Alabama Law Student Wins Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition

Gonzalo E. Rodriguez pic
Gonzalo E. Rodriguez

Since 1992, attorney Edgar (“Ed”) Gentle has served as partner at Gentle Turner Sexton & Harbison, LLC, in Birmingham, Alabama. Ed Gentle graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law, which recently announced that one of its students has won the Ninth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition.

Every year, the American Association of Law Libraries’ (AALL’s) Legal History and Rare Books Special Interest Section holds the Ninth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition. The goals of the competition are to promote scholarship and expose students to AALL and the field of law librarianship.

A rising third-year Alabama Law student, this year’s winner was Gonzalo E. Rodriguez, who wrote Protecting Inland Waterways, from the Institutes of Gaius to Magna Carta. In the essay, he discusses how ancient Rome, England, and the Visigothic Kingdom managed water resources. The essay required extensive research of climatic and political aspects of these civilizations to examine how they protected their waterways.

In recognition of his achievement, Mr. Rodriguez received a cash prize of $500 and up to $1,000 for travel-related expenses to present his essay at the AALL’s annual meeting.


Understanding Class Action Lawsuits and Mass Torts

Class Action Lawsuits and Mass Torts pic
Class Action Lawsuits and Mass Torts

Birmingham, Alabama, attorney Edgar “Ed” Gentle has held appointed positions in a variety of multi-district litigation cases, including the MDL Blue Cross Antitrust Litigation (MDL 2406). A thought leader in his field, Ed Gentle has presented on a number of mass tort topics, from the administration of local settlements to strategies of selecting lead counsel.

Mass torts are related to class action lawsuits, which involve a group of people affected by a common issue, from vehicle safety defects to customer over-billing. Through consolidating a wide range of claims into a single claim, what would otherwise be a raft of similar cases are efficiently handled within a unified court process. Class action suits usually arise when the circumstance or injury-related compensation is not worth the expense and time of hiring an individual attorney for each plaintiff.

The mass torts handled by Edgar Gentle encompass class actions and a variety of additional legal situations. The most common type of mass tort involves consumers who have been harmed by defective drugs or products on a large scale. These cases tend to be complex and don’t follow a predictable, standardized procedure in court of law, due to the sheer number of claims and factors involved.

The Academy of Court Appointed Masters

Academy of Court Appointed Masters pic
Academy of Court Appointed Masters

Attorney Edgar Gentle is a partner at the office of Gentle Turner Sexton & Harbison in Birmingham, Alabama. As a special master, Edgar Gentle often serves as a neutral for courts. He is also a member of the national Academy of Court Appointed Masters.

The Academy of Court Appointed Masters is a group of the legal profession’s most talented and experienced authorities. All of the Academy’s members have served as special masters in court, and many have presided over state and federal courts s well. Together, they work to improve the legal profession and expand the use of masters in litigation.

Among its many accomplishments, the Academy created a Benchbook to help judges and attorneys utilize special masters most effectively. It explains the differences between and specialized uses of different types of masters, and provides guidelines for deciding when it is appropriate to call upon a master. The Benchbook also addresses ethical and practical issues that may arise within work with a court appointed master.

The Academy’s invaluable Benchbook is available free of charge online at:

The Academy of Court Appointed Masters

Academy of Court Appointed Masters pic
Academy of Court Appointed Masters

A partner at Gentle, Turner, Sexton, and Harbison, LLC, in Birmingham, Alabama, Edgar Gentle also serves as director at Custom Cable Services, Inc. Moreover, Edgar Gentle is an experienced mass tort attorney and speaker and a member of the Academy of Court Appointed Masters (ACAM).

Established in 2004, the Academy of Court Appointed Masters is dedicated to encouraging the effective use of special masters in state and federal court cases when necessary to help parties, their lawyers, and the courts. Comprised entirely of special masters, including court monitors, judicial referees, and court adjuncts, ACAM offers its members the opportunity to network and share ideas at its annual meetings and to attend continuing legal education webinars. ACAM welcomes the membership of any former judge or attorney who has served as a special master in a state or federal court case.

A key resource that ACAM makes available is the ACAM Benchbook, which is free and includes information on federal and state master rules and authorities. It also features sample appointment orders for various situations, along with a checklist.

PCBs, Pollution, and Legal Liability

Polychlorinated Biphenyls pic
Polychlorinated Biphenyls

Ed Gentle serves as an attorney and founding partner with a Birmingham, Alabama, law firm. Well-versed in mass tort litigation and settlement administration, Ed Gentle administered a $300 million settlement for a major polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) pollution case in Anniston, Alabama.

PCBs are a class of chemicals that were used for industrial purposes in the United States from 1929 to 1979. They have a variety of useful properties, including functioning as electrical insulators and exhibiting a high degree of stability. Unfortunately, scientists discovered PCBs are extremely toxic to humans in that they damage the immune system and are carcinogenic.

Due to their harmful effects and the fact that they were employed so extensively in the United States, companies that used PCBs face liability and often enter into settlements with the intention of funding or partially funding the environmental cleanup of contaminated sites. In Anniston, for example, thousands of claimants settled with the Monsanto Company and other corporations to the tune of $300 million to address PCB pollution and the property damage caused by it.

More recently, the city of New Bedford, Massachusetts, settled with the AVX Corporation and Cornell-Dubilier Electronics for more than $8 million to remediate a site polluted by PCBs.

Differences Between Mass Tort and Class Action

Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, LLC pic
Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, LLC

As partner in the law firm of Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, LLC, in Birmingham, Alabama, Ed Gentle is an attorney with many years of experience. The firm represents individuals and businesses as well as government agencies. Among the main matters that attorneys like Ed Gentle handle are litigation and mediation for mass tort/class action cases. along with the settlement administration related to them.

The terms mass tort and class action may sound familiar, but what’s the difference between the two? A class action suit is filed when there are numerous people who share a similar adverse event. The reasons could span from defective products to mistreatment by a company. One reason class actions are filed is to relieve the court of the burden of dealing with each claim individually, instead linking them together because of the similar issues involved.

Mass torts, on the other hand, are handled differently from class action suits. While both involve numerous people with similar complaints, mass torts are more complicated and can take longer to litigate. Mass torts are generally filed for cases where there may be a range of complaints, with plaintiffs suffering different impacts. And because of the complexity of these cases, compensations are often more difficult to ascertain.