Photo courtesy of Jim Graves
By Sheila Pursglove
A partner in the Sinas Dramis Law Firm in Lansing, Jim Graves has seen his share of fascinating cases over a 44-year career, including a $7 million bad faith case in Chicago federal court against a Puerto Rico insurance company.
"The client was shot by intruders during an attempted robbery, while vacationing with his family at a Puerto Rico beachside property that was rented online," says Graves, who is licensed in Illinois, where the firm has a Chicago office. "I spent five days in Puerto Rico this year deposing witnesses with the help of an interpreter."
A specialist in personal injury and wrongful death matters, Graves is currently representing a victim of the Flint water crisis who contracted Legionnaires' disease.
Among the many challenging cases he has handled during his career, Graves represented families who lost loved ones in the American Airlines Flight 191 crash at Chicago O'Hare Airport in 1979, with the loss of 273 lives, the deadliest aviation crash to have occurred in the United States.
In another airline case, Graves represented the family of a student who died in the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 271 passengers perished. The lawsuit was brought against Pan American Airlines, Libya, and others.
"The case took 20 years to resolve in favor of the surviving family members," he says.
And in the late 1970s, he represented numerous plaintiffs seriously injured by the A. H. Robins Company's Dalkon Shield IUD.
"At the time, it was the largest tort liability case since the asbestos litigation," he says.
A business graduate from the University of Michigan, Graves followed in the legal footsteps of his father, general counsel at Consumers Power Co. in Jackson and later the research director at the Michigan Court of Appeals.
"My father's long legal career had a significant impact on my decision to join the profession," Graves says.
Graves set his sights on litigation and courtroom work early in his legal studies at Wayne Law School, where he earned his J.D., cum laude, while working part-time as a research clerk for a Detroit law firm.
"Attending law school and working and living in a large urban area for the first time during the late 1960s and early 1970s was both memorable and interesting," he says.
After graduation, Graves worked for an insurance defense firm, but within several years, realized he preferred representing injured people, and limited his practice to plaintiffs' personal injury.
"I found representing clients with highway liability, medical malpractice, wrongful death and motor vehicle claims to be personally challenging and rewarding," he says.
Over time, and with various procedural and substantive limitations on Michigan tort recoveries, his practice focused to a greater extent on handling motor vehicle personal injury and wrongful death claims. He recently handled a highway liability case on behalf of a motorcyclist who was seriously injured in a highway construction zone.
"The case took nine years and two trials to be concluded," he notes.
Consistently recognized by The Best Lawyers in America in the field of personal injury litigation and among Michigan Super Lawyers, Graves is a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice and a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates.
A recipient of the Leo A. Farhat Outstanding Attorney Award from the Ingham County Bar Association, he has found his involvement in the ICBA, and especially in the Ingham County Bar Foundation, very rewarding and has served as president of both organizations.
"From its early formation in 2002, membership in the ICBF and its Fellows Program has grown to enable the Foundation to make significant annual grants for the benefit of numerous worthy law-related community organizations," he says. "I believe it's important for lawyers to support and improve the profession and the public's perception of lawyers by contributing their time and resources to local bar associations and organizations."
In his leisure time, Graves enjoys U-M football, reading, and family time. He and his wife, a retired elementary school teacher, have a son in Colorado who owns and operates a design and screen printing company; and their son in Chicago works in the financial and securities industry travel.
Another one of Graves's passions is travel. "The most adventuresome trip I've ever taken was to a remote British camp in Antarctica in 2002," he says. "Travel to and from Antarctica was on a Russian Ilyushin military aircraft."
Fly fishing is also high on his list of pursuits. He has been on the board of the John D. Voelker Foundation, based in Marquette, since its formation 25 years ago. The Foundation's mission is to pay tribute to former Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker, author of "Anatomy of a Murder" under the nom de plume Robert Traver, and of numerous classic fly fishing books and stories.
"The Foundation created the Native American Scholarship program for Native American students pursing a legal education, as well as the John D. Voelker Fly Fishing Fiction Award," Graves explains. "It also supports efforts to improve and remediate cold water resources where trout survive."
Published: Mon, Jun 20, 2016