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United States > Dispute resolution > Product liability, mass tort and class action: automotive/transport > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings


Index of tables

  1. Product liability, mass tort and class action: automotive/transport
  2. Leading lawyers

Bowman and Brooke LLP is ‘very deep and experienced in automotive product liability’, and continues to represent a number of major automotive manufacturers across the United States. Led by practice co-head and chairman Paul Cereghini, the group served as national counsel to Yamaha in litigation involving over 1,100 personal injury claims alleging defects in its Rhino off-road vehicles, with one personal injury claim amounting to $17m. Columbia-based Joel Smith is serving as national counsel to Honda in the high-profile Takata airbag litigation. San Jose-based practice co-head Vincent Galvin is also recommended. The team significantly expanded with the promotions of Nathan Marcusen in Minneapolis, Ryan McCarthy in San Jose, Marion Mauch in Los Angeles, Nathan Colarusso in Richmond and Tanya Scarbrough in Dallas. In 2016, the practice was augmented by the absorption of Florida-based Seipp, Flick & Hosley.

Noted for its strong trial experience, Boston-based firm Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy P.C. often defends automotive and truck manufacturers against product liability suits. Firm head James Campbell represented Honda in Berringer v Honda, in which the plaintiff claimed that the airbag was defective; the case was settled prior to trial. Trevor Keenan successfully defended Navistar in product liability arbitration regarding a bus fire. Other clients of the practice include Toyota, Ford and Harley-Davidson. Of counsel Richard Campbell and Berwyn-based William Conroy is also recommended.

Headed by chairman and co-founder Michael O’Donnell, Denver-based Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell LLP’s practice has strong trial and appellate experience. Theresa Wardon recently obtained a reversal of a 2013 jury verdict against Ford in litigation that alleged liability and negligence concerning a collision in a 1998 Ford Explorer. Peter Herzog, who joined the firm in 2015 from Bryan Cave LLP, successfully moved the Third Circuit to revoke the certification of six statewide classes in a suit against Volvo alleging defects in the sunroof drains of vehicles manufactured from 2003 to the present. Michael Williams and Malcolm Wheeler are also recommended.

Among the ‘cream of the crop’, the Denver-based product liability and mass tort group at Ballard Spahr LLP is led by Neal Walters, who ‘provides timely, insightful, aggressive representation with a great result’. Walters and Michael Carroll have been representing Subaru in a number of class actions and related litigation, including a putative nationwide class action alleging consumer fraud arising from an engine defect that resulted in excessive oil consumption. Roger Thomasch and recently promoted partner David Stauss are currently serving as lead trial counsel for Goodyear in its tire product liability litigation across the United States. Other clients include Kia, Johnson Controls and Teleflex.

DLA Piper LLP (US)’s product liability and mass tort department is led by co-heads Raymond Williams in the Philadelphia office and Christopher Young in San Diego. The firm obtained decertification of a Florida class action against Porsche in a case of first impression regarding the susceptibility to theft of its vehicles’ high-intensity discharge headlights; William Kiniry is lead trial and appellate counsel. James Brogan and Baltimore-based Joel Dewey are also recommended. The firm also represents clients such as Goodyear. All partners mentioned are based in Philadelphia unless otherwise stated.

The product and consumer litigation department at McGuireWoods LLP is headed by Samuel Tarry, who continues to serve as national counsel for CSX Transportation in all punitive damages litigation. In 2015, Tracy Walker obtained reversal of a 2013 jury verdict against Hyundai in a $14m case alleging personal injuries sustained in a collision were caused by defective design of Hyundai’s Tiburon vehicle. Led by Tarry and Walker, the firm also continues to represent Ford as national counsel in class actions, product liability litigation and asbestos litigation. The aforementioned partners are based in Richmond. John Weisner retired.

At Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP’s Orange County office, Douglas Robinson and Janet Hickson successfully defended Los Angeles Truck Centers, LLC against a $58m product liability suit following a tour bus accident in Arizona. San Francisco-based Frank Kelly and Grant Law led the team in successfully representing Ford in a seven-week trial concerning the design of the Ford Taurus; the plaintiff claimed that Ford failed to conduct adequate safety testing. The practice includes Robert Adams and Ann Songer in Kansas City.

Headed by Sara Gourley and Maja Eaton in Chicago, as well as Debra Pole in Los Angeles, Sidley Austin LLP’s ‘excellent’ product liability team represented Ford in successfully obtaining a motion to dismiss a putative class action brought against Ford, General Motors and Toyota concerning their vehicles’ susceptibility to theft; Michael Mallow (Los Angeles) served as defense counsel to Ford. Mallow, along with Mark Campbell, Eric Mattson, Los Angeles-based Sean Commons, as well as Michael Andolina and Liv Kiser (both in Chicago) have an impressive track record of defending Honda against class actions, with recent victories including the denial of a class certification and the dismissal of a number of class actions alleging that Honda’s vehicles are defective. Delphi is another client of the practice. Catherine Barrad now practices in-house at California State University.

Bryan Cave LLP’s product liability group is highly experienced in leading and coordinating multi-district litigation (MDL) proceedings pertaining to the automotive and wider transport industry. In Chicago, practice head Bruce Duffield is experienced in advising manufacturers on reducing liability exposure, as well as representing clients in nationwide class actions. Bettina Strauss’ expertise includes defending automotive manufacturers in a wide range of proceedings, including class actions and MDL. Debra Behrendt, Stefan Mallen and Richard Cassetta are also recommended for their trial expertise. All partners mentioned are based in St Louis unless otherwise stated.

Washington DC-based Terri Reiskin heads Dykema Gossett PLLC’s products, class actions and professional liability practice, which is noted for its ‘strong reputation in automotive product liability’. Reiskin and Detroit-based John Thomas successfully filed a motion to dismiss a class action brought against Ford by plaintiffs across more than 30 states that alleged consumer fraud involving cracked tailgate appliqués on Explorer, Mountaineer and Aviator vehicles. Reiskin and Los Angeles-based Derek Whitefield served as co-lead defense counsel for Honda in a putative class action alleging defects in Honda’s airbag; they recently achieved a favorable settlement for the client. Detroit-based Michael Cooney has been appointed as director of the firm’s litigation department.

Hogan Lovells US LLP’s Washington DC-based team is experienced in representing clients in class actions and high-stakes litigation, such as federal MDL. Practice head Michael Kidney is defending Jaguar in a class action alleging defects in the electronic air suspension system in the 2003 through 2006 Range Rover sports utility vehicles. Jessica Ellsworth, who primarily handles Supreme Court and appellate briefs, successfully defended Ford in a number of product liability cases, including a defective airbag claim. Marty Steinberg joined the firm’s Miami office from Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLP.

King & Spalding LLP’s deep trial bench has experience serving as state, regional and national counsel for major manufacturers in the automotive industry. Atlanta-based Philip Holladay heads the practice. In the same office, Andrew Bayman led the team’s defense of Kia against a product liability lawsuit alleging that Kia’s Optima vehicle was defective due to the lack of a fuel shut-off switch. The team saw a number of changes in 2015 and 2016: Alexander Calfo joined the San Francisco office from Barnes & Thornburg, while Washington DC-based Granta Nakayama and Joseph Eisert were hired from Kirkland & Ellis LLP; the firm also promoted five new partners. Frank Brannen and C Brannon Robertson moved to Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP and Fernelius Alvarez Simon PLLC, respectively.

Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP’s practice often defends high-profile clients in high-stakes litigation. San Antonio-based department head Steven Jansma serves as national and regional coordinating trial and discovery counsel for manufacturers, distributors and automotive retailers. He acted as lead trial counsel for Cooper Tire & Rubber in a wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit arising from a high-speed rollover accident in California; the case was settled prior to trial. Houston-based Edward Adams serves as the lead counsel to United Airlines in a lawsuit brought by a plaintiff claiming the defendant failed to divert a flight to treat the plaintiff’s medical conditions. The firm’s client base includes Toyota and BP.

Led by co-chairs Richard Goetz in Los Angeles and Steve Brody in Washington DC, O’Melveny & Myers LLP’s team has experience of defending product liability and consumer fraud claims in mass tort proceedings, class actions and government enforcement actions for clients such as Ford. Goetz, Carlos Lazatin and of counsel Michael Reynolds led the team in successfully obtaining a motion to dismiss a complaint brought against Kia alleging a defect in the door latch mechanism of Optima vehicles from 2001 through 2006. Of counsel Brian Anderson in Washington DC is also recommended. All named lawyers are based in Los Angeles, unless noted otherwise.

The product liability, tort and insurance practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP is headed by Paul Zevnik in Washington DC and Brady Edwards in Houston. Los Angeles-based David Schrader successfully defended Toyota in a class action alleging defects in the Toyota Smart Key System. In Houston, Craig Stanfield and Winstol Carter acted for Bell Helicopter as lead appellate counsel in successfully obtaining dismissal of the plaintiff’s wrongful death claims concerning a helicopter crash in Indonesia. The team expanded with the recruitment of Chicago-based Undray Wilks from McGuireWoods LLP and former New Jersey federal prosecutor Harvey Bartle IV in Philadelphia; Washington DC-based Brad Nes and Los Angeles-based Yardena Zwang-Weissman were promoted to partner.

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP represents a wide range of manufacturers in the automotive industries, such as vehicle, tire and component part manufacturers, with a particular expertise in investigation and accident reconstruction. Atlanta-based Patricia Britton’s litigation experience includes class actions, marketing issues and regulatory compliance. Charleston-based Deirdre McCool is highly experienced in representing foreign manufacturers in product liability litigation. Christopher Genovese is also recommended.

Snell & Wilmer LLP’s product liability team, which is experienced in defending major auto insurers in a broad range of class actions and product liability litigation, is led by Vaughn Crawford and Warren Platt in Phoenix. Crawford has experience serving as lead trial counsel for automobile manufacturers in both state and federal courts. Platt’s expertise includes defending national and international manufacturers in major product liability lawsuits. Denver-based Timothy O’Neill is also recommended.

Reed Smith LLP’s product liability department ‘provides solid legal work’ under the leadership of Robert Roth. Roth served as national and lead trial counsel to Johnson Controls in crashworthiness litigation, wherein the plaintiff alleged design defects in the automotive seating system of a 1999 Chrysler 300M vehicle. New York-based John Hooper led the team in representing Toyota in personal injury class actions alleging unintended acceleration. Other clients of the practice include BMW, Daimler Trucks and Volvo. Ricky Raven joined from Thompson & Knight LLP in 2015.

Thompson Coburn LLP’s St. Louis-based group often acts for manufacturers and dealerships in class actions and product liability litigation before state and federal courts. It also advises manufacturers such as Chrysler on transport regulatory matters. Other clients include Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Alamo Rent A Car. Richard Mueller and Kathy Wisniewski are key contacts.

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