Mona Lisa Wallace is a partner in the law firm of Wallace & Graham, P.A. She has successfully brought, litigated, and settled numerous significant personal injury, wrongful death, defective drug, asbestos, multiple-claimant and mass-tort claims. She has successfully prosecuted asbestos toxic exposure claims on behalf of thousands of workers. Her products liability experience injuries and wrongful deaths from asbestos, silica, chemical poisonings and other dangers and exposures.
Wallace was born and raised in the small communities of Salisbury and Spencer, N.C. Growing up, she was determined to better herself and find a way to help those around her. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1976. Then she attended Wake Forest University School of Law, where she received a Juris Doctor Degree in 1979. With law degree in hand, she returned to her hometown and started a small general law practice in Salisbury.
Wallace began to get requests for help by area power company employees, and when she investigated, she found evidence that they had become exposed to asbestos in the high heat at the power plants where they worked. In this era, before liability had been established, Wallace was at the forefront of the asbestos claims. She often found herself the sole attorney for the victim, and the only woman attorney, facing a courtroom full of corporate defense lawyers. She faced heavy odds, but by the 1990s, Wallace had successfully represented tens of thousands of employees who had become ill due to asbestos exposure in a wide variety of industrial settings.
In the early 2000s, she grew her law firm into other areas. She brought successful class actions for employees and retirees who claimed their medical and retirement benefits were unfairly reduced. She also co-counseled with consumer and nonprofit lawyers to take on predatory lenders, and those class action settlements brought significant refunds to tens of thousands of low-income borrowers. When the cases started, the state was full of brick-and-mortar payday lending stores that trapped working people inside a cycle of debt. But after the cases were brought, the stores left the state.
Wallace also brought several class action lawsuits against car dealers for allegedly unfair and deceptive sales practices and obtained significant settlements. She also co-counseled with the U.S. Department of Justice on claims of alleged improper medical billing and warranty practices under the Federal False Claims Act. They filed a suit against a medical device company based on “whistleblower” testimony that the company had failed to honor warranties on its products, which caused the Medicaid/Medicare system to overpay. As a result of her efforts, the device maker paid a multi-million-dollar settlement.
Mona Lisa Wallace has become a founding member of the American Museum of Tort Law located in Winsted, Connecticut. This museum is an important American cultural resource for the national topics of access to justice and promotion of social welfare.
The American Museum of Tort law focuses on issues of civil justice and the protection of those who have been injured. It opened to the public on September 26, 2015. It is the first law-devoted museum in the United States.
The museum seeks to increase citizen understanding of Tort Law - the law of wrongful injury - and the role it plays in protecting personal freedom, health and safety through the American civil justice system. Tort Law is fundamental to American freedom and goes all the way back to when our Founding Fathers included the right to trial by jury in the Bill of Rights.
The museum includes historical document, exhibits and information about how the law evolved, precedent-setting cases, and results that made a difference. It will hold exhibitions on famous cases including McDonalds' scalding coffee, flammable pajamas, asbestos, breast implants, medical malpractice, Love Canal, and Ford Pintos with gas tanks that could explode.
In recent years, Wallace has taken a personal interest in the claims of victims of occupational cancers. Even after OSHA regulations were put in place to eliminate work hazards, Wallace still saw a steady stream of people exposed to dangerous chemicals and products in the workplace who later developed cancer. While asbestos cancers have been widely publicized, the public remains less aware of the many other toxic substances and chemicals that cause cancer. Wallace has sought to heighten public awareness on this issue and to promote early medical screening and assessment.
For many years, Wallace has supported Public Justice and served as president in 2009. She remains a member of the Board of Directors. She has been a driving force behind many initiatives of Public Justice meant to improve access to justice and ensure a level playing field for our most vulnerable citizens.
In the North Carolina State Bar, Mona has served as an advisory member of the Rules of Professional Conduct Review Committee and as a member of other committees. She has served with the Wake Forest School of Law Board of Visitors, the Hood Theological Seminary Board of Trustees, and the New York Board of Directors of the Raoul Wallenberg Committee. Wallace is a member of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice and the co-chair of its Products Liability Section. In 2006, she won the Academy’s Ebbie Award. She has received the North Carolina Advocates for Justice Award for Outstanding Service as Products Liability Section Co-Chair and the North Carolina Gertrude S. Carraway Award of Merit. In 2014, she received the North Carolina Justice Center’s Defenders of Justice Award.
Wallace has two daughters and a granddaughter. Her daughter Whitney Wallace is now a lawyer at her firm, while her younger daughter, Lane Wallace, has pursued a career in environmentally conscientious design and construction. Wallace and her family have been longtime supporters of the local Salisbury and Spencer communities; she has been a member of the Board of Trustees for Catawba College in Salisbury. She and her family have contributed significantly to various charities through the Mona Lisa and Lee Wallace Foundation.