J. Clark Aristei was an attorney for more than 40 years and a member of our team at Wisner Baum for 26 of those years. Clark served as a senior shareholder for more than two decades and then semi-retired while also acting as Of Counsel to our firm. During his time at Baum Hedlund, Clark focused on all of the firm’s commercial transportation disaster litigation stemming from aviation, bus, maritime, train, and truck accidents.
During the latter part of his career, Clark focused a significant part of his practice on two of the worst train disasters in history, in which he personally represented 24 passengers who were injured or killed. He was liaison counsel for the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC), working with lead trial counsel for over 30 law firms overseeing all of the 2005 Metrolink Glendale, California crash cases, more than 110 in total.
He was also a member of the PSC for the 2008 Chatsworth, California Metrolink collision cases. His legal research and writing skills helped remand the cases from federal court back to state court. In addition, he also served on the “Zap the Cap” committee that sought to obtain legislative relief for the Metrolink passengers who were denied full compensation due to the $200M liability cap on victim compensation.
In addition to his leadership in train disaster litigation, Clark was on the PSC for the cases arising from the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 into the Pacific Ocean, near Pt. Mugu, California in 2000. Clark played a key role in obtaining the court’s ruling that maritime law provided the correct applicable law for the families of the victims. Without this win, the families would not have received proper compensation.
Clark was also essential in obtaining U.S. jurisdiction for two foreign tour bus crashes in Cancun, Mexico and Kent, England, in which the firm represented 28 Americans injured or killed.
He worked on many of the firm’s aviation crash cases. As designated plaintiffs’ counsel in the Coordinated Discovery Cases for the Southwest Airlines Flight 1455 accident at Burbank, California in 2000, he successfully represented airline passengers injured in that crash. He was also on the trial team in 2003 that obtained an $8.5M verdict for his client in the 2001 Airborne Charter Inc./Avjet jet which crashed in Aspen, Colorado. He was also trial co-counsel in 2006 for the 1998 Bell Helicopter crash in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California in which his firm successfully represented the families of three paramedics who were killed in that crash.
Clark has represented over 50 passengers in catastrophic rail disasters and he successfully took two cases to trial as a result of the 1993 Sunset Limited derailment into a bayou near Mobile, Alabama. He was lead trial counsel for two passengers and co-counsel for a third trial.
In a truck accident case against Tyson Foods, Clark worked as co-trial counsel in 2006 for the family of an unmarried 22-year-old Marine, survived by his parents and a brother. The Marine was killed by a Tyson Foods truck near Crestline, Ohio in 2004. In that trial, the jury returned one of the largest verdicts of its type in Ohio’s history, $7,028,687 for pre-impact distress and wrongful death. Before joining Baum Hedlund, Clark also handled cruise ship accidents and incidents.
From 1986 to 1997, Clark was an adjunct professor of law at the University of West Los Angeles School of Law. He has earned the highest 5.0 out of 5 AV® Peer Review Rating through Martindale Hubbell, Lexis-Nexis® Martindale-Hubbell® Client Distinction Award, and the highest Avvo.com superb score of 10. He has been selected to Southern California Super Lawyers for six years in a row and is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, The Best Lawyers in America, and Who’s Who in American Law.
For many years, Clark was an avid cyclist. He even took his bicycle to Europe to see and ride part of the race route of the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. In his free time, Clark and his wife, Caro Louise, operate Breezy Bluff Ranch in Escondido, California. They grow and market avocados, pomegranates, persimmons, figs, and citrus. They are active in the California Farm Bureau Federation, the California Avocado Commission, and the Escondido Historical Society.
- Los Angeles Harbor College (A.A., 1968)
- California State University at Long Beach (B.A., cum laude, 1971)
- University of San Diego School of Law, San Diego, California (J.D., 1975)
- California, 1975
- U.S. District Court, Southern District of California, 1975
- U.S. District Court, Central District of California, 1979
- U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, 1993
- U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York, 1996
- U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, 1997
- U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, 2006
- U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin, 2010
Awards and Honors
- AV® Preeminent 5.0 out of 5 Peer Review Rating through LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell®
- The Best Lawyers in America®, 2013 – 2018
(Copyright by Woodward/White, Inc., of Aiken, SC).
- Selected to: Southern California Super Lawyers®, 2005, 2008 – 2018
- Avvo.com Superb Score 10 out of 10
- Lexis-Nexis® | Martindale-Hubbell® Client Distinction Award
- Listed, The Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers™
- National Air Disaster Foundation Safety Award, 2002
- Recipient, American Jurisprudence Award in Constitutional Law, 1973
- “Zap the Cap” Committee, which sought legislative relief for the Metrolink passengers who were denied full compensation due to the $200M liability cap on victim compensation
- Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee Member, Chatsworth Metrolink Collision Cases, Chatsworth, California, 2008
- Trial Co-Counsel, 2006; 2004 Tyson Foods truck crash near Crestline, Ohio
- Trial Co-Counsel, 2006; 1998 Bell Helicopter crash in Los Angeles, California
- Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel, Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee Member, Glendale Metrolink Derailment Cases, Glendale, California, 2005
- Trial Team Member, 2003: Airborne Charter Inc./Avjet, Aspen, Colorado, 2001
- Co-Lead Plaintiffs’ Counsel for the Coordinated Discovery Cases, Southwest Airlines Flight 1455 accident, Burbank, California, 2000
- Lead Trial Counsel, 2000: Two trials as a result of the 1993 Sunset Limited Amtrak derailment near Mobile, Alabama
- State Bar of California, Retired
- California Farm Bureau Federation
Legal Teaching Position
- Adjunct Professor of Law, University of West Los Angeles School of Law (1986-1997)
Presentations / Speeches
Topic: “Successful Handling of Wrongful Death Cases in California”
Organization: Lorman Education Services
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: August 2001 and January 2002
- Successful Handling of Wrongful Death Cases in California: Trying Your Case to Verdict or Settlement – Lorman Education Services, January, 2002
- McCoy v. Southwest Airlines Co., Inc. 208 F.R.D. 617 (C.D.Cal. 2002)
- McCoy v. Southwest Airlines Co., Inc. 211 F.R.D. 381 (C.D.Cal., 2002)
- In re Air Crash Off Point Mugu, California, on January 30, 2000 145 F.Supp.2d 1156 (N.D.Cal., 2001)
- Cheng v. United Airlines, Inc. 1995 WL 42157 (N.D. Ill. 1995) reconsideration denied by Cheng v. United Airlines, Inc. 1995 WL 314575 (N.D. Ill. 1995)
- Geffen v. County of Los Angeles 197 Cal. App. 3d 188, 242 Cal. Rptr. 492 (1987)
- Penner v. Falk 153 Cal. App. 3d 858, 200 Cal. Rptr. 661 (1984)
Notable Media Appearances
- KFWB News 98 Los Angeles
- KNX 1070 Radio Los Angeles
- Airline Industry News
- Andrews Litigation Reporters
- Associated Press
- Knight Ridder Tribune Business News
- La Opinion
- Los Angeles Times
- Lawyers USA
- Mealey’s Litigation Report: Tobacco
- National Law Journal
- Seattle Times