JOHN AND TOM DRENDEL
John Squire Drendel (’81) was just fourteen
when he decided he wanted to become a
lawyer. His mother had taken him to a movie,
The Letter, set in Singapore and starring
Bette Davis. Davis’ character shot and killed
a man, but then claimed he had tried to take
advantage of her. She was arrested and her
husband hired an attorney to defend her.
During the trial, her attorney discovered a
letter that incriminated her but she was freed
nevertheless, returning to her poor husband,
who knows she doesn’t love him and that she
had killed the man she loved. John saw the
barristers wearing wigs during the trial and
decided “that’s what I want to do.” And in
fact, his career started with criminal defense.
Tom E. Drendel (’13) was only twelve when he decided to be a lawyer.
But instead of a movie, he went to watch a real live trial that starred his
dad, John, who was representing a person injured by an exploding gas
tank manufactured by Ford Motor Company. John did not prevail in
that case, but he set the groundwork for subsequent plaintiffs and later
lawsuits against the automobile manufacturer, which had a different result.
Perhaps the impression that John made in that trial is what led Tom’s
career to the representation of folks who were injured in all sorts of ways.
Now, father and son each lay valid claim to successful trial careers, both successfully
representing injured plaintiffs in Nevada and both Fellows in the
American College of Trial Lawyers. They were also law partners through the
years; both were active, until the date that John decided to retire.
Tom’s choice to become a trial attorney was reinforced (again by his
father) when he was sitting in a study hall during high school. One of
his instructors stopped and handed him a Time magazine article from
December 7, 1970, which featured his dad and two co-counsel. The article
was about the trial of Bush v. General Electric, 88 Nev. 360, 498 P.2d 366 (1968). Mineworker
Keith Bush had suffered a serious brain injury when a bolt snapped, dropping 1,250 pounds of
electrical equipment on him. The jury gave him all he requested - $3 million for himself (half of
which was for projected cost of care for his forty-year life expectancy), $500,000 for his wife, and
$150,000 for his three children. At the time, it was the single largest verdict for an injured plaintiff
in U.S. history. It also established two major legal precedents in Nevada products liability and
damage law, rejecting the defense of assumption of the risk and contributory negligence in strict
products liability cases, and allowing damages for loss of consortium for a spouse and children.
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