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Taking Charge in the Courtroom and the Community

Gomez Trial Attorneys Deborah Dixon and Allison Worden have emerged as pioneers in unique practice areas for the renowned plaintiff’s firm, all the while standing as beacons of leadership in the San Diego legal community.

GOMEZ TRIAL ATTORNEYS is unquestionably one of the most recognized and renowned personal injury firms in Southern California. However, due to the firm’s refusal to pigeonhole itself as a strictly traditional P.I. firm, in recent years Gomez Trial Attorneys has earned a well-deserved national reputation as the plaintiff’s firm that will not only take on all cases they believe in; they will take them to trial, and then they’ll win.
With a dedication to helping and serving others through countless community service engagements, educational efforts, and unmatched trial expertise, Gomez Trial Attorneys is consistently at the forefront of fighting for justice in emerging plaintiffs practice areas. Senior Trial Attorneys Deborah Dixon and Allison Worden are two of the firm’s Senior Trial Lawyers who clearly stand as pioneers in these emerging and expanding practice areas for the firm. Dixon and Worden also happen to serve as beacons of leadership throughout San Diego.

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DEBORAH DIXON: TAKING CLASS ACTIONS TO TRIAL TO HELP AS MANY AS POSSIBLE
“The law affects everyone in some way, every day we interact with laws,” Dixon says of first becoming interested in law. “I loved the idea of learning about something that affected so many of us in our lives, and then having the ability to help people navigate the legal system and legal issues.”
After graduating from California Western School of Law, she went on to begin her career in complex litigation. Knowing she wanted to be able to help as many people as possible in one action, Dixon joined Gomez Trial Attorneys and emerged as leader of the firm’s class action practice. She quickly found that she was one of very few woman practicing in class actions. She would soon find even fewer women taking class action cases to trial.
Dixon says, “My typical client is a representative of hundreds or thousands of other clients, sometimes nationwide. Class actions are unique because we never have the privilege of meeting all of our clients; we can’t because the class is so big. But we are able to provide a remedy or a benefit to many people who have been harmed by fraud or a defective product or unlawful practices.”
In addition, Dixon points out, “Class actions do not go to trial often, rarely, in fact. But our firm is designed for trial. John Gomez and I had the unique opportunity to try a nationwide federal class action in Central District recently. We navigated new areas and experiences as non-security class action jury trials just don’t happen often. We are also able to help other lawyers as they are getting close to trial and often meet with attorneys to strategize about what it looks like to get to trial in a class action case.”

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Dixon is well equipped with the resources and the training to go to trial as well. “We have a full mock courtroom that we use often, and coordinate focus groups and mock trials to hear from mock jurors their feelings about the case and observe their deliberations. It is very useful preparation, and not all firms are able to dedicate these resources. We do have the resources and in every class action it is really insightful. We want to make sure that we can truly help people on a large scale level, so we try to ensure we are taking cases that will get certified so that we can be the voices for many people.
“These cases aren’t just about one person. They may start with one person, or a few people, but ultimately hundreds or thousands are affected,” she says. From automobile defects to defective products, to victims misled by large scale false advertising, Dixon says that helping those she has never met is particularly fulfilling. “It is the benefit of class actions and is a constant reminder that it would be impossible for all of the people harmed to bring an individual case, because it would not be worth it on an individual level. Class actions allow a lot of people to get a benefit when just a few stand up and fight.”

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Given Dixon’s natural proclivity for standing up for others, it’s not surprising that her desire to serve in capacities which help as many others as possible extends outside of her work as a Senior Trial Attorney. As current President of Lawyers Club of San Diego, the largest specialty bar association in San Diego, whose mission is to advance the status of women in the law and in society, Dixon says that her desire to “advocate for women’s equality and celebrate the status of everyone, not just women lawyers, but all women,” drove her to her leadership position.
“I am very passionate about equal rights for women and helping women not just break the glass ceiling, but smash it to pieces so that it cannot be recreated in future years. The organization and its members inspire me; it is so great to educate about the pay gap and lack of parity, but to also coordinate action and develop solutions of what we can do to ensure San Diego rises above the gap and leads the charge to ensure women are given fair and deserving opportunities to be promoted, recognized for their work, and to be evaluated on the same criteria as their counterparts.”
Likewise, Dixon is devoted to giving back to the school she says she has “nothing but good things to say about.” She credits her law education with the life she has now, and says she feels an obligation to pay that back, through serving as the President of California Western School of Law Alumni Association Board. “I love meeting fellow alumni and hearing their experiences and successes, and I enjoy mentoring younger lawyers. Seeing people raised up in all capacities is fuel for me.”

ALLISON WORDEN: AT THE FOREFRONT OF FIGHTING FOR VICTIMS OF BULLYING ON SCHOOL CAMPUSES
“I grew up in a law enforcement family. My dad was a police officer with the San Diego Police Department and always instilled in us a sense of duty to public service and helping the community in which you live. He joined the Police Department as a cadet at 17 years old and retired as an Assistant Chief after 38 years of service. He sat on numerous boards, including Crime Stoppers. He felt a sense of responsibility, and was not content to be a bystander. My mother stayed at home with us, and we watched as she volunteered consistently for the hospitals, and sat on auxiliary boards of volunteers. My sisters and I were candy stripers and began serving our community when we were very young. There was almost no chance I wouldn’t become a public servant,” Worden says with a laugh. “I thought becoming an attorney would enable me to help people and contribute in a significant way to the community,” she adds.
As such, after earning both her Bachelor’s Degree and Law Degree from the University of San Diego, she began a 12-year career as a Deputy District Attorney in San Diego. “I became an attorney to help people who have suffered significant harm achieve some justice.”
During her time as a Deputy District Attorney, Worden tried more than 80 cases to a jury verdict along with an additional 25 bench trials. She prosecuted crimes including domestic violence, elder abuse, sexual assault, narcotics, fraud, vehicular crimes, property crimes, assault, robbery, and homicides, gaining invaluable trial experience in all levels of criminal law. It was precisely this hands-on experience as a prosecutor that made her transition to a plaintiff’s trial attorney remarkably seamless.

“The burden of proof is on the plaintiff in a catastrophic injury case, just like the burden of proof is on the prosecution in a criminal case,” Worden says. “Joining Gomez Trial Attorneys was a perfect fit for me, since we are known for going to trial, and many of our civil cases do have criminal overlays.” Moreover, like Dixon, the firm’s history of service to the community resonated loudly with Worden, and was a determining factor in her decision to transition into plaintiff’s work specifically as a trial attorney with Gomez Trial Attorneys. “Giving back is so important to John Gomez. I have watched him shut down the office so that we can be involved in community service events, or fundraisers. We aren’t just writing checks, we are out participating in our community.”
Given Worden’s experience in prosecuting so many heinous crimes, and a true passion for helping victims of injustice, she focused her attention on victims of catastrophic injuries upon joining Gomez Trial Attorneys. However, one case would open the door for a new niche.
“Recently I have focused a portion of my practice on representing children who have been victims of bullying, or injured, whether by sexual or physical abuse, on a school campus. Unfortunately bullying and sexual assault on school campuses has become all too prevalent of late. Holding these perpetrators accountable and bringing these issues to the forefront is the only way we are going to be able to change the culture on school campuses and protect the future students and generations from being harmed.”
Worden’s involvement in one particular case where a 14-year-old student was videotaped in the school bathroom, which led to relentless bullying both on campus and online, solidified her determination to fight for victims of on-campus bullying. The student committed suicide two weeks after the bullying began. “No amount of money is going to help families recover from this type of loss. What they are looking for is accountability. Principals of schools have a mandatory duty to protect and prevent bullying on campus. Unfortunately, no one is taking action,” Worden says.
To that end, Breach of Mandatory Duty cases often run parallel to wrongful death lawsuits. Named defendants may include the student perpetrators, but also often include principals or counselors, or the school itself. “Bankrupting the perpetrator’s parents isn’t the end goal. We look at ways to have the students who are bullying take accountability in various ways, including going to speak to other students about the severe consequences of bullying on campus,” Worden says. “We want to educate the public and the schools, and administrators so that students who are being bullied can speak up, and feel confident that they will be protected,” Worden says.

The publicity from that case led to an influx of referrals from fellow attorneys who simply didn’t know how to take and handle similar on-campus bullying and assault cases. Suffice it to say, Worden has been more than willing to serve as an advocate for numerous bullied students since then, thereby inadvertently creating a niche for herself as the trial attorney who literally stands up to schoolyard bullies.
Worden’s ingrained desire to help others and serve her community has led her into prominent leadership roles outside of her work as a Trial Attorney. She is currently serving as the President for the San Diego Inn of Court, where she is also an instructor and workshop leader for the Colleges of Evidence and Trial Advocacy Programs.
“The programs may have as many as 300 students at a time. We are working to help them become better trial lawyers. It’s always better to go up against a good, skilled lawyer than a bad one, because it makes you work harder, provides better representation for the client, and it pushes you personally to become a better lawyer.”
Worden has also served as an adjunct professor at her beloved University of San Diego, where she was inducted into the San Diego Hall of Champions as a Star of the Month, after being named to the West Coast Conference All-Conference Team as a soccer goalkeeper four years in a row. She has taught Criminal Law, Procedure and Politics at the school over the years.

LEADING THE CHARGE INTO THE FUTURE
Dixon and Worden are unequivocally powerful plaintiff’s trial lawyers. For all of their differences in their individual practice areas and niches, they share a nearly identical philosophy regarding the undeniable link between leadership and lawyering. “Being an advocate does not mean you have to be adversarial. Professionalism is paramount in our community, and I believe in making connections, being an active part of the San Diego legal community and giving back through interests I am passionate about,” Dixon says. Worden agrees, “Helping the legal community by serving in leadership roles, helps the community at large, because better lawyers mean that people in our community are getting better representation.”

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Allison Worden

» EDUCATION

  • University of San Diego, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), English
  • University of San Diego School of Law, Juris Doctor

» PROFESSIONAL ASSOC. AND MEMBERSHIPS

  • Board of Directors for the San Diego Inn of Court
  • President for the San Diego Inn of Court
  • San Diego County Bar Association
  • Federal District Court for Southern and Central Districts
  • Consumer Attorneys of San Diego
  • Consumer Attorneys of California
  • American Association for Justice
  • Adjunct Professor for the University of San Diego

» OUTSIDE INTERESTS

  • Jogging, hiking, snowboarding, water-skiing, and spending time with her husband Evan and their two children Avery and David

» FAVORITE QUOTE

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts."
–Winston Churchill

Deborah Dixon

» EDUCATION

  • California Western School of Law, Juris Doctor

» PROFESSIONAL ASSOC. AND MEMBERSHIPS

  • San Diego Bar Association
  • President of Lawyers Club of San Diego
  • California Western School of Law, Alumni Association — President

» HONORS AND AWARDS

  • San Diego Metro Magazine, "40 Under 40" designation, 2014
  • San Diego Business Journal "Best of the Bar," 2014 & 2015
  • Super Lawyers, "Rising Star," 2014 & 2015
  • The San Diego Daily Transcript, Top Attorney, 2015 and Top Young Attorney, 2012
  • The San Diego Daily Transcript, Women of Influence, 2012

» OUTSIDE INTERESTS

  • Hiking with husband Matthew and their dog, Nikita, and fostering dogs through Second Chance Dog Rescue

Contact:
Gomez Trial Attorneys
www.gomeztrialattorneys.com
ddixon@gomeztrialattorneys.com
aworden@gomeztrialattorneys.com
619-237-3490
655 West Broadway
Suite 1700
San Diego, CA 92101

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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About the Author: Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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