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A CORE VALUE of Giving Back

A LIFELONG TRADITION LEADS TO A LIFE - CHANGING CAREER

“My mom is a lifelong YMCA employee and we did a lot of non-profit work and a lot of volunteer work growing up. That was a core value for our household. When you go into the attorney world everyone thinks you’re in it just for the money and I was concerned about that when I was choosing a career. I wanted to work where I could give back something to people and personal injury work is special that way,” says Jessica T. Sizemore-Wetzel, Partner at Gomez Trial Attorneys.

Sizemore-Wetzel was raised by a single mother who involved her daughter in that community-support organization early on. She handled camp programs, served as a camp counselor through high school and college, and even after college, and worked as a camp director at resident camps. Currently, she still volunteers with her mother at such events as the Healthy Kids Day and similar programs. She also makes financial donations to the organization.

She says, “I grew up thinking this was the way to be. Now as an attorney at Gomez Trial Attorneys, serving the community is at the center of everything we do. But the core of it all is making the effort to help people when they are at their worst. For me that was the perfect fit because I was raised with that mentality. I feel fortunate to have found a workplace that has the same core values I was raised with.”

GETTING GOOD RECEPTION

Sizemore-Wetzel has been with Gomez Trial Attorneys 13 years and has earned the position of Partner though an interesting path. Her first job with the firm was as a receptionist.

To explore her options after college, she took a receptionist’s position at a probate law firm but found that she had little interest in that area of the law. An ad for a receptionist for Gomez Trial Attorneys caught her attention and she quickly applied for and got the job. She admits to very early on having some concerns about the “ambulance chaser” image some associate with personal injury law, but that feeling was quashed by her first work experiences. She was immediately drawn to what John Gomez and his team were doing—connecting directly with clients and trying to help them with what they were going through.

“Walking in, I knew this was my home. I immediately felt this was an incredible group of people working hard to make other people’s lives better. That experience married my desire to help people with having an interest in the law. Once I did that, I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life.” She says her “ah-ha moment” for choosing the law as a career came early in her work experience as the receptionist. She says Gomez saw her potential as an attorney, and more than that, as an attorney practicing in the personal injury field. He encouraged that career move by allowing her to sit in on depositions and client meetings and to observe trials. The eye-opening experience for Sizemore-Wetzel was a trial on a crematorium case where the company had lost the remains of a mother—a serious and sad event for the family. The firm won the case.

“I got the feeling that they felt like they took something away from the process. We actually helped somebody. It wasn’t just about getting their money. It’s about getting them a sense of righting the wrong. Wow, there’s something to this process. It’s not just about the money,” she says. After earning her J.D. from the University of Arizona College of Law in 2011 she joined the firm as an associate.

The move to Gomez Trial Attorneys paid off almost immediately in terms of job satisfaction, feelings of accomplishment and career advancement. Three days or so after being admitted to the bar, she began a trial on a premises liability brain injury case, taking her first witness in that case. She says, “I recall the connection I formed with the family in that matter. A family who had been dragged through years of litigation, being called liars and fakers. A family that had been torn apart by their father/husband’s brain injury. We spent weeks trying that case and ultimately secured a $7.5 million dollar verdict for this truly deserving family. I still speak with the family and now our former client serves as a liaison for our clients who have suffered traumatic brain injury. To see what this family went through and how we were able to ultimately help them get their life back and see our client thrive and become an advocate for others was life changing for me. It has fueled everything I have done in the past ten years.”

PUTTING BACKGROUND IN THE FOREGROUND

Her knowledge and experience outside of the law contribute to her continuing success in personal injury. She obtained a Finance degree from San Diego State University because the field provided a sound base for career moves and a good backup in case her interest in the law faded. Today that knowledge has proven valuable when attorneys and clients discuss and debate settlement terms and going to trial. She is able to provide sound, informed and practical information about the risks and rewards of moving forward. It helps on the business side in making certain clients do not outspend their recovery and to make sure the firm’s efforts actually add value to the litigation. “Every dollar I spend comes out of my client’s pocket and I want to make sure those expenses are well-used. I’m all about putting as much money in their pockets as possible at the end of the day, too. Although money doesn’t make up for what they’ve been through, it helps get them to a better, more stable position,” she says.

Sizemore-Wetzel has a deep interest in science, particularly medical science, which can prove to be invaluable in personal injury cases. Before going to law school, she seriously considered going to medical school. She says, “I’ve been working on brain injury cases for about ten years and the amount of development and change we’ve had in understanding those types of injuries is so fascinating. I’m one of those people who wants to read medical journals, medical studies and find out what’s going on because it’s fascinating how much progress we make every day. I’ve always had an interest in science. And that’s an interest we can put to good use in furthering the interests and well-being of our clients,” she says.

THE YIN AND THE YANG AT WORK

Sizemore-Wetzel specializes in premises liability cases and brain injury cases. She is on John Gomez’s trial team and so she is actively involved in whatever he is trying. Usually these are high value cases involving complex liability and medical issues. Her interest in medicine, particularly brain injury medicine, means she usually handles the medical and expert side of the case.

She has been a member of the John Gomez trial team for 13 years. She says they are such an effective team because they have such different personalities—polar opposites. “He’s a very loud, boisterous and large personality. He’s a true showman. I’m more behind the scenes getting everything ready by dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. It’s a perfect fit because we balance each other out. He’s the ‘sizzle’ person and the one everyone wants to watch. But the technical knowledge and the medical and scientific knowledge is important too and that is where my interests lie. We provide a good balance for the other’s strengths or weaknesses. It’s that yin/yang philosophy at work.” This dynamic partnership allowed them to secure a $16.2 million dollar verdict in a complicated mild traumatic brain injury case involving a slip and fall at El Pollo Loco in Bakersfield in 2018.

Last year they tried a case involving a 14-year-old girl who was struck by a van crossing the street on her way to school. She suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and her life and that of her family have been irreparably harmed. They lost the case on liability. “After the verdict we all felt hopeless. We couldn’t believe it and just didn’t feel like the evidence supported that verdict. I wrote a comprehensive new trial motion and won,” she says. Motions for new trials are not frequently granted in these types of cases. While the ruling is on appeal, they are planning on trying the case again in 2020 or 2021. “What felt best about this was we were able to give hope back to this family who had lost it after that devastating jury verdict. It taught me to always keep fighting even when you think you have lost,” she says.

Clients agree. One recently wrote, “Jessica is a FIERCE woman and even fiercer trial attorney and John is a WARRIOR and pursuer of TRUTH till the end. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We feel like an honorary Gomez Trial Attorney family.”

Sizemore-Wetzel says, “You can’t do this kind of work unless you like people. You must be a people person and you must recognize that much of your day may just be being there for your clients—someone who listens to them. I’m not a physician and there are things I just cannot do, but I can listen and provide a sounding board for them and continue to fight for them in the courtroom. Half the time that’s the battle. Sometimes they just need someone to listen, to understand and to show a little sympathy for what they’re going through.”

HOME LIFE AND A LOOK TO THE FUTURE

Sizemore-Wetzel moved to San Diego in 2002 to attend SDSU. She immediately felt at home in her new community. “Realizing that it was much more my pace than LA, I quickly decided to make it my permanent home (minus that brief stint in Arizona to attend law school). I met my husband and stepson in 2017 and was married in August of 2019. We live in the North Park community with our wonderful child and two dogs.”

She is active in the community and currently serves as the co-chair of the Leadership Development Committee for Lawyers Club of San Diego. People who know her might be surprised at her interest in watching horror movies—from the latest productions to the old black-and-white classics. She likens the adrenaline rush to that you obtain in the courtroom.

“With a little, but very high energy child in the house, most of my free time is devoted to spending quality time with my family. We try to spend as much time as possible outdoors, particularly anywhere we can take our two pups. With all the wonderful hiking trails in San Diego there is never a shortage of places to explore,” she says.

Things are moving forward at the workplace also. She is moving from handling only single event cases to mass tort matters as well. “We are currently preparing several Roundup cases for trial. The science and medicine in these cases excites me so I am thrilled to learn more about this world! It is the next major step in my career. I want to help as many people in my life as I can and working on these mass tort cases you can help so many more people than you can on a single case. You really get to bring power to the case,” she says.

» EDUCATION

  • San Diego State University, 2006 B.S. Finance, Deans List
  • University of Arizona College of Law, 2011, J.D. – Law Review

» AWARDS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • Three-time recipient of Consumer Attorneys of San Diego Outstanding Trial Lawyer Award (2017, 2018, 2019)
  • ABOTA National Trial College, Fellow
  • Super Lawyers Rising Star every year since 2016
  • SD Metro Top Attorney 2019
  • 2010 Southern Arizona Volunteer Lawyers Program Student of the Year

» MEMBERSHIPS

  • San Diego County Bar Association, Member
  • Lawyers Club of San Diego, Member and Co-chair of Leadership Development Committee
  • Consumer Attorneys of San Diego, Member
  • American Bar Association, Member
  • American Association of Justice, Member

CONTACT
Jessica T. Sizemore
Gomez Trial Attorneys
655 W. Broadway, Suite 1700
San Diego, CA 92101
619-237-3490
www.thegomezfirm.com

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