Kenneth Sales is a veteran trial attorney with more than three decades of experience trying cases in courtrooms all over the country. As one of the early pioneers of asbestos litigation, he is widely recognized as a prominent products liability attorney. Being an attorney literally runs in his blood. His grandfather was an attorney, and Mr. Sales’ father, a World War II veteran, was a prominent labor attorney in his own right, helming one of the leading labor firms in the country for the bulk of his 50-year legal career.
“I started practicing law with my dad right out of law school in 1975 at the age of 24 and immediately began representing a wide variety of public employee unions throughout the state,” says Mr. Sales. “I handled cases for many of the local unions including building trades, UAW, public employees, KEA, JCTA, as well as for the firefighters’ union.” It was because of this connection with the working people in Louisville that he began representing individuals in a wide variety of personal injury claims, from auto accidents to complex products liability cases.
Mr. Sales’ work in asbestos products liability cases in the late 1970s helped launch his career on a national level. At that time, it became apparent that thousands of workers were stricken with a deadly form of lung cancer because of their exposure years earlier to asbestos. Equally as obvious was the fact that the asbestos manufacturers knew of the dangers years before the risks were publically known.
“When I took my first asbestos case, I was still a really young attorney and had taken over the litigation from another lawyer,” says Mr. Sales. “At the time I didn’t really know anything about asbestos-related illness but contacted a friend who was Chief of Pathology at the University of Louisville, who immediately identified my client’s health problems as mesothelioma. We ended up successfully prosecuting the case.” Based on the knowledge from that first case, Mr. Sales filed hundreds of others on behalf of workers and their families affected by this fatal form of cancer.
It was an important victory in more ways than one. Not only was Mr. Sales able to help make up for his clients’ harms and losses from a deadly disease, it also helped set him on a path that ultimately helped shape his career into what it is today. “It wasn’t too long after the first case that I quickly got 17 other cases from asbestos workers,” he says. “They were some of the first mass asbestos cases to be litigated.”
To date, Mr. Sales has investigated and litigated literally hundreds of asbestos cases and has partnered with some of the largest firms in the nation doing this work. “We were scheduling 8-12 cases every other month or so, in groups of two or three,” he says. “We were able to help a lot of people.” And it was this experience, in understanding complicated medical facts, recruiting nationally known medical experts as witnesses, and simplifying even the most complex matters that has propelled Mr. Sales’ career over a period of three decades in multiple complex medical products liability cases.
For example, in the midst of his asbestos work, Mr. Sales also confronted one of the country’s largest automobile manufacturers. In a landmark $6.3 million verdict against Ford Motor Company—which he fought for more than a decade and was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court —Mr. Sales was able to force the carmaker to change the unreasonably dangerous design of the wheel assembly on its Ranger trucks. After Ford took the case to the United States Supreme Court, the final payout ballooned to $9.3 million including interest and penalties. Just recently, he obtained a $1.7 million jury verdict under OSHA for a truck driver who lost his thumb and forefinger in a workplace accident. In addition, Mr. Sales just concluded more than eight years of litigation against the CSX Railroad where, after his firm secured millions of dollars in verdicts, CSX finally settled all outstanding cases.
Mr. Sales has not limited his practice to asbestos or products liability. He has prosecuted class and mass actions of various types against companies. He successfully defended David Becker in the highly publicized triple murder case in 1980. In 1975, Mr. Sales successfully defended WHAS radio personality John Ziegler in a defamation claim brought by local Louisville television host, Darci Davita. The case received nationwide attention, and while Mr. Sales and Ziegler differ in their political views, Mr. Sales put defending the constitution and freedom of speech ahead of those differences. Clearly in his long and distinguished legal career, he has never backed down from the tough fights.
This kind of work—making products and the workplace safer for the average person—is what ultimately drives Mr. Sales and is what brings him to the office every day. “What lobby does the everyday worker or consumer have? I believe lawyers like me keep the playing field equal for people who wouldn’t have a voice otherwise,” he says. “The average person doesn’t have a spokesperson, financed by a corporation with deep pockets. We give our clients access to the court system that they could not possibly pay for without our help. It’s critically important.”
Kenneth Sales is as driven today to set things right as he was when he was fresh from the University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law some 37 years ago. “I’ve helped people in their dying moments set things right with the justice our court system allows those who would otherwise have no voice, and have prevented consumers from death and injury from the use of defective products which I have exposed in the legal system. I couldn’t be more proud of the work I’ve done,” he says.
Mr. Sales’ clients know him to be a lawyer with a relentless drive for justice and a keen sense of right and wrong. He’s equally respected by his peers, holding an AV Preeminent rating by Martindale-Hubbell and is also named one of the Best Lawyers in America. The American Trial Lawyers’ Association has ranked him as one of the top 100 trial lawyers in the country, and Mr. Sales also, in 2006, received the Peter Perlman Outstanding Trial Lawyer Award from the Kentucky Justice Association, where he is also a member of its Board of Governors.
Mr. Sales attended The Ohio State University and earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky. He is admitted to practice in Kentucky, Indiana and Pennsylvania as well as before multiple federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Tax Court. He has appeared in numerous state courts throughout the country, and has been a lecturer at conferences throughout the U.S. on the subject of products liability. He presented a paper at the World Product Liability Conference in Vienna, Austria in 1995, which was subsequently published. He is a partner at Bubalo Goode Sales & Cronen.