Kieron F. Quinn, a retired attorney who had practiced admiralty and environmental law and took on class-action cases, died of complications from cancer Feb. 13 at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Riderwood resident was 73.
Born in Lowell, Mass., and raised in Boston, he earned a bachelor's degree at Georgetown University. While a college student, he was a manager at The Cellar Door, a popular Georgetown nightclub, where he met well-known performers including folk duo Ian & Sylvia.
In 1963, he joined the Navy and entered officers candidate school on the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He was served as a deck and gunnery officer aboard the USS Duval County. He left the service as a lieutenant and employed his experience in his legal career.
"He loved the Navy and had tremendous respect for military service, especially at sea. But his commandant in the officers school allowed no time for grieving when Kennedy died. The event colored his initiation," said his daughter Mary Ellen Quinn Johnson of Riderwood. "For an Irish Catholic from Massachusetts, he didn't get over it."
Mr. Quinn earned a law degree at George Washington University. After graduation, he became a trial attorney with the Department of Justice and practiced in its admiralty and shipping section. He worked on numerous federal cases concerning the inland river system.
In 1973, he moved to Catonsville and joined the Baltimore law firm of Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver, where he practiced admiralty and maritime law. According to a life sketch he prepared, he concentrated on ship collision cases and helped his firm represent businesses that leased ocean cargo containers to shipowners.
Mr. Quinn represented the owners of the Santa Cruz II, an Argentine bulk freighter that struck the Coast Guard cutter Cuyahoga in the lower Chesapeake Bay in 1978. The cutter immediately sank, and 11 crew members died. Mr. Quinn successfully defended the Santa Cruz's owners and crew at a federal hearing and in the civil trial in Baltimore.
"He was a brilliant attorney — dogged, determined and aggressive, but with a great sense of humor, too," said M. Hamilton Whitman Jr., a partner at Ober Kaler.
In 1984, Mr. Quinn and his partners formed Quinn, Ward & Kershaw, a downtown Baltimore law firm.
"He was deeply committed to access to justice for the under-represented and for those whose rights and claims would not reach the court without the assistance of Legal Aid, the Public Justice Center or the class actions he brought. That was his passion," said Baltimore Circuit Judge Robert Kershaw, who was formerly a law partner of Mr. Quinn's.
"He had a great legal mind and was ready to think outside the box," said Tom Ward, an attorney with Simms Showers and Mr. Quinn's former legal partner. "He was ingenious in developing legal theories."
Mr. Quinn later founded his own firm and became involved in more than 40 class-action lawsuits. He worked in consumer fraud, environmental pollution and antitrust violations.
In 2006, he was involved in a settlement against Verizon that resulted in a $7 credit on Marylanders' phone bills.
"More than 2 million Verizon customers in Maryland will receive an average credit of $7 on their local telephone bills in the next several weeks, under a settlement stemming from a seven-year lawsuit over late fees," a Baltimore Sun article said. "The $16.8 million in consumer compensation ends the class-action lawsuit against Bell Atlantic-Maryland, now Verizon Maryland."
He also joined environmental groups to file class actions in Alaska courts after the Exxon Valdez wrecked in 1989 and spilled crude oil in Prince William Sound.
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"He was devoted to defending the rights of people who could not defend themselves," said a friend and fellow attorney, Michael Libowitz.
He also served for more than three decades as an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, where he taught courses in corporations, business, and admiralty and maritime law.
He was a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates and a board member of Public Justice. He belonged to the Maritime Law Association of the United States. He was also a board member of the American Bar Association Tort and Insurance Practice Section.
Mr. Quinn enjoyed fly-fishing. A baseball fan, he rooted for the Boston Red Sox but changed allegiance to the Orioles and attended many games. He also traveled to Florida for spring training and attended World Series games in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Services are private.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Quinn is survived by another daughter, Kathleen Quinn of Washington, D.C.; a son, Michael Quinn, also of Washington; and three grandchildren. His two marriages ended in divorce.