UF Law alumna seeks justice in high-profile cases
BY AMANDA ADAMS (3JM)
Natalie Jackson (JD 02) doesn’t have pictures of herself on the sets of CNN, Fox News or The Today Show hanging in her office.
Instead of photos of the UF Law alumna speaking in the media about her high-profile cases, she surrounds herself with images of family, friends and clients who have become as close as family, like 7-year-old Jurnee Woodard, who she represented in a wrongful death case after a NASCAR plane crashed into her house and killed two members of her family.
The Orlando-based lawyer and Navy veteran, who specialized in satellite technology for aviation intelligence, has become something of a media star, with several highly publicized cases in the last few years, appearing on a plethora of national news networks. But she hasn’t let the glamour go to her head.
“I believe in giving back to the community above all,” Jackson said.
One recent case involved a homeless man, Sherman Ware, who was hit by a police officer’s son in early January, according to numerous Central Florida news reports.
The man punched Ware in the head outside a Sanford bar on the night of Jan. 4, while a witness caught the incident on video. The attack left Ware with a concussion and facial injuries, including a broken nose.
They reached a settlement at the end of January that required the attacker to pay for Ward’s medical bills and donate money to various nonprofit organizations, such as the Seminole County Branch of the NAACP, CrossRoads Drug Rehabilitation Center and Seminole Action Coalition Serving our Needy. In addition to the money for Ware’s medical bills, he also received a confidential monetary settlement.
A case Jackson took on last year that gained national attention was of a teenage boy who was wrongly accused of abducting a child.
Perhaps the most important case for her career, however, came in 2008, when Jackson represented Jurnee and her father, Joe Woodard. Woodard lost his wife, Janise, and 6-month-old son Josiah in a freakish accident when a NASCAR plane crashed into their home. Janise was a paralegal who had worked with Jackson before the crash, which made the case very personal for her. Jackson even helped plan the memorial service and all media events for the family.
“It was easy working with Natalie,” Woodard said. “She was like a close sister to me, and whenever I had questions, she had the answers.”
Jackson had worked on wrongful death cases in the past, but she had never dealt with an airplane case. Besides researching aviation law, she hired an aviation accident reconstructionist, an economist and a media coordinator.
Her background in naval aviation aided her understanding of aviation terms and systems, she said.
Ultimately, the case settled for a confidential eight-figure sum.
And it was this case, she said, that allowed her to revamp her law firm, the Women’s Trial Group. Originally opened in 2006, Jackson said that after nine years in the military, she was “tired of the male environment” and wanted to work in a female milieu for a change. But she had to close the firm due to insufficient profits after just one year of operation.
Jackson took a job at a friend’s firm in 2007, and after the NASCAR case she reopened the Women’s Trial Group, which caters to women and their families. Now on firm financial footing, the Women’s Trial Group averages 200 cases per year.
“I don’t think being a mother and a wife and making money have to be mutually exclusive,” she said.
Jackson’s firm exemplifies the idea that money isn’t everything. She offers pro bono services and payment plans, and her interest in service doesn’t end with her clients.
She believes more experienced firms, like hers, should help newer firms succeed by assisting with rent, education, classes, and legal or business advice.
“I kind of believe in karma,” she said.