David Berger, who called himself a "people's lawyer," was best known as one of the pioneers of class-action lawsuits. After leaving the Philadelphia City Solicitor's Office for private practice, he recovered billions of dollars from the government, big oil companies, and Wall Street bankers for legions of small clients.
Mr. Berger, 94, who of died of pneumonia Thursday in Palm Beach, Fla., won major cases in the Three Mile Island nuclear power accident, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the Drexel Burnham Lambert junk-bond scandal. His firm won a $2 billion settlement from the government on behalf of the bankrupt Penn Central railroad and thousands of shareholders.
"He was a bright, bright lawyer," said Richard A. Sprague, the prominent Philadelphia criminal attorney who practiced with Mr. Berger in the 1970s. "The world didn't realize the potential of class-action litigation until Dave Berger came along."
But Mr. Berger was more than an innovator of complex litigation that allowed lawyers to collect many small clients together to fight some of the world's most powerful defendants.