A. Ilyas Akbari is a senior partner and bioengineer at Wilshire Law Firm. He is an experienced aviation litigator and director of the firm’s aviation litigation team, having worked on over 200 aviation cases since 2005. Ilyas has litigated crashes and incidents involving commercial airlines, charter operations, general aviation aircraft, military aircraft, seaplanes, and rescue and air ambulance aircraft, in addition to litigating products liability claims against many of the aircraft and component part manufacturers.
Ilyas earned his BS degree in bioengineering in 2000 from the University of California San Diego. While at UC San Diego, he was the founding vice president of the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers. It was through this society that Ilyas met several scientist-attorneys, who inspired him to continue on to Southwestern University School of Law.
While at Southwestern, Ilyas had the honor of serving as president of the Student Bar Association, which provided him the opportunity to have dinner with one of his idols: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Ilyas reflects, “She devoted her entire life to fighting injustice in an attempt to even the playing field for all. She made a difference in the world and encouraged me to pursue a path where I could also make an impact, however small it may be. That dinner left an indelible mark on me, and it was at that moment that I decided to forgo my plan to join a biotech patent firm and, instead, focus on seeking justice for injured victims and families.
“Even today, Justice Ginsberg remains a huge influence, as my six-year-old daughter, Kennedy, wants to be ‘just like RBG’—naming her puppy Ruther Bader Ginsberg and dressing as her on Halloween, or on a random Tuesday.”
Ilyas has represented clients in most of the major airline disasters, including the September 11 litigation, American Airlines Flight 587, Air Midwest Flight 5481 (resulting in the first public apology by an airline), Southwest Airlines Flights 1248 and 1380, TACA Flight 390, Continental Airlines Flight 1404, Colgan Air Flight 3407, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 (only case proceeding to trial, settling prior to voir dire), Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370), Germanwings Flight 9525, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 (Boeing MAX 8 litigation), among others. “My clients come to me at the worst times in their lives after suffering unimaginable losses, often lost and looking for guidance,” says Ilyas. “The immense pressure and privilege of placing their confidence in my team is not lost, and we leave no stone unturned in our pursuit to hold those accountable for the immense losses.”
In addition to aviation cases, Ilyas has been involved in many high-profile crashes involving trains, buses, tractor trailers, school buses, and duck boats. Never one to back down from a challenge or an injustice, Ilyas has also successfully taken on pharmaceutical companies and has been court-appointed to serve as a member of the plaintiffs steering committees for the Bisphenol-A (BPA) Polycarbonate Plastic Products Liability Litigation and the Heparin Products Liability Multidistrict Litigation.
Ilyas’s bioengineering degree has proven very beneficial. In fact, Ilyas is in his element when he can blend his expertise in science and law. Whether it is finding the mechanism of injury, understanding the lasting effects of traumatic brain injuries, or investigating and determining the engineering flaw that caused an aircraft crash, Ilyas devotes himself to the pursuit of truth through the scientific process. “Nothing irritates me more than people who describe some brain injuries as ‘mild’—no injury to the brain is mild,” says Ilyas.
One of the roles that Ilyas takes most seriously is that of mentor to younger attorneys or attorneys who are inexperienced and need advice, which is why he is called upon and speaks at conferences and conventions all over the world, so that other lawyers can learn and better represent their clients. He is known for freely taking the calls of attorneys he does not know and assisting them on various issues.
In addition to serving on the editorial board of The Brief, Ilyas serves as plaintiffs vice-chair to the TIPS Aviation and Space Law Committee and has been the committee’s newsletter editor since 2020. He is also a member of the TIPS Plaintiffs Practice Standing Committee. “Early on in my career, I only joined plaintiffs bar associations, and I learned a lot from older and more experienced plaintiffs lawyers,” recalls Ilyas. “I didn’t realize the importance of TIPS until I joined about 10 years ago. Having the opposing sides in the same bar association was a new concept to me, and I soon realized that those attorneys were more than just the caricatures I had imagined, with much to offer in the way of advice, knowledge, and leadership—from diverse viewpoints I was not aware of. The relationships forged here have been invaluable on both a personal and professional level. I have been honored to be the Aviation and Space Law Committee newsletter editor these past two years and am humbled to now be on the editorial board of The Brief.” Ilyas may be reached at [email protected].