Deborah Chang is the founder of Athea, a trial lawyer, and Of Counsel with Panish Shea & Boyle LLP in Los Angeles. She focuses
her practice representing plaintiffs in complex catastrophic injury/wrongful death cases and has achieved some of the highest
verdicts and settlements in the country.
Deborah has been an integral part of the trial teams in significant and important trials, including the Michael Jackson wrongful death
case, the first ASR model hip implant trial tried in the country, and a nightclub liability case resulting in a $160,500,000 verdict that
led to necessary changes to the security guard industry. Many of her cases of first impression led to vast improvements in standards
and protocols that enhanced safety for the public, including the following:
A record $17 million verdict in wrongful death of adult child that ensured that visually impaired patrons using trains would
be protected from falling in the gap between cars–thereby setting the stage for changes throughout the industry
nationwide (Cuthbertson v. LACMTA).
After a nearly ten-year battle in the trial court, Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court, Deborah prevailed in a
landmark case that established that colleges and universities in California have a duty to protect students from known
dangers in the classroom (Rosen v. The Regents of the University of California).
Bringing the first class action in the country on behalf of prisoners with AIDS in a maximum security prison, which led to a
landmark settlement that established medical, programming, and housing protocols nationwide and was cited with
approval by the 1991 Report to the President and Senate by the National Commission on AIDS. She thereafter drafted
enacted Connecticut legislation that permitted the release of terminally ill prisoners, and established the first medical
scholarship for individuals pursuing a nursing degree to work with patients with AIDS.
In 1996, she brought the first lawsuit in the country based on the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. section
13891 (VAWA) and successfully argued for the upholding of the constitutionality of the statute in the first federal court to
consider the issue. After reaching a settlement in the case, she lectured extensively on the issue of gender-motivated
violence, and was a guest commentator on several national television shows regarding the statute, both before and after
the United States Supreme Court eventually ruled that the civil remedy portion of the statute was unconstitutional.
Prior to her practice at Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, Deborah represented both plaintiffs and defendants throughout the country in
products liability, commercial litigation, professional liability securities fraud, and complex torts cases. She previously served as
local, regional, and national counsel for a variety of companies, insurers, and manufacturers, including AIG Excess and Ford Motor
Company. Understanding how defendants and insurers analyze and prepare cases has been invaluable to Deborah, and helped her
achieve record settlements and verdicts.
As part of her trial practice, Deborah has been extensively involved in jury research and focus groups. In 2000, she helped
conceptualize and launch one of the first companies to provide online focus groups from a unique database of nearly 3.5 million
Internet users. The service is used by trial attorneys and insurers in prominent cases pending throughout the country, and was
recognized by The National Law Journal as a helpful tool for assessing the strength and value of cases. For over a year, she served
as its CEO and General Counsel.
Deborah Chang is a Los Angeles personal injury trial attorney with Panish Shea & Boyle LLP and focuses her practice representing
plaintiffs in complex torts, catastrophic injury, wrongful death, product liability, sexual assault/abuse/harassment/discrimination, and
business tort cases.
Licensed to practice in California, Florida and Connecticut, Ms. Chang and her trial teams have obtained some of the largest
verdicts and settlements on record and has been involved in some of the most significant and lengthiest trials in Los Angeles,
including the Michael Jackson wrongful death case and the first ASR model hip implant trial tried in the country. Many of her cases
of first impression led to significant changes in industry standards and practices that improved safety for the public. In Cuthbertson
v. LACMTA, for example, a record $17 million wrongful death verdict ensured that visually impaired patrons using trains would be
protected against falling in the gap between rail cars. The verdict was important not only to the LACMTA, but to all transportation
Likewise, in Rosen v. The Regents of the University of California, Ms. Chang was an integral part of an eight-year battle in the trial
court, the Court of Appeals, and the California Supreme Court in a case of first impression that affects every university and college
student in the state. In that case, the Plaintiff, a pre-med student at UCLA, was slashed across the throat and stabbed multiple
times by a classmate who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The California Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision,
determined that universities and colleges have a duty to protect its students from known dangers in the classroom.
IFor her work, Ms. Chang has been received the 2019 California Lawyer Attorney of the Year (CLAY) Award in the area of Personal
Injury, Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC) Consumer Attorney of the Year Award in 2014, and was a finalist for that award in
2012, 2016, and 2017. She has been repeatedly recognized and selected for inclusion by the Daily Journal as one of the Top
Women Lawyers in California, one of the Top Plaintiff Lawyers in California, and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in California. In 2017,
she received the CAOC Women’s Caucus Women Consumer Advocate of the Year Award for outstanding commitment to furthering
the education and careers of women trial lawyers.
In 2018, Ms. Chang was selected as an Elite Trial Lawyer, one out of only nine women trial lawyers throughout the country who
were recipients of this recognition in the “Elite Women of the Plaintiffs Bar” category. The Elite Trial Lawyer winners were chosen by
editors and reporters from ALM and The National Law Journal who reviewed over 300 submissions across 23 categories to find
finalists “who have demonstrated exemplary performance in cutting-edge work on behalf of plaintiffs over the last 18 months.”
She has also been selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers for Southern California and Best Lawyers in America, and has been
recognized as a “Top Attorney” by periodicals such as Pasadena Magazine. She has achieved a perfect 10 out of 10 Avvo rating for
her exceptional services as a Top Attorney.
Ms. Chang currently serves on the Executive Committee of the CAOC and is currently the Second Vice-President and Membership
Chair. She is also a member (Associate Rank) of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), and
serves on its Executive Committee. She is a National Board Member of ABOTA, a member of the Membership Committee, and is
the Chair of the Sponsorship Committee, and previously served as the Co-Chair of its Masters in Trial (MIT) Program. She is also a
Fellow of the ABOTA Foundation (Legacy-Ratifier).
She is also actively involved with the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA), and is a member of and frequent
speaker for the American Association of Justice (AAJ). She currently serves on the Diversity Committee for AAJ as a representative
for California. She is also a Fellow with the Litigation Counsel of America (LCA), a trial lawyer honorary society composed of less
than one-half of one percent of American lawyers. Additionally, Ms. Chang serves on the Board of “Fund Her”, a newly-launched
political action committee dedicated to achieving gender parity in California politics that is cited as one of the reasons for a huge
state and national rise in both women candidates and women donors.