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Philadelphia Trial Lawyer David Berger Dies at the Age of 94
David Berger, 94, a renowned Philadelphia trial attorney, died Feb. 22. He was a resident of Palm Beach, Fla.
Berger was one of the first lawyers in the United States to apply the class action rule in the Federal Courts to antitrust violations.
Beginning in 1963, he commenced a series of class action cases alleging price-fixing against industries involving rock salt, cast-iron railroad wheels, concrete pipes and copper tubing. He was also instrumental in expanding class actions effectively into other area of the law, such as property losses by victims of the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in 1978.
Born in the small town of Archbald, in upstate Pennsylvania, Berger had a legal career that spanned more than 60 years.
He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1936, first in his class, Order of the Coif and as a member of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Because of his academic distinction, he served from 1936-38 as special assistant to the dean of the law school. He later served as a law clerk for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and later for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Berger served with distinction as an officer in the U.S. Navy in combat in the South Pacific Theater on the USS Enterprise, USS Hornet and the USS Franklin, and then served on the personal staff of the commander of the South Pacific Theater of Naval Operations. For his service, he was awarded the Silver Star and Presidential Unit Citation. After returning from World War II, he became a trial lawyer in Philadelphia.
In 1956, he was asked by then Mayor Richardson Dilworth to head the city's law department as city solicitor. As chief lawyer for the city and as a key adviser of Mayor Dilworth, Berger played a major role in the postwar political revival and urban renewal of Philadelphia.
He was instrumental in establishing major public institutions in Philadelphia, including the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority. He was later appointed by President Kennedy to a committee to develop high-speed rail lines between Washington and Boston, which became Amtrak.
In 1963, Berger stepped down from his position as city solicitor and returned to private law practice. In 1969, he was the Democratic nominee for district attorney in Philadelphia.
In 1970, Berger started his own law firm, which eventually became Berger & Montague, P.C., which specialized in the areas of antitrust, securities, environmental, consumer protection, and civil-rights and human-rights litigation. Among the cases he and his firm litigated were the Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident Litigation, Penn Central Railroad Reorganization, the Boesky/Drexel Burnham/Milken Securities Litigation and the Exxon Valdez Oil-Spill Litigation.
Berger was a member of many professional committees and received numerous awards.
The U.S. Supreme Court appointed him to its committee to draft the Federal Rules of Evidence. He was a fellow in American College of Trial Lawyers, the International Society of Barristers and the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He was a life member of the Judicial Conference of the Third Circuit and the American Law Institute, and also Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association.
He was appointed to serve as a member of the U.S. Holocaust Commission by President Clinton, and was a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and an associate trustee of the university.
Berger is survived by sons Jonathan Berger and Daniel Berger; brothers Harold Berger and Joseph Berger; and two grandchildren.