November 16, 2020 - The Legal Intelligencer has named its 2020 Pennsylvania Trailblazers, a list that includes Sauder Schelkopf partners Joe Sauder and Matt Schelkopf. The honor recognizes 31 lawyers who “have taken extra measures to contribute to positive outcomes . . . and who are truly agents of change.”
The Legal highlights Joe’s innovative work on advocacy as class counsel in large institutional sex abuse cover-ups, women's, and children's rights. Sauder, and co-counsel, obtained one of the largest settlements ever in a sexual abuse case: $215 million from the University of Southern California. USC had disregarded repeated complaints that a gynecologist at its campus health service had abused female students. Along with the monetary settlement, USC agreed to make systemic changes in the reporting and investigation of sexual abuse. Sauder, who spends at least half of his time on sexual abuse cases, is currently litigating two of the largest higher education institutional sex abuse cases in history. These cases involve male survivors who were students and student-athletes at The Ohio State University and the University of Michigan. Both cases involve athletic team doctors who over decades allegedly abused hundreds of students and student-athletes. “Fighting for crime victims as a prosecutor was a rewarding experience and I knew it was something I wanted to incorporate into my civil practice,” said Sauder. Now when Joe meets new clients, he often learns their most closely held secrets. They talk about their sexual abuse from years, or even decades, earlier and the harm it has caused throughout their lives. Often, they hadn’t told their spouse, they hadn’t told their close friends, they hadn’t told their family members. It’s a powerful experience to hear them tell their story for the first time. And with that comes a big responsibility.”
The Legal focuses on Matt’s groundbreaking work resulting in big awards for "the little guy." Matt began his career as a criminal prosecutor before moving into private practice, where he has focused on litigating complex civil cases. “I’ve always been the guy who stands up for the person being picked on. Being an attorney has really allowed me to stand up for those people,” such as clients who have been victimized by corporations that make defective automobiles or other products. As a teenager, Matt learned how to restore classic cars from his father, an aerospace engineer who worked in the space shuttle program. Now, Matt litigates throughout the United States and has handled large complex class actions on behalf of millions of consumers against some of the largest automobile companies such as Honda, Toyota, Volvo, Hyundai, Kia, BMW, GM, Subaru, Ford, and Nissan. In a recent case, the automakers Hyundai and Kia agreed to pay approximately $760 million to over six million owners of vehicles that were prone to sudden engine failure and fire. He sees class actions as a means to “take on large corporations who are harming a significant number of people who otherwise cannot take on the battle alone.”
Congratulations to Joe and Matt on this significant achievement.