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Attorney Ryan J. Kiwala, a shareholder at Simmons Hanly Conroy, focuses his practice on representing victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. With more than 10 years of experience, he has helped recover millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for hundreds of clients.
“For many of my clients, a mesothelioma lawsuit is often the first lawsuit they’ve ever filed. They are looking for guidance and answers,” Ryan said. “I have worked with clients with backgrounds of all kinds from laborers to pipefitters, carpenters to electricians.”
Finding Pivotal Evidence
As a member of an asbestos trial team, Ryan’s role is to work with trial attorneys to make certain cases are trial-ready. He takes depositions, obtains and reviews information from defendants, prepares arguments, researches laws and works directly with clients.
One of the main parts of Ryan’s job is to find evidence and ask questions about the information he gathers. What did the defendant know about asbestos? Did companies test their products to make sure they were safe? Why did the defendant remove asbestos from their products? He must collaborate with the trial attorney to understand the specific facts of each case and what research is needed.
“Finding an important piece of evidence, the proverbial ‘needle in a haystack’, is always gratifying. It takes time, patience and planning. I might have to look through 10,000 pages to find one document or review hours of depositions for an admission from a defendant’s employee,” Ryan said.
Working with His Clients
Ryan became an attorney because he wants to make a positive impact on the lives of others. What he likes most is the clients he works with, people who have been injured through no fault of their own. He travels to meet with clients and spends as much time with them as necessary. He gives them an honest assessment of their case and the process they will go through. His goal is to achieve the best possible result for each client.
“A good attorney needs to vigorously represent his client while also managing the numerous moving parts that may be involved in a lawsuit. At the firm, we make it a priority to give clients the personal attention they deserve while keeping an eye on the larger picture,” Ryan said.
He explained that at Simmons Hanly Conroy, there are over 50 attorneys who devote their practice to mesothelioma cases. Because of the breadth and depth of the attorneys’ experience, someone on the team has seen almost every type of asbestos-exposure case. Clients benefit from their personal connection with their assigned attorney, but also the knowledge of the entire team.
A Recent Case
One of Ryan’s recent clients was Dave, a father of nine, who was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. Dave served as a police officer for the Chicago Police Department from 1963 to 1991. But his exposure to asbestos occurred before this. Dave had spent the better part of a year as a teenager as a laborer for a heating and cooling company. He tore down and hauled away old furnaces and boilers, which were sealed with asbestos cements and asbestos rope. He also worked for several years as a carpenter and drywall finisher, and worked extensively with asbestos-containing drywall joint cements and other construction products.
Once, while driving Ryan to the airport after a visit, Dave told Ryan how much he appreciated how the firm’s work allowed him to focus on his medical care. Because of his medical care, he lived for nearly five years after his initial diagnosis – much longer than doctors originally predicted.
“Dave loved his family, loved his grandkids,” Ryan remembered. “Those extra years he got to spend with them were more valuable than all the money in the world.”
Background and Experience
Ryan grew up in a blue-collar family in St. Louis, Missouri. His father was a maintenance worker for a local water utility and his mother was a grocery store clerk. He attended the University of Missouri-St. Louis and received a B.A. in history in 2001. He attended the St. Louis University School of Law, where he spent a year on the editorial staff of the St. Louis University Public Law Review, and earned his J.D. in 2006.
Ryan volunteers his time with the Madison County Legal Advice Clinic. In the past, he has done pro bono service as a guardian ad litem.
Ryan has been admitted to the bar in Illinois, Missouri and California. He has also been admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since 2013. He is affiliated with the American Association for Justice, the Illinois State Bar Association and the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.