. He achieved one of the Top 50 Verdict In Florida in 2017 for his work representing the plaintiff family in Estate of Sheffield v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in Orange County, Florida. He and his co-counsel, David Sales, obtained a verdict of $ 6,800,000 in compensatory and punitive damages for the family of a World War II veteran who was addicted to nicotine in cigarettes and, unable to quit for over 40 years, died from multiple bouts of lung cancer. This case is also considered one of the Top 10 Product Liability case verdicts in Florida in 2017.
Since 2009, Mr. Wright has been nominated and inducted into The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Lawyers, a national organization composed of the top 100 trial lawyers from each state. Membership is by special invitation extended only to those attorneys who exemplify superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature, and profile as civil plaintiff or criminal defense trial lawyers. Mr. Wright is also a member of the Motor Vehicle and Product Liability Specialty Associations of NTL.
Since 2012, the American Society of Legal Advocates has selected Mr. Wright each year as a member of the Top 100 Litigation Lawyers in Florida. The ASLA is an invitation-only organization comprised of the nation’s most skilled lawyers.
ASLA was founded by a team of lawyers with the central purpose of identifying and promoting only the most outstanding legal talent throughout the country. Lawyers are invited only if the ASLA determines they have a career of stellar legal credentials combined with a proven commitment to community engagement, leadership, and the highest professional standards. Membership is limited to no more than 1.5% of lawyers nationwide.
Mr. Wright is also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum’s Top Trial Lawyers In America. Established in 1993, the Million Dollar Advocates Forum (which includes the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum) is one the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements.
There are over 3,000 members throughout the country (with several members in Canada and England.) Less than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members of the Top Trial Lawyers In America.
Mr. Wright is an “Advocate” of the National College of Advocacy which requires a minimum of thirty (30) hours of educational courses conducted by the NCA, the educational arm of the American Association for Justice. The NCA conducts seminars, colleges and convention programs in trial advocacy and in specialized areas of litigation to inspire excellence in advocacy through training and education.
Mr. Wright is an AV Preeminent Peer Review rated attorney by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory rating system. Martindale-Hubbell has been a respected source of authoritative and dependable information about members of the legal community in the United States, Canada and throughout the world for over 140 years.
The AV rating is awarded only after Martindale-Hubbell solicits confidential opinions from members of the bar and the judiciary on the legal ability and ethics of the attorney being reviewed for a rating. The “A” rating means that the attorney scored “very high to preeminent” in the category of “legal ability” while the “V” rating means that the attorney scored “very high” in the category of general ethics. The AV rating is the highest rating awarded by Martindale-Hubbell and reflects an attorney who has reached the height of professional excellence. Mr. Wright is also a member of the Lexis Nexis Martindale-Hubbell Bar Registry of Preeminent Lawyers effective 2009.
Mr. Wright has also been regularly selected for inclusion in the Top Lawyers In Orlando as recognized in Orlando Home & Leisure Magazine since 2010.
Mr. Wright has likewise been regularly selected for inclusion in the Top Lawyers In Orlando as recognized in the Wall Street Journal since 2010.
Trial Masters seeks to recognize and distinguish attorneys with longstanding experience in the courtroom. Membership is offered exclusively to lawyers in good standing with the bar who can certify trying 35 or more trials to verdict over the course of their career.
Membership in Trial Masters is a “seal of experience” that is measured objectively and over a long period of time. Only attorneys who have brought their clients’ cases all the way to court a significant number of times qualify. This is a distinct achievement — fewer than .005% of lawyers in the United States are members of Trial Masters.
Mr. Wright is proud to be one of fewer than 250 lawyers in the country to be a Trial Masters member.
Mr. Wright has achieved multiple seven and six figure settlements for his clients over the years in cases involving automobile accidents, premises liability, construction accidents, and nursing home neglect. See Verdicts and Settlements.
Mr. Wright has also handled numerous appeals to several Florida district courts of appeals, to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in a federal case, and to the Supreme Court of Florida. One appeal handled by Mr. Wright against a funeral home operator for negligence in the supervision and direction of a funeral procession crossing a busy state highway, resulting in serious injuries to a family member of the deceased, was ruled upon by the Supreme Court of Florida in favor of Mr. Wright’s client. This Supreme Court ruling prompted the funeral home industry to join together in hiring powerful lobbyists to convince Florida legislators to enact statutes partially immunizing funeral home operators from liability for future automobile accidents occurring during funeral processions. Mr. Wright’s client recovered a significant settlement after winning her appeal to the Supreme Court of Florida.
Based upon one case he handled and which involved the rape and impregnation of a nursing home resident, Mr. Wright co-authored an article in the American Journal of Nursing entitled "Born Into A Diaper." The case was successfully prosecuted and settled on behalf of the resident and her minor child.
- Elderly Care Put To Test
- Jury faults YMCA
- Nursing Homes in Crisis
- Top Court Restores Suit against Funeral Home
In 2012, Mr. Wright was selected to serve as one of only eight attorneys as a member of the Official Creditors’ Committee representing injured victims nationwide in the Massachusetts bankruptcy litigation involving New England Compounding Center which compounded, sold and distributed steroid injectable medication that was contaminated with mold and/or fungus in their laboratory. He was also appointed to the Massachusetts federal district court’s Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee as co-chair of the Florida state sub-committee in the collateral civil litigation against NECC, its insiders and other entities responsible for the production, sale, distribution and injection of the contaminated medication. Over 14,000 patients nationwide received injections from recalled lots of the contaminated medication.
In 2015, a nationwide settlement of almost $200,000,000 was reached inside the bankruptcy proceedings with the makers of the tainted drugs, as well as others alleged to have been responsible for the contamination of the drugs. Mr. Wright’s early involvement, even before the filing of the bankruptcy action, led to the freezing of assets and appointment of a bankruptcy court trustee designed to preserve the assets and insurance resources of those involved in the production and contamination of the drugs, leading to this massive settlement of one of the worst medical/pharmaceutical catastrophes in American medical and legal history.
In 2017, Mr. Wright obtained a verdict against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in the amount of $ 6,800,000 including both compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the widow of a decorated World War II veteran who became addicted to cigarettes, smoked for decades, and died after several bouts of lung cancer.
Mary Sheffield filed suit in the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court for Orange County against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. pursuant to the findings of Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., 945 So.2d 1246 (Fla. 2006), which was decertified after trial in 2006 by the Florida Supreme Court. The Supreme Court allowed approximately 700,000 class members to pursue individual claims using findings of fact from the original Engle trial. Mr. and Mrs. Sheffield claimed that R.J. Reynolds hid the dangers of smoking from her husband, Valton Sheffield, leading to his lung cancer and death.
On May 11, the jury found that Valton Sheffield was addicted to cigarettes made by R.J. Reynolds and that addiction led to his lung cancer and death. The jury also found that Valton Sheffield relied on information from R.J. Reynolds about the harmfulness of smoking and that that reliance was also a cause of his lung cancer and death. The jury then awarded Mary Sheffield $1.8 million in compensatory damages and found that punitive damages were warranted. In the second phase of the trial, the jury awarded an additional $ 5,000,000 in punitive damages.
Mr. Wright has lectured to attorneys, expert consultants, and colleagues over the years. These lectures have included the presentation of seminars attended by other attorneys and colleagues on issues pertaining to motor vehicle negligence, premises liability, product liability, personal injury and wrongful death. Mr. Wright has also lectured in the field of nursing home, assisted living and other institutional abuse and neglect to legal nurse consultants and other attorneys.
In 2008, Mr. Wright was asked by the State of Florida, Department of Children and Families to present a seminar on nursing home neglect and abuse to their legal nurse consultants and staff. In 2013, Mr. Wright was asked by the American Association for Justice (AAJ) to present a portion of a seminar on the handling meningitis cases arising from a nationwide outbreak resulting from the use of contaminated steroid medications sold by a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy.
He presented the Annual Nursing Home Legislative and Case Law Update seminar of the Florida Justice Association’s 2015 Annual Convention. Mr. Wright also demonstrated “Cross Examination Of an Expert By The Defense” and served as moderator of workshops at the Al J. Cone Trial Advocacy Institute trial skills seminars and workshops sponsored by the Florida Justice Association in 2015.
In 2016, he demonstrated “Direct Examination of and Expert by the Plaintiff” and served as moderator of workshops at the Al J. Cone Trial Advocacy Institute trial skills seminars and workshops sponsored by the Florida Justice Association. Also in 2016, he presented a seminar on “The Common Law Collateral Source Rule In Florida” at the Florida Justice Association’s Masters of Justice Seminar.
Mr. Wright is active in his community in support of senior citizens, disabled and handicapped children and adults. Mr. Wright is a board member of the Central Florida Regional Board of Directors of Easter Seals Florida, Inc.