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ICON Awards 2021: Robert Langdon, Langdon & Emison

From tire defects that caused rollovers in Ford Explorers to exploding water heaters and fatal carbon monoxide leaks, Kansas City personal Robert Langdoninjury attorney Bob Langdon has spent most of his 40-plus-year legal career, as his firm’s website notes, “holding large corporations responsible for their harmful decisions.”

Credit that sustained run of success to the late U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton, whose own lengthy political career began in the Missouri Senate, where he represented Lafayette County from 1971 to 1977 while also working as a small-town lawyer in Sedalia.

“Late in my college career, I wanted to be a politician, so I went to law school,” said Langdon, a 1972 Mizzou Law graduate who took his first job out of school working at Skelton’s firm.  “Once I was around that lifestyle, I decided I liked practicing law better than being a politician.”

A Belton native, Langdon now calls the Northland home, with firm offices in North Kansas City and Lexington as well as St. Louis and Chicago. A collaboration with partner Kent Emison that began in 1987 has grown from those two lawyers plus a paralegal to one with more than 20 attorneys and a 50-person support staff.

The pair were named to Missouri Lawyers Weekly’s 2020 POWER List, with Langdon also earning the nod as an MLW Legal Champion a decade earlier for winning a $23 million verdict in a Ford rollover trial.

“We’ve gotten to the point where we can help a lot of people, not just a few,” said Langdon, now 73 and showing no signs of slowing down. Over the past 30 years, the firm’s attorneys have earned closed to $1 billion on behalf of clients, while also spurring significant product safety improvements.

“Because of lawsuits, motor vehicles of all types are much safer today than they used to be,” he said, describing one particular safety improvement involving the flow of unused gasoline circulating between fuel injectors and the gasoline tank.

“Most manufacturers didn’t put a check valve – which is no more than the size of a piece of eraser – in the return line to allow gas to come back in, so if there was a collision, and the return line was severed with front-end damage, it would siphon gas out of the tank and cause a fire,” he said.

“Now everybody puts anti-siphoning devices on the return line. And now we have much fewer fires.”

A father of seven and grandpa of four, Langdon relishes that he continues to “get paid for his hobby.”

“I would drive somebody nuts if I didn’t work,” he joked.

Two daughters work as lawyers – one who recently joined his firm after working in the Cass County prosecutor’s office, and another as a personal injury attorney in Texas – and two more children now in college are also headed to law school, Langdon said.

ICON Awards 2021