Edward Freidberg

L.L.B. University of California at Berkeley, Boalt Hall (1960)
B.A. California State University Sacramento, with honors (1957)
Award-winning member of the Debate Team and winner of inter-collegiate speech competitions.

Listed in “The Best Lawyers in America” (Woodward/White, Inc.) in commercial litigation, legal malpractice and personal injury.
Honored as the Trial Lawyer of the Year by the American Board of Trial Advocates, Sacramento Valley Chapter. (2006)
Honored as a “Legend of ABOTA” by the American Board of Trial Advocates, Sacramento Valley Chapter. (2011)

2443 Fair Oaks Blvd., #391
Sacramento, CA 95825

(916) 929-9060 (tel.)


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Edward Freidberg

Tried to Judgment the Most Socially Significant and Publicized Medical Malpractice Case in the Nation’s History

Mr. Freidberg's rise to national prominence began early in his career when he uncovered an unscrupulous orthopedist, Dr. John Nork, performing unnecessary surgeries in Sacramento and won a number of six figure jury verdicts against him. In 1973 Freidberg won a $3.7 million court judgment against the physician and the hospital where the surgery was performed. (Gonzales v. Nork) The award included $2 million in punitive damages against the physician only. Gonzales v. Nork made front-page news in newspapers worldwide, was featured in the medical section of the December 10, 1973 issue of Time magazine, and has been described as "the most extraordinary malpractice case in California history" by Medical World News. "Unquestionably, no single case has drawn as much attention in the field of medical malpractice in this or any other century as has the case of Gonzales v. Nork in California." Legal Medicine Annual, 1976 (Published by Appleton/Century/Crofts).

Eventually Mr. Freidberg represented 38 Nork victims. These cases settled for $13 million. The "Nork cases" were extensively reported nationwide in newspapers, magazines and medical publications, generating editorials demanding that reform of the Medical Profession's Peer Review Practices be immediately instituted to prevent other Norks from victimizing trusting patients. Medical Economics featured the "Nork cases" on its August 12, 1974 cover displaying the bust of Hippocrates with a black eye. The majority of the issue featured articles about the Nork cases stating: "It was Edward Freidberg, an enterprising plaintiff’s attorney, who ferreted out Nork’s background of fraud and fouled-up surgery in 1969. Freidberg’s work culminated in the blockbuster Gonzales malpractice case in 1973."

The President of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America in the editorial section of the November 1973 Newsletter wrote: “In the closing months of the year, the trial bar came in for both praise and criticism. Many of you may have read the article in the December 10 issue of Time Magazine, where monumental frauds committed by a California surgeon were exposed...The fraud was discovered and exposed by one of ATLA’s California stalwarts, Edward Freidberg of Sacramento, who was retained by 34 victims of the doctor’s carnage. In the memorandum opinion of one of the cases written by Judge B. Abbott Goldberg of the Sacramento Superior Court, the Judge paid an appropriate tribute to Mr. Freidberg for his thorough preparation and zeal, in which all of us specializing in trial practice can take great pride.”

The editor of Legal Medicine Annual 1976 (Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York) in introducing an article by Mr. Freidberg on the Nork cases, wrote in his preface: “Attorney Edward Freidberg, acted as plaintiff’s counsel for Mr. Gonzales. His brilliant pre-trial investigation and discovery laid the ground work for the production of the horror story that came to be known as the Nork case. The unfolding of this case in court by Mr. Freidberg demonstrated vividly the deficiencies that exist in organized medicine insofar as unilateral control and policing of its members is concerned.”

Mr. Freidberg was called to testify before the California Assembly Select Committee on Medical Malpractice. At the conclusion of his testimony, the chairmen of the committee stated on the record: "I should say you have served the public well, as well as your clients, in exposing what is possibly the most incredible case of malpractice that we have had in the country."

The outrage generated by the Nork cases acted as one of the catalysts for insurance carriers to either refuse to continue to insure health care providers or significantly increase the premiums charged, triggered massive lobbying by the American and California Medical Associations, with doctors striking at emergency room facilities and picketing the State Capitol to intimidate the California Legislature in 1975 to enact a grossly repressive anti-consumer legislation known as MICRA. 

“Pioneering” in Legal Malpractice

In 1975 the California Supreme Court affirmed a legal malpractice jury judgment Mr. Freidberg won for his client which broadened the boundaries of liability of attorneys. This landmark decision has been cited in over 140 decisions since. Smith v. Lewis (1975) 13 Cal.3d 349, 78 A.L.R. 3d 321.

Time Magazine in 1976 described Freidberg as "pioneering in what promises to be a busy new activity in the field of professional malpractice: Big-money court cases against negligent lawyers." His work in legal malpractice was profiled in a 16-minute segment of the CBS news program "60 Minutes" in 1987, was featured in a lengthy front page article in the Wall Street Journal and was chronicled in the "Million Dollar Lawyers" by Joseph C. Gulden (1978, G.P. Putnam and Sons, New York).

Preparation – Mr. Freidberg’s Specialty

Mr. Freidberg considers his strong suit to be meticulous preparation. The trial judge who awarded $3.7 million in the Gonzales v. Nork case agreed, stating in his decision: "Mr. Freidberg’s presentation proves the universality of the late John W. Davis’s proposition that cases are not won by lucky accidents or feats of mental agility in the courtroom; they are won by preparation and knowledge. (26 A.B.A.J. 898 (1940).) My opinion is corroborated by that of Dr. Whitmore, a world authority on cancer, who was subjected to cross-examination by Mr. Freidberg for a day and a half. At the end of this ordeal, Dr. Whitmore said, ‘Mr. Freidberg, if you can get a license to do surgery in New York, I’ll give you a job at the Memorial Sloan-Kittering Institute.’ Has any lawyer ever received a nicer compliment?"

Punitive Damages

Mr. Freidberg considers the right to seek punitive damages in an appropriate case to be one of the most powerful weapons in an attorney's armamentarium. He has sued defendants for punitive damages in well over 50 cases. He has tried 14 cases in which he sought punitive damages. In 11 cases, he obtained an award of punitive damages; in one case, on the eve of the punitive damage trial, the Defendant paid six times the compensatory damage award to settle the case. He has lost 2 punitive damage cases.

Trial Experience

Mr. Freidberg has tried business, malpractice (legal and medical), personal injury, malicious prosecution, pharmaceutical, family law and fraud cases.  He has tried to verdict or judgment 122 civil trials; 25 trials lasted two months or longer, three lasted over five months. He has tried to judgment 26 arbitration cases (one lasted 76 days). Early in his career he defended 13 criminal cases (11 acquittals).

Five Decades of Success

Mr. Freidberg’s Records:

1968:    ▪ Largest personal injury settlement of a products liability case in the history of any of the Sacramento Valley Counties. (Beaver v. Wyeth Laboratories)
1970:    ▪ First legal malpractice judgment in the history of any of the Sacramento Valley Counties. (Smith v. Lewis)
1972:    ▪ First punitive damage judgment against a Healthcare provider in California history. (Hendricks v. Nork)

▪ Second largest medical malpractice settlement in the nation's history. (Gerringer v. Runnels)


▪ Largest damage award in the history of any of the Sacramento Valley Counties, the second largest punitive damage award in a medical malpractice case in the nation and the second punitive damage in a medical malpractice case in California history. (Gonzales v. Nork)


▪ First punitive damage judgment against an Attorney in the history of any of the Sacramento Valley Counties. (Kromidellis v. Lewis)


▪ Largest medical malpractice judgment in the history of Butte County. (Bean v. Rawley)


▪ Largest legal malpractice judgment and largest punitive damage judgment against an Attorney in the history of any of the Sacramento Valley Counties. (McGill v. Klein)


▪ Largest personal injury settlement in the history of any of the Sacramento Valley Counties. (Henrikson v. Turbomeca)


▪ Largest judgment against a former spouse for fraud under Family Code Section 1101(h) in the history of any of the Sacramento Valley Counties. (Klug v. Klug)

Mr. Freidberg’s million dollar judgments:

Business Fraud

$7.1 million against a wealthy Sacramento real estate developer ($7 million punitives).


       Defendant's highest offer: $350,000.


$3.2 million against Panasonic ($2.5 million punitives).      


       Defendant's highest offer: $1.5 Million.


$6.5 million against Weider Health & Fitness ($5 million punitives).


      Defendant's highest offer: $15,000
       with indication defendants would
       consider a $250,000 demand.


$1.07 million against three individuals ($300,000 punitives).


       Defendant's highest offer: $0

Legal Malpractice

$3.06 million against Wilcoxen Callaham LLP.


       Defendant's highest offer: $0.


$2.3 million against a Sacramento attorney, Rodney Klein ($870,000 punitive damages).


       Defendant's highest offer: $380,000.

Medical Malpractice

$3.7 million against Dr. John Nork and Mercy Hospitals ($2 million punitives against Nork only).


       Defendant's highest offer: $75,000.


$1.35 million against Chico radiologist Dr. George Rawley. (Punitive damages not sought.)


       Defendant's highest offer: $0.

Family Law

$1.24 Million against former spouse for fraudently secreting community property assets ($355,120 punitive damages under Family Code § 1101(h).


       Defendant's highest offer: $0.

Mr. Freidberg’s Notable Settlements:

2006:    ▪ Mr. Freidberg was retained to act as trial counsel in a case already assigned a trial date in the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by counsel for the Plaintiff in a lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company for injuries caused by the use of the drug combination "Fen-Phen". The Plaintiff suffered from Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH), which is typically a death sentence. However, fortunately for her, a low dose of a medication no more powerful than an aspirin, was adequate to reduce her pulmonary pressures to normal and eliminate her symptoms. Both her treating Physician and her retained expert testified that in their opinion her condition would remain stable and not worsen for the rest of her life if she continued to take the medication. The case was bifurcated for trial with the first trial to determine whether she, in fact, suffered from PPH, whether it was caused by her use of Fen-Phen and the amount of her damages. The Defendant did not make any settlement offer before trial. After the first day of trial Defendants made a $100,000 offer. After a ten-day trial the jury found that the Plaintiff did, in fact, suffer from PPH caused by her consumption of Fen-Phen, and awarded her $300,000. This set the stage for the trial of liability and whether punitive damages should be awarded against the Defendant. Five days before the trial was to begin the Defendant settled the case for $1,920,000. (Weir v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc.)
2008:    ▪ In 2005, Mr. Freidberg was retained to act as trial counsel by counsel previously hired by the families of the two deputy sheriffs who were killed, and the deputy sheriff who survived a tragic helicopter crash near Lake Natomas on July 13, 2005. Mr. Freidberg prepared the case of liability and punitive damages, working virtually full time for over one year. In 2007, he spent six weeks in Paris, France video-taking the depositions of the Defendant Helicopter Engine Manufacturer’s safety engineers, technicians, designers, installers, and high-ranking executives. In 2008, all three cases were settled during mediation for $27,250,000. (Henrikson, Kievernagel, Blount v. Turbomeca)
2008:    ▪ In 2005, Mr. Freidberg was retained to act as trial counsel by counsel for the Plaintiff in a lawsuit in progress against a criminal background check company. The Plaintiff paid for a criminal background check on a prospective employee. The Defendant reported to Plaintiff that the prospective employee had no criminal record. In fact, he was a convicted sex offender. The Plaintiff hired the employee who, while on the job, brutally raped a mentally disabled 18 year old woman. This caused the Plaintiff to lose his profitable business of installing Comcast cable equipment because Comcast refused to renew his sub-contract in view of the adverse publicity generated by the rape. The parties engaged in a lengthy mediation before Mr. Freidberg was retained, but no settlement offer was made by the Defendant. After Mr. Freidberg completed his discovery the Defendant settled the case for $8,100,000. (Links Communications, Inc. v. Kroll Background of America).

Experience Representing Defendants

In addition to his extensive trial work representing plaintiffs, he has defended dozens of clients, primarily in business litigation.

Appellate Experience

Mr. Freidberg's appellate advocacy has resulted in a number of opinions.  In the following cases he personally prepared the briefs and orally argued the cases before the appellate courts:

California Supreme Court Decisions:

Smith vs.Lewis (1975) 13 Cal. 3d 349, 78 A.L.R. 3d 321


Gonzales vs. Nork (1978) 20 Cal. 3d 500

District Court of Appeal Decisions:

Morrison v. Townley (1969) 269 Cal. App. 2d 863


Traxler v. Thompson (1970) 4 Cal. App. 3d 278


Hart v. Browne (1980) 103 Cal. App. 3d 947


Bardis vs. Oates (2004) 119 Cal. App 4th 1


Dovichi vs. McCartney (2018) WI 1163040 (unpublished)


He has lectured extensively at a variety of seminars and workshops on trial work and malpractice, including programs conducted by the American Board of Trial Advocates, McGeorge School of Law, University of California at Davis School of Law, California Trial Lawyers Association now known as Consumer Attorneys of California and California Continuing Education of the Bar.

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