Kelley Bernheim Dolinsky LLC
Paula Bliss was an established restaurateur with two restaurants on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, when she decided to switch gears and become an attorney. The lawyer she had retained during the expansion of her culinary career was speaking a language she didn’t understand, Ms. Bliss says, and, simply put, she wanted to learn it. The rest is history: Ms. Bliss has spent the past 15 years representing people in state and federal courts throughout the country, mostly concentrating on those injured by pharmaceutical drugs that have been inadequately tested and labeled. The range of cases has been impressive, including the weight loss drug fen-phen, birth control pills, DES, ephedra, Granuflo kidney dialysis product, hormone replacement therapy, Zofran and Forced Air Warming Blankets.
“Helping people recover from catastrophic injury and corporate greed is all I do.”
Ms. Bliss believes the work is something of a calling. “I was clerking for a judge in Superior Court and happened to watch a fen-phen diet drug trial, and I was fascinated,” she says. “I wanted to know the science and learn everything I could about it. I knew immediately that was the kind of work I wanted to do. I was completely sucked in.” So much so that she approached the attorney who was trying the case and asked for an internship at his firm. From there, Ms. Bliss was off and running: She has been working on behalf of injured plaintiffs ever since—by fighting for justice both inside the courtroom at trial as well as crafting satisfactory pre-trial settlements.
“Giving a voice to those who wouldn’t have a voice otherwise—and who would have never expected a company to put profits over individual safety—is what propels me forward,” says Ms. Bliss, who has impressive experience in every facet of mass tort litigation, from case development, expert witness discovery to trial preparation and participation. “The work we’re doing is incredibly important.” For no client was that more obvious than the very first one that Ms. Bliss, then a young attorney recently out of the gate, handled. Her client was a previously healthy two-year-old boy who suffered a massive stroke after taking a dose of children’s cough medicine containing phenylpropanolamine, an ingredient since been banned because of its dangers.
“He was just a normal beautiful little boy one day and the next he became partially blind and paralyzed, and his cognitive skills were tragically affected,” says Ms. Bliss. “I remember sitting in the deposition with the boy’s father and there was not a dry eye in the room. The family simply had no idea anything like that could happen with an over-the-counter children’s medication.” She ultimately negotiated a settlement in the case after several days of mediation, but the experience has had a lasting effect on Ms. Bliss, herself a mother of two young children. “Being able to help ensure that this little boy would be taken care of his entire life and receive all the treatment he needs was most gratifying,” she says. “It helped cement my passion for this work.”
And she has never looked back. Ms. Bliss, the first member of her family to earn a four-year degree as well as an advanced degree, has dedicated her life to leveling the playing field for the injured. She recently helped obtain a $4 million verdict—plus punitive damages—for a woman who got breast cancer after taking hormone replacement pills manufactured by Wyeth, an arm of the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc. “I feel like in some small way we’re truly making a difference,” says Ms. Bliss.