HEAD OF THE CLASS
Beth Klein is a class action lawyer who strives to satisfy both sides
Published in Colorado Super Lawyers
by Sharon Cutler
Beth Klein will talk about almost anything—from her husband and teenage son, to surfing, to her independent video production company called Humanities. Just don’t ask her about herself. Then the talk ceases.
Thankfully, colleagues, judges, friends and clients—and even the plaintiff of a case in which Klein negotiated a settlement for the defense—aren’t so reticent.
“When you hire Beth Klein, you buy a piece of her life,” says Cindy Andrews. The two are close friends now. That’s extraordinary considering how they met.
In 1986, Andrews and her son were badly burned and permanently disfigured in a propane tank explosion. “We were lucky to survive,” Andrews says.
The Andrews family filed a lawsuit against the propane company, and Klein was hired to represent the defense. “Beth was instrumental in getting people on her side to do the right thing,” Andrews says. “To this day, I credit her because she was compassionate and helped work a settlement in the best interests of everyone. At the end of the day, my son and I were taken care of.”
Years later, the two crossed paths again. “I was on the decoration committee of the Kempe Children’s Foundation fundraiser,” Andrews remembers, “an event for children who have been abused and neglected. We had a big fundraising ball, and I was collecting the bids for the [flower] arrangements on the table.” When Andrews stopped at Klein’s table and reached out to collect the bid envelope, Klein stopped mid-sentence.
“I know you,” she said, and introduced herself.
“She recognized my hand because it had been badly burned,” said Andrews. “She said she’d never forget my hand.”
Andrews recalls Klein’s words: “My heart went out to you and your family. I am really glad that we were able to come to an agreement. It was really important that we did the right thing for you and your son.”
That day Andrews told Klein of her dream to raise $1 million to start a foundation for burned children. She wanted to create a legacy that would live on long after she was, in her words, “taking a dirt nap.”
Klein was quick to respond: “I’m in.”
“And she has been helping me ever since,” Andrews says of Klein, who has served on the Zach Foundation’s board and helped raise money for the organization.
Klein grew up in Colorado Springs. “My father wanted me to be president,” she reminisces. “My mother wanted me to be happy.” Klein, inspired by family friends and neighbors, simply wanted to be a lawyer. She viewed lawyers as “people who empower people,” an ideal she aspired to.
After graduating from the University of Denver’s law school in 1988, Klein accepted a job as an associate lawyer at a boutique firm in Denver that specialized in insurance defense. “I got excellent training to be a trial lawyer at that firm,” she says. She also got the chance to work on the Owens Corning mass tort lawsuits, which at the time involved hundreds of thousands of pending asbestos litigation cases.
When Klein left the boutique firm in 1992 to open Beth Klein, P.C., she took the Owens Corning book of business with her along with a personal invitation to join Owens Corning’s stable of 27 national trial lawyers.
By 1999, approximately 200,000 cases pended and more than 460,000 claims had been filed against Owens Corning. Owens Corning manufactured products that contained asbestos, which was subsequently found to cause lung cancer and asbestosis, a lungscarring disease. The first asbestos case was filed in the 1960s in Beaumont, Texas, and litigation grew dramatically as more people who worked with asbestos-containing products claimed injuries.
To handle such a staggering number, Owens Corning created a unique system to streamline the settlement process; it established regional offices to handle all the administrative work up to the trial itself.
Every Thursday, the regional office would review pending cases and schedule lawyers to try them. “At the end of the day on Friday,” Klein recounts, “your trial schedule would look like a flight schedule.”
Larry Black, another lawyer on the national team, recalls how it all worked. “The regional office would call and say, ‘I’ve got a case going to trial in St. Louis. Can you go up and try it? We expect it will take three weeks.’ Up until this time, we’d never even heard of the guy that was sick. We had no idea who they were. We hadn’t taken their deposition. We hadn’t seen the medical records.”
He continues: “Now that’s completely different than every other piece of litigation, where you work up a defense, and the day that the case starts you take depositions, you get docs together and you try the case. So when you try the case, you know a hell of a lot about it. There were so many cases that this was the efficient way for Owens Corning,” says Black.
“There were very few lawyers that I think could have done this and fewer still that could have done it well. Beth was one of them,” Black says.
At the time, Jack Manning managed the eight-state region for Owens Corning, which included Colorado. “We used her in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana—wherever we needed a trial team,” he says. “Texas was a very, very difficult jurisdiction in which to try cases in those days. The law was against us. The juries were against us. The judges were against us. And the facts were against us. The only thing we had going for us was the quality of our trial lawyers, and Beth was as good as any of them and better than most. The thing that I remember about Beth was she would mount up and try [any case], anywhere.”
Larry Black recounts one such case. “The plaintiff showed up at the trial the first day in a wheelchair. He was on oxygen. He was obviously very, very sick. They introduced the plaintiff to the jury and the judge and said he might not be here every day but he wanted to see this through for his family. On Thursday, the plaintiff’s lawyers came to the courtroom and said he died overnight. They turned to the judge and said, ‘We’d like to tell the jury that he died overnight and that’s why he’s not here. It’s not that he’s not interested in this case.’”
The judge asked Klein and Black if they wanted to declare a mistrial and select another jury, but the team agreed they had a good judge and jury, and they should go ahead and try the case. It went on for another 10 days.
“We just stuck with the facts,” Black says. “And we did something unique in the final argument. Beth came up with this because I’m never this creative. We had to keep the jury’s attention and focus on medical issues, documents, causation issues, exposure issues—all kinds of things.
“We decided to both have microphones and switch off about every two minutes. She would argue and then I would argue. We argued for an hour and a half, maybe two hours.
“The jury was just rapt. Every time they’d start to lose focus, the other person would start to talk. I’ve never seen it done before or since.” Black continues: “The judge afterward said that was the most effective final argument he’s ever heard in his courtroom.” In the end, the jury found that Owens Corning was not responsible for the plaintiff’s death. Manning remembers another Owens Corning case in Central Texas. “She was just getting home-towned unbelievably by the judge and the plaintiff lawyers. I said, ‘Beth, do you need help up there? Do you need a second chair? Do you need someone to come up here and help you try this case?’”
“She said, ‘Nope. I want it to be me against all these people, because I want the jury to see that all these guys are attacking me.’ She was absolutely fearless when it came to things like that.”
Klein started representing plaintiffs in 1999. She doesn’t “work for either side exclusively,” she says, but represents “people with significant legal problems.” Regardless of which side she’s representing, Klein strives to reach a settlement that satisfies everyone.
In 1999, Klein was class counsel in a $15 million settlement for Colorado homeowners. Thousands of Colorado homeowners had purchased defective roofing shingles made of cement and wood that, in many cases, began to crack, swell and discolor decades before the warranty expired, causing homeowners significant financial losses. “We had one of the highest participation rates in that class than in any class in the United States,” Klein says. “At this time, we have paid almost every class member 100 percent of the dollar. We are down to the last 15 people and they will be paid in full, years ahead of schedule.”
Another success came in 2002 when Klein was on the discovery team in a case against Sulzer Medica that ultimately settled for more than $1 billion. Klein represented a group of Colorado individuals who were injured by their Sulzer artificial hip, which was contaminated by a mineral oil-based lubricant during the production process. For her work on the case, Klein was awarded with special recognition by the Hon. Kathleen O’Malley, the U.S. district judge overseeing the national litigation.
Currently, Klein accepts only clients who share her ideals. “They don’t want to make the case about them,” she says of her clients. “They want to make the case about making things better so the same mistake won’t happen again.”
Of course, not everyone can afford her, but sometimes a case just “seems so right,” Klein says, that accommodations can be made. “We have an agreement with one lady,” she says regarding a case that’s otherwise confidential. “One of her skills is that she can make a really great pie. I told her if she made a pie for me every year, that would be fine. I’m looking forward to my Christmas pie.”
Her desire to give back goes beyond her drive to help clients reach a fair settlement. As an instructor at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, Klein volunteers to help peers better their trial skills, a contribution that “illustrates her commitment to the profession and also her commitment to the concept of public service,” says Mark Caldwell, special programs director for the Institute.
“Beth can hear a story that a client is telling and find the magic in that story,” says Klein’s former partner, Cathy Klein (no relation). She can find “the driving force behind the story, the fundamental human element.”
While in grade school Klein reached the conclusion that lawyers are people who help other people, and despite many opportunities to take a more cynical path, she still believes that is the core of her profession. “Being a lawyer is about righting a wrong, about relating to the world and making it better,” she says.
Personal injury law, Klein says, “doesn’t consume me and it doesn’t keep me up at night. I have complete faith in my clients. I consider it a privilege to practice law—an opportunity to do exactly what I want to do.
“This is not a game,” she says. “We are dealing with people’s lives.”
When Beth Klein Boulder Attorney focused on her high school studies at Palmer High School she had an early peek at her future; it was a peek at world peace.
“When I was in high school I learned about Betty Williams.” Williams is the co-recipient of the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Community of Peace People (only to mention one of her many activities to work for children and world peace.) “She’s still one of my friends,” said Klein. Learning about Williams sparked a passion in Klein.
While at Truman University Klein applied and was awarded a Rotary International Scholarship that enabled her to study in Galway. She went there because “It was there that the peace process could be taught. I wanted to study peace,” she summed up the point. “I learned that you can accomplish something by working together. Both sides can come out positively.” It is that belief that drives Klein today.
Not only does she bring this philosophy into her daily work as a lawyer, but also into the work of her foundation which she and her husband founded, ‘Children’s Angels.’ “The foundation works to support abused children who are involved in the court system.”
Klein credits her parents for influencing her to work for the good of others. “My mother was a teacher and my father was a principal. They encouraged different learning styles and recognized that they needed to serve many children. I definitely grew up in an education oriented family, determined to give skills to others.”
Fast forward in her own education, Klein stated the reason she chose to attend law school at the University of Denver was due to “Ved Nanda, Professor of International Law who works with (former U.S. Secretary of State) Madeleine Albright.” Klein added with delight, “You know that Dr. Korbel, Madeleine’s dad, founded the School of International Studies.” She added, “I believe that you don’t have to be in London or Hong Kong…You can be anywhere and make change.” Those are wise words to live by, and words that Klein follows loyally.
Recently she was the driving force to transport 150 Haitian orphans (who had already completed the extensive adoption process) out of the earthquake dangers and safely to their new families in the United States. “I had lawyers, doctors, court clerks and many others contacting me, each wanting to know how they could help. My challenge became how to deal with it all.” Her passion to help these children was sudden and successful. But the real cause that is in her heart today is that of working to stop child trafficking.
What is shocking to most people is the fact that trafficking occurs much closer to home than any of us wish to think. It begins with high pregnancy rates for teenagers and homeless teenagers becoming prey to traffickers. Klein has also become aware of the horrific fact that “during any large gathering in any city, children are being trafficked in for the event.” She sited the recent DNC in Denver and the Superbowl in Miami. “It happens everywhere.”
“We need to work for local girls’ issues,” encourages Klein. “Non Governmental Organizations are working in a world of scarcity. It would be great to see groups imagine that they could have anything.” Klein believes that with determination we can fix any problem out there. She has set her sights on one of the biggest trafficking problems in the world: Southeast Asia.
“Men actually believe that sex with a virgin eliminates AIDS. Therefore, younger and younger girls are being trafficked.” Klein has worked hard to develop personal relationships with leaders in the region to try to make a positive change for these victimized children.
A bright spot in Klein’s fight for these children is a former U.S. Marine James Pond, founder of Transitions Global. Based in Phnom Penh and Mumbai, Pond and his wife have built a safe house system, and one-by-one with the cooperation of local authorities, rescue trafficked children and give them safe haven. In Transitions Global they are educated, provided health care, and after time, rediscover their smiles and laughter. The United States headquarters is located in Cincinnati, Ohio. (www.transitionsglobal.org)
Interviewing Klein becomes a herculean task. She is involved in multiple organizations with varied causes, each affecting people’s lives. She has spoken at the United Nations, gained the attention of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, counts concerned celebrities among her friends, as well as Congressmen and other governmental leaders.
She encourages everyone to become involved. “Don’t be afraid to ask for something that seems too big to imagine. Get rid of thinking you’ll look stupid, instead, keep trying. You can make a difference.” She ends with “I want people to know that if I can do this so can you.”
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Seeing other people self actualized and living their dream.
What is your greatest fear?
I don’t have one.
What is your proudest moment?
Birth of my son, Connor.
What is your dream?
The education, safety and well being of all children of the world.
What do you admire in others?
Their vision and action.
Who is your hero?
What is your strongest trait?
I’m not afraid to try something new or difficult.
What do you most admire in a person?
Integrity – saying what they will do and doing it.
If you could meet anyone, alive or deceased, who would it be?
What is your most precious possession?
What do you admire in your friends?
They truly care about other people and the betterment of the world.
What is your greatest regret?
I cannot think of one.
What is your motto?
Make it a great day.
What kind of books do you enjoy?
I love all books. I love reading. My favorite books right now are: Man’s Search for Meaning and The Theory of Everything.
What do you do on your day off?
Be with friends and family.
What do the Kleins do during family time?
Eat and laugh.
What is luxurious to you?
Living in the freedom that we have in America. We are truly blessed
Beth Klein is a wonderful attorney who has gone above and beyond in working to stop exploitation of trafficking victims. Who steps up and writes law for free? She does. Her commitment to the poor is extraordinary. She is my idol.
Thanks Beth for your wisdom, support, and inspiration!
The aura of Beth is an amazing harmony of inspiration, determination and motivation. I feel blessed to be a part of her world.
Beth is a person of conviction and compassion. Rarely do you find someone of the caliber of Beth’s that has accomplishments and ambition to pursue the justice and freedom of the most vulnerable in our world.
Honored to sign
Keep doing the wonderful work that you do. You help so many.
Beth, I’m fortunate to call you a friend and partner in making a difference on this planet. Looking forward to much more difference made in the future!
Too awesome, Beth!
Congratulations Beth. You are an inspiration.
Beth is an inspiration!
Beth, Congratulations! You have done wonderful things and will continue to move mountains. We should all look to you as a role model. Thank you for all you do.
Thanks for being a role model for the power of one person committed to making a difference.
J Kim Wright
You inspire so many people every day, and you get results. I am proud to be a friend
– See more at: https://www.blacktie-colorado.com/have-you-met/beth-klein/#sthash.zzaJVt3j.dpuf
It’s not easy to find a more accomplished attorney in Colorado than Beth Klein. Leading national law organizations consistently rank her among the top attorneys.
Evidently the attention is well deserved. She has won enormous class-action settlements ranging from $15 million to over $1 billion to protect consumers from defective and dangerous products. Her verdicts have set records and make the top verdicts lists for the United States.
Beth Klein, Klein Frank Boulder, was a finalist in the 2014 Outstanding Women in Business law
She shared ink with Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Hilary Clinton when More Magazine named her as one of the “50 Women That You Want On Your Side.” Women’s E-news named her one of the 21 leaders for the 21st century. And the Indie Flix Empowerment Project Film featured Klein’s life story as a role model and inspiration for girls.
Outside of the media though, Klein is known for her exhaustive efforts to stop human trafficking. She’s worked with several states and nations to create human trafficking laws, and even helped write Colorado’s 2010 and 2011 anti-human trafficking laws.
This summer she spent time on the Nicaraguan border to offer education and health care to women and child prostitutes who work the long lines of trucks waiting to cross the border.
“I’m just a human being trying to do the best with the situation I’m presented with,” Klein said.
Company: Klein Frank
Beth Klein Boulder Attorney official page
Born and raised in Colorado, Boulder Attorney Beth Klein graduated second in her class at Truman University, summa cum laude. After receiving a Rotary International Scholarship to Ireland, Beth Klein continued her education through the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver, where she was an editor for the Denver Law Review.
Once she graduated law school, Beth Klein parlayed her legal expertise into an immensely successful career. She began her practice with a trial firm and became the first woman national trial attorney for Owens Corning in the asbestos litigation. Although based in Boulder, Colorado Beth Klein, from 1993 to 1999 she tried cases across the United States against some of the most skilled trial lawyers in America. And she wom many trials in very difficult jurisdictions.
In 1999 Beth Klein opened her own law firm in Boulder, Colorado. One of her first cases was a class action against American Cemwood for defective roof that affected thousands of Colorado homeowners. She brought the only successful automobile coverage PIP enhanced benefits class action against American Famiy Insurance in District Court in Boulder, Colorado. The result of this class action was that 27,000 automobile policies in Colorado were ordered to conform to the law. Thousands of Coloradoans benefitted from umproved coverage that applied retroactively and complied with Colorado law.
When she founded her Boulder Colorado office, Beth Klein decided that she would use law to improve lives. She began tackling the injustices of human trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable people. She passionately represents exploited and victimized people in civil court, and works to recover compensation for the damages they have suffered. From her Boulder office, Beth Klein has written law for states and governments around the world – for free.
More recently, Beth Klein has taken on cases against military contractors committing trafficking crimes abroad, in both war and conflict zones. After the surger in Iraq, Beth Klein accepted the cases of Dawson v. Fluor which in 2012 was voted as “Case of the Year” by the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association.
In 2006, Attorney Beth Klein was selected as one of the “500 Leading Plaintiffs’ Lawyers in the United States” by Lawdragon, an honor she shares along with multiple recognitions as a “Superlawyer” in the state of Colorado. Beth is also a past recipient of the Women’s eNews 21 Leaders Award for her work as an advocate for the enslaved, as well as for writing one of the most effective anti-trafficking laws, pro bono. In 2010, More Magazine named her as one of the “50 Women That You Want On Your Side,” an honor she shared alongside Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey, among other prominent female leaders. That same year, Beth served on the steering committee of Demand Abolition, an advocacy organization that seeks to dramatically reduce the demand for sex trafficking and commercial sex in the United States. She is also a past recipient of the Georgia Imhoff Philanthropy and Activism Award, and is a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America.
In a major blow to human traffickers in our state, Beth wrote the 2010 and 2011 Anti-Human Trafficking laws for Colorado. These laws focus on common practices of human traffickers—such as their coercion of victims into becoming prostitutes or forcing them to become domestic slaves—and allow trafficking victims to sue for three times the amount of damages and attorney’s fees. In Colorado alone, Beth has built a coalition of more than 500 individuals, professionals and non-governmental organizations who share her passion to end human trafficking.
In addition to developing legislation, Beth has also created a trial training program to hone lawyers’ skills in dealing with the complexities of human trafficking. Her program has been instrumental in helping fellow lawyers navigate through Fourth Amendment intricacies, complex evidence and difficult witness issues. A talented instructor, Beth returned to the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver—this time to teach—and has also taught at the University of Colorado School of Law. She is a sought-after lecturer on witness prosecution, trial design, class action structure, and complex litigation.
Boulder Attorney Beth Klein brought suit against a reckless contractor who severely injured a United States citizen during the surge in Iraq. In order to prosecute this case, Beth had to locate witnesses in Iraq, negotiate with the emerging Iraqi goverment to permit its citizens to testify, and to navigate ICE and Homeland Security to secure the testimony. The trail resulted in a $19 Million verdict. After the completion of the case, Beth Klein successfully brought the witnesses and their entire families from Erbil, Iraq to the United States to live for the rest of their lives. These brave Iraqi Christians were responsible for holding contractors accountable for endangering people in Iraq. They are true heroes, and they now live away from the threat of ISIS and near certain death. This case won Case of the Year.
Beth Klein Boulder Attorney consulted for free on a human trafficking trial in Dallas which garnered a $7 million award, and she will prosecute civil cases against traffickers and their enablers in the upcoming years.
After the earthquake in Haiti, Beth Klein worked with the US Miltary, State Department, and hundreds of families who had adopted a child in Haiti. Beth Klein spearheaded a national effort to bring children to waiting parents in the United States.
In her office in Boulder Colorado, many of her cases involve the representation of children who are victims of sexual assault. She is personally committed to ensuring that her child clients have a voice and receive support and compensation to platform their future. Beth Klein also represents clients in wrongful death, products liability, and bike, motorcycle, car and truck accidents.