Soft-spoken, yet hard-hitting. Unfailingly kind, yet unflaggingly perseverant. Boston personal injury lawyer Thomas Kiley, Sr. is the epitome of the West African proverb: Speak softly and carry a big stick.
When you listen to people talk about Tom Kiley, you begin to see two very clear pictures develop. Clients and friends will tell you about the soft-spoken, dedicated, compassionate man who lives and breathes every case he takes on. Even interviewers comment on Mr. Kiley’s gentleness and mild-mannered appearance. But those same interviewers also give you a glimpse of the Tom Kiley known to his defendants: sharp-minded, hard-hitting and tenacious. Kiley enters the courtroom carrying a very big stick.
In 1988, Suzanne Perney dubbed Tom Kiley “The Million Dollar Man” in the Boston Herald, due to his success in personal injury law. Mr. Kiley has become well-known for his million dollar case results. And what has he been doing over the 20+ years since the Herald article? Pretty much the same thing that got him noticed in the first place: carrying on a tradition of excellence, fighting big insurance companies and corporations with a bull-dog tenacity, winning large settlements for those needlessly injured or lost, and earning the trust and respect of his clients and peers. But how did Tom Kiley come to be the Million Dollar Man?
From his reasons for going into law to his current practice and even to the building Kiley Law Group inhabits, Tom Kiley is a man of tradition.
Mr. Kiley is a second generation trial lawyer. When he was a high school student, he often accompanied his father – a plaintiff trial lawyer – to court when he tried cases to a jury. “My dad is a great lawyer and my mentor,” Kiley says.”I knew, even as a teenager, that I wanted to be a trial lawyer like him.” Family history inspired Kiley to delve into personal injury law. His great grandfather, an Irish immigrant, was grievously injured while he worked in the textile mills. He ultimately died as a result of his injuries, leaving a young widow and four children without husband or father.
Kiley’s family history and his father’s tradition of excellence combined with his love for cases in which an average person who had been needlessly injured or had lost a loved one due to someone’s negligence could hold even the rich and powerful accountable for their wrongful acts led him to his current law practice.
Kiley’s love of tradition extends to the architecture his practice has inhabited over the past 40 years. Kiley Law Group currently occupies an office in Andover, which is infused with historical significance.
Their Andover office is housed in a historic Andover Building, which was originally part of Shawsheen Village, a model mill town created in the early 1920s by William M. Wood. Wood was a millionaire industrialist – wealthier than Bill Gates in his day – and president of the American Woolen Company, the largest wool textile producer at the time. Shawsheen Village slowly fell apart with the collapse of the New England textile mill industry. Over the years, many of the original buildings have fallen into disrepair or have been replaced by discordant contemporary architecture. Andoverians, however, are working to rehabilitate and revitalize the area, developing plans to find unity again in the architecture of Shawsheen Village. Kiley and his team believe that they are as responsible to their business homes as they are to their clients. By locating themselves in the Andover Building, they do their part to preserve the rich history of the Andover area.
Tom Kiley, Sr. is continuing the tradition of excellence by welcoming his son, Tom Kiley, Jr. into the Kiley Law Group fold. This father and son law team brings a 40-year-strong winning tradition to bear on behalf of their clients every day.
Personal injury, wrongful death and malpractice cases are among the most difficult to win. The Herald article quoted Benjamin Fierro, then general counsel of the Massachusetts Bar Association:
‘Juries are sensitive to the cost of medical liability. In the current atmosphere, a lawyer who is able to win a verdict for victims in these very difficult cases is doing very well.’ Most malpractice suits fail, he says.
And yet, Kiley was successful enough to be dubbed the Million Dollar Man. Not much has changed in regards to suspicious juries and the difficulty of winning these cases. Nevertheless, Kiley and his team continue to take on tough cases – including cases other lawyers have rejected – and continue to garner million dollar results. In reference to a medical malpractice case in which Kiley won a $10 million award for his client, a Boston personal injury colleague said,
‘Very few lawyers in this country have the bulldog obstinacy that Kiley has. … [I]t was clear to the jury that Kiley had done his homework. He dug up records and notes that no one, not even the doctors, knew existed.’
Kiley’s tenacity propelled him to fame when a case he helped win in the 1980s was turned into a book and movie in the 1990s. The book, A Civil Action, was written by Jonathan Harr and chronicles a water contamination case in Woburn, Massachusetts. Kiley fought and helped win a substantial award against two major corporations for families who had developed leukemia as a result of a polluted local water supply. In 1998 the book was released as a movie by the same name. A Civil Action starred John Travolta and Robert Duvall, who garnered an Oscar nomination for his role.
Over 20 years later, Kiley is still taking on the tough cases, digging up hard-to-find information and holding accountable even the rich and powerful for their wrongful acts.
If you speak with Kiley’s clients, they will speak of his tenacity or his hard-hitting tactics, but first of his compassion and kindness. Tom Kiley does not approach each case as a collection of data he’ll use to achieve a desired result. He first approaches each client as a fellow human who has endured devastating hardship and who deserves to be heard.
‘To be successful at this type of law, you have to have enormous empathy for people [Kiley says]. Their burdens become your burdens. Their justice is in your hands. You have to be able to communicate to a jury just what life is like from the victim’s perspective. To do that, you must suffer too.’
The respect and care with which Kiley approaches each individual who consults with him is what garners their trust. He is “awed by the responsibility they are putting in my hands,” and his clients see that. To them Tom Kiley is not a simple lawyer, he is their champion. Time and again, you will hear clients speak of Kiley as caring and attentive. One victim of an automobile accident says she would recommend Kiley not just because of his expertise and high success rate, but because “He handled my case as if I were family.”
The Million Dollar Man
This combination of tradition, tenacity and trust has made Tom Kiley one of the most respected personal injury lawyers in the Boston area. “I highly recommend Tom Kiley to anyone who has a serious injury,” says Pamela F. “In my view he is one of the best attorneys, not only in Andover, but in Massachusetts.”
Kiley believes in helping others. It’s why he became a lawyer. But his good work does not stop at the courtroom door. Kiley has authored several books that act as roadmaps for those enduring the devastation of personal injury or the injury or death of a loved one due to the negligence of another. His book about dealing with the injury or wrongful death of a child was inspired by his support of the Franciscan Hospital for Children. Not only did Kiley include a chapter in his book about the amazing work done at Franciscan, but he also led his law firm to donate funds to the hospital to help purchase new medical-grade pediatric cribs.
Most of all, Tom Kiley gives of himself. You cannot do the kind of work Kiley does, the way he does it, without being changed. When asked about the emotional effect of these cases, Kiley responds,
‘Sure, it’s great when you win one of these big cases. But it’s not quite what people think. You can’t escape from these cases; these people, they become a part of you, a part of your life, forever.’