Donald C. Coggins Jr.

To Donald C. Coggins Jr., nothing is more satisfying than trying a case.

“Since I was a little kid my family always said I loved to talk and argue, so I guess that part of it comes naturally to me,” he says. “But it’s really more than performance; it’s communication. I like trying to figure out ways to effectively communicate an idea or an argument to a group of people in such a way that they will understand it—and even more than that, in such a way that I’m more persuasive than the other person who’s trying to talk to them about the same idea.”

Coggins’ abilities to communicate effectively have led to numerous impressive results over the years.

In 2001, he and a colleague attained a $1.35-million verdict in a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) case, at the time a record for such an employment case in South Carolina. In 2011, he and partner John B. White Jr., were part of a legal team that represented the state and won a $327-million verdict against Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson, contending that the defendant had violated the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act by engaging in unfair or deceptive acts in the marketing of Risperdal, an antipsychotic drug.

They also settled similar claims involving similar drugs with Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca for $45 million and $26 million, respectively. Coggins also has obtained numerous recoveries in excess of $1 million in tractor trailer accident cases.

A native of Spartanburg and graduate of Clemson University, where he received a B.A. in economics in 1981, Coggins got his J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1984.

He initially planned to take an offer with a larger defense-oriented firm in Columbia, but missed his hometown and returned to Spartanburg to join a small firm that focused on plaintiff’s personal-injury cases. He won his first jury trial within months of being sworn in as a South Carolina lawyer. After a number of years in practice, he was one of the founding members of the firm now known as Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins in 2000.

Coggins maintains a diverse practice, ranging from plaintiff’s personal injury cases to business litigation. He’s also developed a practice representing professionals in licensing matters before the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Asked what he most enjoys as a lawyer, Coggins is unequivocal: “I love to try cases in court.”

As for an area of law he prefers, Coggins admits that he enjoys them all.

“With the business disputes, I enjoy trying to figure out the puzzle of where the money went and going through the financial records to figure it out,” he says. “With the medical malpractice/nursing home cases, I like the idea of representing families who have been through horribly tragic situations and where there’s not an equal footing of power. Oftentimes these are working-class families who are up against huge healthcare corporations. It’s the whole underdog thing and I enjoy that.”

He is a strong proponent of the firm’s philosophy of being a good citizen and active participant in the community, to better serve individuals and families in the Spartanburg area.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” he says. “We’ve all been pretty fortunate in life and this is an opportunity to give back and serve.”

He is currently a member of the board of directors for the Spartanburg Interfaith Hospitality Network, an agency providing housing and counseling for homeless families in partnership with local churches. In addition, Coggins was appointed as a member of the South Carolina Commission on Lawyer Conduct in 2003 and continues to serve in that capacity. He has headed the annual Respect for Law Program of the Spartanburg Breakfast Optimist Club. He has also previously served on the boards of the Spartanburg Children's Shelter, the Spartanburg YMCA, Spartanburg Regional Hospice Associates, and the Spartanburg Area Mental Health Center.

In his limited private time, Coggins enjoys spending time with his family, reading, doing gardening and yardwork, and playing golf.