- B.S., Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service
- J.D., Summa Cum Laude, University of Miami
Awards & Honors
- Best Lawyers in America (2008-2015)
- Florida Super Lawyers® (2009- 2015)
- Florida Risings Stars (2009)
- AVVO Rated Lawyer- Superb (perfect rating)
- AV® Rated by Martindale-Hubbell® (highest rank awarded)
Professional Associations & Leadership Activities
- Summit Council
- Board of Directors- Florida Justices Association
- Appellate Section Chair- Broward County Bar Association
- Martindale-Hubbell®’ s Register of Preeminent Lawyers
- Trial Section Chair- Broward County Bar Association
- Board Certified Civil Trial Specialist
Community Associations & Leadership Activities
John J. Uustal
The day after John Uustal started law school, Hurricane Andrew tore through the University of Miami, destroyed parts of the city, and shut down the school. Once the campus and surrounding areas reopened, he was forced to complete a full year of law school in much less time. For months he studied law at a ridiculous pace under tremendous pressure while living without electricity or phone service and at the same time struggling to help those still in need.
All of the students in the incoming class faced the same difficulties, but some excelled because of the impossible demands and incredible responsibility. At the end of the year, Mr. Uustal not only ranked first in the entire student body, he also earned the Book Award for the highest grade in the class in every single class that year. He turned his attention to trial skills and was prosecuting criminals in Miami courtrooms even before he graduated.
After graduation he earned what was reportedly the highest score in the entire state on the Florida Bar Examination. In his first few years of practice he obtained a $51 million verdict trying a car crash case himself, helped make national news when he discovered a massive corporate scheme to cover-up the real reason that people were burning alive in General Motors vehicles, and tried cases across the country. Ten years after graduation he and partner Bob Kelley founded the powerhouse trial firm of Kelley/Uustal.
Mr. Uustal now handles incredibly complex and difficult cases against the best defense attorneys in the world. His successes have resulted in safer fuel tanks, safer seatbelts, safer medical care, and safer equipment for firefighters and paramedics.
His most prominent recent cases have been against companies that knowingly sell dangerously defective products. He represented a young girl who was severely burned when a pressure cooker malfunctioned; he achieved a record-setting settlement. He handled cases involving keyless ignition defects that killed people in their homes, and won every case. He was so infuriated by the refusal of automobile companies to fix their vehicles in the ways their own engineers specified that he worked with the New York Times on a comprehensive story of the defect, which lead to hearings in the U.S. Senate. He has won every case he has tried against tobacco manufacturers, who have been selling dangerous products for decades. He has been named Product Liability Lawyer of the Year by America’s Best Lawyers, Awarded the Most Effective Lawyer for Product Liability by the Daily Business Review, and has been interviewed and chronicled by national newspapers and television news programs.
That success has also earned him some powerful enemies. A car company promised to bankrupt him, he was attacked and maligned by Big Tobacco, and he was threatened in Argentina after antagonizing government officials who had been complicit in Argentina’s dirty war. When facing such intimidation, he likes to quote Clarence Darrow: “I have lived my life, and I have fought my battles, against power. I have asked no odds from them, and I never will.”
Mr. Uustal realizes that he is at his best in the most difficult cases, especially when working for a family who is desperate for help. He limits his practice to representing families who have suffered catastrophic injuries or wrongful death, even when other attorneys say the case can’t be won. With truly devastating injuries, he can profoundly change lives for the better – the difference between a good recovery and a great recovery may be all the difference in the world to a truly desperate family. He excels in these cases because of the impossible demands and the incredible responsibility, just as he did when struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew.
Clients have called him “the real deal”; “an old-school fighter” who “cared about us as people first.” After he won a case for a little girl who suffered brain damage when she was hit by a car, her mother wrote: “John Uustal is a true genius, and he has a heart of gold. I truly believe he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing. This is something I try to tell people.”
Coach And Teacher
John Uustal grew up in Fort Lauderdale. His mother was a teacher, his father was a coach, and he saw the real impact they each had on so many young lives. He loves kids, and he dedicates himself to coaching competitive soccer for Fort Lauderdale Select. He played soccer locally at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, and later he was one of the few Americans chosen to play for the Italian Embassy Soccer Team in Washington, D.C.
He finds opportunities to coach in the law as well. Because he only accepts a small handful of cases, he believes that it is important to freely give his time advising, assisting and teaching other attorneys who ask for help. He gives lectures across the country and teaches trial skills.
To speak with an attorney at his firm, contact Kelley/Uustal today.