Robert W. Munley, 1930-2019
Robert W. Munley, Munley Law’s founder, was a Pennsylvania legal legend and personal injury law pioneer. He achieved record-setting verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients in Pennsylvania and nationwide. He founded Munley Law in 1959.
A Legal Pioneer
A United States Army veteran of the Korean War, Robert W. Munley graduated from the University of Scranton and Temple University School of Law, where he was a member of the Temple Law Review.
Bob, as he was known to his friends, family, and the legal community, was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1959. He served as an assistant district attorney in Lackawanna County for 10 years, during which time he prosecuted hundreds of cases.
In 1970, he embarked on full-time private practice with his brother, the late Senior U.S. District Judge James M. Munley, transitioning to civil practice in the mid-1970s. Together with his beloved wife Bernadine Munley, Bob built a legal practice devoted to the representation of the injured. Bob’s personal philosophy became his professional mission: that all people, regardless of power or wealth, should have equal access to the civil justice system.
Renowned for his courtroom rhetorical skills, Bob blazed new trails in emerging liability theories and trial techniques, and brought hundreds of cases to verdict. Bob’s pace-setting milestones included seven- and eight- figure recoveries before verdicts of such size were commonplace and occurred in cases ranging from simple automobile collisions to complex product liability litigation.
Bob’s body of work resulted in appellate decisions, some of which transformed American law in the area of the admissibility of trial evidence. For example: Mecca v. Lukasik, known locally as “the Mid-Valley Eight,” set the Pennsylvania standard for evidence of future earnings of children based on their stated career aspirations; O’Malley v. Peerless Petroleum also broke ground in the area of future wage loss recovery and use of hypothetical questions with experts. Madjic v. Cincinnati Machine Co., a product liability case, is regularly cited in court decisions around the United States for various evidentiary principles, and his case Bombar v. Upright Material Handling Inc. set nationally recognized standards in what constitutes bad faith in the handling of insurance claims.
Bob was elected and served as president of both the Lackawanna County Bar Association and the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association and served on the Board of Governors of the American Association for Justice. He was listed in the Best Lawyers in America every year since 1993, and was among the first lawyers in the United States to earn Board Certification by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He was a Fellow of both the American Board of Trial Advocates and the International Society of Barristers, and was named to the Irish Voice newspaper’s Irish Legal 100, the top 100 American lawyers of Irish descent.
In recognition of Bob’s pioneering work in truck accident law, the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group renamed its annual honor the Robert W. Munley Pursuit of Justice Award (formerly the “Chairman’s Award”) in 2020. The Robert W. Munley Pursuit of Justice Award is presented annually by the Chair of the Trucking Litigation Group to an attorney who has done extraordinary work to further the group’s objectives: educating other lawyers on trucking law matters and contributing to the improvement of highway safety through legal work and advocacy.
A Community Champion
In addition to his professional accomplishments, Bob’s life was marked by an unwavering commitment to the community. He endowed scholarships at the University of Scranton, Marywood University and Vermont’s Landmark College, for students pursuing careers in law. His charity was unflagging, as an ardent supporter of Lackawanna Pro Bono, the Friends of the Poor and many other charities. Long active with the Boy Scouts of America, Bob was a recipient of the Silver Beaver, its highest volunteer award.
Lackawanna Pro Bono established the Robert W. Munley Distinguished Service Award in his name, in recognition of his pro bono services to impoverished individuals without the means to hire a lawyer. The award honors individuals and organizations that show exceptional commitment to service. In addition, the University of Scranton conferred on him its Frank O’Hara Distinguished Alumni Award, honoring select alumni who have achieved distinction in their professional or personal endeavors.
A Family Man
Bob and his wife Bernadine enjoyed 59 years of marriage; together they had six children and thirteen grandchildren. A true family business, Munley Law continues Bob’s legacy through his children: Marion Munley, Bernadine Munley, Robert W. Munley III, Daniel W. Munley, Christopher Munley and Caroline Munley.