Distinguished claims lawyer Peter Gordon has been awarded an honorary doctorate by Victoria University.
On 2 August 2017, Dr Gordon was admitted to the degree of Doctor of the University Honoris Causa, in recognition of more than 30 years of service.
Dr Gordon has represented traditionally disadvantaged clients in class actions, who would otherwise have been unable to pursue their rightful claims.
His pioneering efforts in mass tort and consumer class action litigation include claims for victims of asbestos cancer, medically-acquired AIDS, sex abuse related to the Catholic Church and faulty breast implants.
Dr Gordon grew up in West Footscray, graduating Dux of St John's College in Braybrook. His passion for legal justice was fostered as a University of Melbourne law student who volunteered with the Williamstown Legal Referral Service.
In 1978, while still a law student, he established the Western Suburbs Legal Service. The service offered high-quality, free, independent legal advice and representation to western suburbs residents, workers and students.
He joined Slater & Gordon in 1980, becoming a partner in 1989, and a senior partner in 1995. He was its chairman when Slater & Gordon became the first law firm in the world to publicly list in 2007. After resigning from Slater & Gordon in 2009, Dr Gordon established his own legal practice, Gordon Legal.
His work over the years includes:
- Obtaining the first successful asbestos cancer damages verdict in Australia in 1985 and winning claims for more than 2000 people over asbestos-induced disease.
- Conducting the world’s first medically-acquired AIDS trial against a blood bank in 1990, eventually resolving all 566 medically-acquired HIV cases in Australia.
- Bringing the first Australian mass legal challenge for sex abuse victims to the tort immunity claimed by the Catholic Church and Christian Brothers Orders.
- Establishing a pathway for litigants outside the United States to bypass US bankruptcy laws, leading to the first mass settlement against Dow Corning for women injured by defective breast implants.
- exposing tobacco company document practices in Australian and American courts as fraudulent. The McCabe case led to law reform in Victoria to prevent abusive corporate destruction of evidence.
- Representing the Australian Council of Trade Unions and asbestos support group victims in the 2003 James Hardie inquiry, and subsequently achieving a $2 billion settlement with James Hardie for present and future victims.
- Launching a class action to receive recognition and compensation for Australian and New Zealand thalidomide survivors.
Outside his legal career, Dr Gordon spearheaded the 1989 campaign to fight for the future of the Western Bulldogs’ predecessor team – the Footscray Football Club – in his role as the AFL’s youngest ever president, serving in the role until 1996.
Upon his reappointment as president to the Bulldogs Board of Directors in 2013, Dr Gordon helped launch the Club’s Sons of the West men’s health initiative. He is a strong champion of the Western Bulldogs-VU partnership.