Andrew Stern, a well-known general counsel who played a leading role in the record-breaking Salvation Army building collapse litigation, has died in what appears to be an accident in the Bay off his home in Longport, New Jersey.
Stern, 60, died on Saturday morning. He is survived by his three children, Eric, Jeff and Jen, and his wife, Gwen, a professor at the Kline School of Law at Drexel University. Her legal partner, Elizabeth Crawford, confirmed her death to The Legal on Saturday afternoon.
A veteran of two of the city’s iconic personal injury companies, first The Beasley Firm, then 16 years at Kline & Specter, Stern just earlier in 2021 started his own business with Crawford called Stern & Crawford PC
In January, Stern and Crawford launched their new personal injury business, focusing on catastrophic injury cases. According to Crawford, the firm had just opened its offices a few weeks ago and had its signage installed last week.
“He was the best litigator. He was his wife Gwen’s best mentor, friend, husband and father of his three children, ”Crawford said. “We have lost someone very special.”
The Longport Police Department did not immediately return a message asking for details of the incident, but the informational website AC power failure reported that Stern died hours after being found in the bay near his home in Longport. According to the report, police told the outlet that Stern went missing on Friday night, presumably fallen in the bay. After several witnesses reported seeing a body in the water, the US Coast Guard recovered Stern’s body from the bay and he succumbed to his injuries early Saturday morning, the outlet said.
The report also says the death is still under investigation, but no evidence of foul play has emerged.
Crawford said Stern was believed to have gone to an ice maker next to his dock and likely slipped and fell into the water, possibly bumping his head.
Stern was a well-known figure in the Philadelphia legal community, dealing with a series of high-profile cases including filing a complaint for the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 and obtaining a record-breaking amount. of $ 95.6 million in mediation on the global settlement of $ 227 million in the Salvation Army building collapse litigation.
Following the news of his sudden death, the Philadelphia legal community was in shock, with many lawyers remembering Stern for his talents as a trial attorney.
U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, who met Stern in 1983 at Temple Law School and remained very close friends, said Stern was a natural talent in the courtroom.
“I have spent most of my 35-year legal career in a courtroom and have seen thousands of lawyers practice their profession, including the best of the best. By far Andy was the most naturally gifted lawyer of this era, ”Goldberg said. “And despite all of his tremendous success and fame, he has remained extremely humble, always focusing on the interests of his clients. His advice, guidance and steadfast friendship can never be replaced.
Thomas Kline, who worked with Stern at The Beasley Firm before Stern joined Kline & Specter in 2004, said his former partner was “relentless and tireless” in pursuing an affair.
“No detail was too small, and every issue with Andy was important and had to be argued,” Kline said. “Some lawyers will give an inch, but Andy would rarely give a millimeter. He was committed to getting the greatest measure of justice he could get for a client. “
Kline noted that he received a letter on Tuesday from one of Stern’s former clients, whose son suffered serious birth injuries. The letter described to Kline the impact Stern’s management of their business had on their family.
“Andy’s legacy is tied to clients like this youngster he represented,” Kline said.
Another of those clients with whom Stern forged a memorable bond was Mariya Plekan, who was catastrophically injured in the 2013 Salvation Army building collapse in the city center. According to Shanin Specter, who along with Kline runs Kline & Specter, Stern cared deeply for the woman, who lost both of her legs and part of her torso in the collapse, and sometimes cried when the two chatted about her.
“You rarely see this in another lawyer. He cared about her so much, ”Specter said.
Specter added that Stern often took cases that no one else would, sometimes being referred to complex medical malpractice cases by other top medical malpractice lawyers.
“It was just remarkable. I would say to him, how are you going to make this business work? But he would pursue a theory, take depositions and pursue the case, ”Specter said. “He would take really tough cases and make it work. “
Stern was also an active member of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association and the Philadelphia Bar Association. In an emailed statement, Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Lauren McKenna said the group was saddened to learn of his death.
“Although he is known to many for dealing with high-profile cases, such as the litigation related to the 2013 Salvation Army building collapse in Center City, our community also knew him as a colleague, a mentor and a precious friend, ”she said. “Our community’s thoughts are with family and friends during this difficult time. “
Crawford, who had worked closely with Stern for nearly a decade, said Stern was a “phenomenal, world-class visionary lawyer.”
“Those of us who were fortunate enough to know and work with Andy have lost a dear friend and inspiring mentor,” she said in an emailed statement. “Andy leaves behind a business that has always been his vision for the future as a litigator, and his mind will forever be the foundation of Stern Crawford.”