ATLA Salutes...

Greg Denny


Greg Denny began defending workers who were injured on the job because he wanted to represent people who looked like his own family.

“I began practicing worker’s compensation as soon as I got out of law school,” Denny said. “I never could imagine representing someone other than someone like my parents.
 
“My dad is in the electrical supply industry and he has never had a worker’s comp claim, but he could,” Denny said. “Like I said, I try to represent people who are like my relatives, and none of them owned businesses.”
 
Denny, who is former chairman of the Alabama Trial Lawyers Worker’s Compensation Division, said about 60 to 70 percent of his practice is representing injured workers. Although he calls the cases “high maintenance,” he said they are very rewarding because you know you are helping someone who can not help themselves. He quickly cites a case in Cullman where a woman had lost her arm and said while he was representing her he became friends with her family.
“After we won the case, we all went out to lunch,” he said. “It gives you a good feeling.”
 
Denny, with the help of several other lawyers, started the worker’s compensation division two years ago. It currently has its own list serve, holds meetings in conjunction with and separate from ATLA seminars, and is working to develop its own board. The division was started under the direction of the ATLA President Tom Edwards.
 
“It has been growing pretty consistently,” said Denny. “Most of the people who practice worker’s comp are in small firms with one or two, maybe three or four, lawyers.
 
“Having our own list serve allows us to communicate and to bounce ideas off of each other,” he said. “That way you don’t feel like you are out there on your own island.”
 
In the last two years, the worker’s compensation division’s separate seminars have drawn dozens of lawyers from across the state, Denny said. The group currently is planning a third meeting, but the date has not been determined.
 
“Our long-term goal is to keep everything going for years to come,” Denny said.
 
One of the group’s short-term goals is to work with Alabama State Bar and other interested entities to reform the state’s worker’s compensation laws, Denny said.
 
He pointed out the payment cap for a permanent injury is woefully low. In fact, he said, if Congress raises the minimum wage to $7 an hour, a healthy worker would earn $280 a week. A person who has lost an eye in a workplace accident, under the current law, would only receive $220 a week ---or $60 less than the minimum wage worker. The payments have not been increased in almost two decades, he said.
 
“That is just not right, it is not fair, and it is something we have to address,” he said.
 
In addition to worker’s compensation issues, the division also is promoting charitable causes, especially the Susan G. Komen Foundation and other cancer-related groups.
 
“Several of the section’s most active members have been affected, directly or indirectly, by cancer and the group has a special awareness of the pain this disease can cause,” Denny said.
 
While he has devoted his law practice to representing injured workers, Denny has enjoyed several “trivial” pursuits. He has appeared on “Jeopardy!,” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”.
 
How did a worker’s compensation lawyer who was reared in Jefferson County make it into show business? It is an interesting story.
 
Denny’s wife, Priscila, is from Brazil and they used “Jeopardy!” as a way to acclimate her to American pop culture, he said.
 
“As we watched my wife commented that I knew a lot of the answers so I went to Atlanta, took the test and passed, and we went out to Los Angeles to do the show,” he said. “I did fairly well, but lost to a Harvard law student.”
 
A few months later, he was on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”.
 
Now, the next question is how did a worker’s compensation lawyer who was reared in Jefferson County meet and marry a woman from Brazil? He met then-Priscila Arruda at church in Birmingham.
 
Denny said Congressman Robert Aderholt, a law school friend, invited him to go to church one Sunday and Priscila was there with her uncle. At the time, she was doing her residency at UAB. She is now a successful dentist in Birmingham and Denny said he does all he can to help her with her business.
 
Denny also uses his spare time to serve as chair of the advisory committee of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Philosophy Department, which is a nationally recognized program.
 
Greg Denny may not have been a “Jeopardy!” champion but he has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of injured workers and for that ---- he is a “Champion of Justice.”