Holm on Hait Street, where she lived for the first few years of her life. “Love the sign,” she says.
herself facing lawyers from Bonne Bridges
Mueller O’Keefe & Nichols, a med-mal
defense firm headquartered in LA. “At
one point, she made some objection to
some question I asked of her client,” says
O’Keefe, recalling his first case against
Holm. “I kind of facetiously remarked, ‘That
wasn’t a very ladylike objection.’ But she
was very composed, very articulate and
certainly was not any kind of a pushover.
She was not going to be intimidated.”
But she found herself drawn to med-
mal defense. “I have a lot of respect for
physicians and what they do,” she says.
“It’s maybe natural for me to defend
doctors, insofar as I wanted to be one.
They’ve worked so hard, and most of them
“I immediately scooped her up,” says
have absolutely the right reasons for which
they are in the field of medicine.”
And so, in 1982, Holm set up an
interview at Bonne Bridges. Her desire to
work for the firm was matched by its desire
to bring her on.
In representing providers, Holm pores
over complicated medical records—written
by health care professionals, for health care
professionals. “If you’re going to sit down
and speak with an expert, you have to know
as much as you possibly can,” she says.
It’s a practice Holm instills in younger
lawyers at the firm. “I tell my associates,” she
says, “that if you’re going to defend a health
care practitioner, or if you’re going to deal with
a skilled nursing facility, or if you’re going to
deal with a damages case that requires an
understanding of what the injuries are, I want
you to go into that medical record and know it.
“To do that, you have to really like
the medicine. You have to like to look at
She does. Glancing over her shoulder at
the hefty volumes of the DSM, Holm lights
up. “I think it’s fascinating,” she says, smiling.
IN 2013, HOLM DEFENDED AN UNUSUALL Y
sensitive case. The mother of a 13-year-
old autistic boy had sued the Los Angeles
Unified School District and the Inclusive
Education and Community Partnership,
claiming that a one-on-one aide hired
by IECP smashed her son’s fingers into
a pencil box and abused him. Holm was
representing LAUSD and IECP.
The trial went on for six weeks, and toward
the end, the plaintiff’s counsel brought out its
star witness: the alleged victim.
“That was the moment to make or
break the case,” says Robert Zermeno
Jr., a Bonne Bridges senior associate who
worked with Holm on the case.
Holm began gently questioning him.
Had he ever felt threatened by the aide?
Had he ever been physically harmed?
“It was kind of like a motherly instinct
The plaintiff, who had asked for $6
where she was talking to this child,” says
Zermeno. “The jury could comprehend him,
and he could express his feelings when Peggy
dealt with him. She was able to take what he
was giving her and just went with him.”
As she spoke to the boy, says Zermeno,
his testimony changed. By the time the
child left the stand, he had basically
revealed that he had never been abused,
felt threatened or suffered damage at the
hands of the aide.
million in damages, received nothing.
It was Holm’s questioning of the child,
says Zermeno, that turned the case in the
defense’s favor. “It was truly artfully done,”
“She does not back down from a fight,
ever,” says McMahon. “She does not like
Of her own kids, Holm’s daughter is now
33 and raising two children; her son, 29,
lives in the Bay Area and recently became
engaged. “Everybody’s out of the house
now and things have settled down a bit,”
she says, adding, “I’m boring. That’s what
I’ve been telling you.”
Just think of it as another argument she
doesn’t want to lose.