Miami Law alumnus J.B. Spence, an acclaimed litigator known as the Dean of Torts, died last Saturday (November 26, 2011) in Coral Gables. He was 89.
A specialist in personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death cases, Spence practiced law in Miami for 60 years. He had extensive experience with aircraft and airline disasters, handling ValuJet, Eastern Airlines, Arrow Airways and National Airlines cases, and had more than 100 million-dollar verdicts to his credit.
Born in Arkansas, he served in the U.S. Navy and then attended night school at Lindsay Hopkins Technical Education Center in Miami. He graduated from Miami Law in 1951, and later taught at the school as an adjunct professor. He served as president of the Law Alumni Association in 1986.
Spence also served as president of both the Dade County Bar Association and the Academy of Trial Lawyers. He wrote two books: Opening and Closing Arguments: The Law in Florida (Harrison Co., 1980), and The Life of a Trial Lawyer (Trafford Publishing, 2006). He was inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame in 2010.
For more than 20 years, he led the firm of Spence, Payne & Masington, which he founded in 1967 with Roland "Buddy" Payne Jr. An offshoot of the Perry Nichols firm, it added Stuart Z. Grossman to its name in 1978, and Andrew Needle's in the 1980s. The firm was disbanded in 1995.
"J.B. was a trailblazer," said Stuart Grossman, JD '73, "particularly in the arts of voir dire and final argument. He was a man who juries could relate to because they sensed his sincerity and jurors trusted him to lead them to justice."