"There's a real misperception of what it was like then," said Chesley's son, Rick Chesley, a partner and co-chair of DLA Piper's restructuring law practice based in Chicago.
"We grew up in Bond Hill.
was just a lawyer trying to make a living."
worked long hours while his
first wife, Suellen, took care of their kids.
was a high school senior at the time.
remembers how some of his
dad's former clients reeling from the fire's aftermath were told there was no money to compensate them for their losses - that there was nothing anyone could do.
The Beverly Hill Supper Club
after the fatal fire
So they turned to Chesley
"Part of what drove him was really the moral outrage of that," Rick Chesley
"That no one's held accountable for that.
That really struck a nerve for him."
took on the case, representing the victims of what remains one of the deadliest nightclub fires in U.S. history.
And to the amazement of many, he
won an unprecedented court order to stop demolition of the club's charred ruins so investigators hired by the victims' legal team could search for evidence.
And then he
did what no other lawyer had ever done: He
came up with the idea to sue entire industries, now known as enterprise liability.
One after the other, lawyers for the defendants settled with Chesley
and the team of plaintiffs' lawyers, who ultimately won more than $49 million for victims of the fire.
The case was so important to Chesley's career that for years he
kept that chunk of padding from a supper club chair cushion in his
Gettys remembers a particular hallway conversation with Chesley
and another defense lawyer at the time.
was pointing forcefully at the other, much taller man's chest telling him that if his
client didn't settle, the plaintiffs' lawyers would bankrupt the company.