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  1. Product liability, mass tort and class action: automotive/transport
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Bowman and Brooke LLP continues to defend a number of manufacturers in high-profile mass torts and class actions, often serving as lead national and trial counsel. In Detroit, Thomas Branigan has been serving as lead counsel to BMW against class action and personal injury claims in the ongoing Takata airbag multi-district litigation (MDL). Phoenix-based Thomas Klein successfully defended General Motors as co-lead trial counsel against a $10m claim brought by a plaintiff who was left quadriplegic following a rollover accident involving the 2004 GMC Savana. The department is jointly headed by Vincent Galvin in San Jose and Paul Cereghini in Phoenix; the Miami office significantly bolstered its offering with a number of lateral hires from Carlton Fields and Arnstein & Lehr LLP. Gary Davis joined Butler Snow LLP in Austin.

Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy P.C. has vast experience acting for a wide range of clients in the automotive industry. Group head James Campbell and Michelle Schaffer defended gas station operator Alliance Energy against negligence claims concerning a motor vehicle accident that occurred at a highway rest area that the defendant was contracted to maintain. Appellate specialist Katherine Wang and trial lawyer Lynne O’Brien Ingram were promoted to partner in the Berwyn office, which also houses the highly regarded William Conroy. All other named partners are based in Boston. The firm’s longstanding clients include Toyota, Ford and Allianz.

Denver-based firm Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell LLP excels in handling class actions and product liability lawsuits. Clients recommend Peter Herzog, who defended Toyota against class certification regarding claims alleging that Tacoma pickup trucks manufactured between 2005 and 2009 were subject to rust. Bryan Cross has been representing General Motors in a wrongful death suit regarding a catastrophic accident in Colorado. Michael O’Donnell leads the practice, which also includes Malcolm Wheeler.

Highly regarded in the automotive industry, Ballard Spahr LLP has a deep bench that is experienced acting for a broad range of clients, including OEMs, component part suppliers and domestic distributers. The group often advises on regulatory and risk management issues, including cybersecurity-related matters. In New Jersey, practice head Neal Walters and Roberto Rivera-Soto have been defending Kia in a number of class actions, including the decertification of a class action concerning warranty claims. In Denver, Roger Thomasch, David Stauss and of counsel Patrick Pugh have been serving as regional counsel to Goodyear in a number of matters, including a wrongful death case in South Dakota. Other clients include Subaru and Johnson Controls.

In the class action arena, Dykema Gossett PLLC’s ‘excellent’ and ‘extremely knowledgeable’ group is noted for its strong strategic capabilities, including its expert depositions. Led by practice head Terri Reiskin and senior counsel Eric Tew in Washington DC, and John Thomas in Ann Arbor, the team obtained summary judgment for Ford before the New Jersey District Court in Coba et al v Ford Motor Co, in which the plaintiff claimed that certain diesel fuel tanks in the client’s F-series trucks and E-series vans were defective. In Los Angeles, Derek Whitefield served as lead counsel to Kia in Drake v Kia Motors Corporation, a case arising from a severe crash in which airbags did not deploy. The firm’s Detroit office was strengthened by the arrival of senior counsel Harold Pope from Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss. The wider litigation department is headed by the ‘extremely well-preparedMichael Cooney in Detroit.

The diverse practice at McGuireWoods LLP includes automotive specialist Tracy Walker in Richmond, and transport experts Brian Jackson and Bryan Brantley, who are based in Charlottesville and Pittsburgh respectively. Walker led the representation of Mazda before the Supreme Court of Virginia, obtaining the reversal of a $20m jury verdict concerning a rollover accident involving a soft top car. Walker and Samuel Tarry, who heads the wider product and consumer litigation department, continue to serve as national counsel to Ford in a number of class actions. The team was bolstered by the arrival of Lisa Taylor in Jacksonville.

In Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP’s San Francisco office, Frank Kelly, Grant Law and Amir Nassihi obtained a defense verdict for Ford before the Superior Court of San Mateo County following a four-week trial in a lawsuit alleging faulty vehicle modifications. Nassihi, along with Kansas City-based William Sampson and San Francisco-based Kevin Underhill, obtained dismissal for Nissan in a putative class action brought against 18 automakers. Robert Adams and Ann Songer are names to note in the firm’s Kansas City office.

Sidley Austin LLP’s department has strong experience representing OEMs and also counts Honda and Toyota among its clients. In Los Angeles, consumer class actions co-head Michael Mallow acted for Mazda in the Stedman v Mazda Motors lawsuit concerning allegations of defective dashboards. Mallow and Chicago-based Liv Kiser represented Subaru in O’Neill v Subaru of America, Inc, in which the plaintiff claimed that the halogen headlamps were defective. The group also includes Eric Mattson in Chicago and James Huizinga in Washington DC, who lead the consumer class action team alongside Mallow. The products liability practice is jointly led by Sara Gourley and Maja Eaton in Chicago and Debra Pole in Los Angeles.

DLA Piper LLP (US)’s wider product liability and mass torts practice is jointly headed by Raymond Williams in Philadelphia and Christopher Young in San Diego. In Philadelphia, William Kiniry represented Porsche in an MDL arising out of 12 putative class actions alleging defects in the plastic engine cooling tubes in the first generation of Cayenne SUVs. The group includes Philadelphia-based James Brogan, who often advises on discovery and risk management issues, and Baltimore-based trial lawyer Joel Dewey. The firm’s clients include Goodyear.

Based in Washington DC, Hogan Lovells US LLP’s department has notable experience representing OEMs in high-profile class actions. Adam Kushner and Latane Montague have been leading the team in representing Hyundai before both the DOJ and EPA regarding its settlement in relation to allegations that the automaker violated the Clean Air Act. The team includes Jessica Ellsworth, who often advises on product liability-related appellate matters and has experience acting for clients before the DC Circuit. Michael Kidney heads the practice.

King & Spalding LLP’s Atlanta-based group often represents automotive manufacturers and transportation companies in a broad range of litigation, including wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases. Dan Willoughby has been serving as national discovery counsel to Toyota in a number of matters, including unintended acceleration and product liability litigation. Randall Bassett and Susan Clare led the team in representing UPS as lead trial counsel in a high-profile wrongful death trucking case before state court in Duval County, Florida. The firm’s Washington DC office was strengthened by the arrival of former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) chief counsel Jacqueline Glassman.

Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP’s products and mass tort practice has deep experience serving as regional trial counsel for a wide range of clients in the automotive industry. San Antonio-based group head Steven Jansma has been representing Walmart and its subsidiary Sam’s Club in a number of product liability matters, including allegations that Sam’s Club failed to notify a customer of a Michelin tire recall while servicing its vehicle, which was later involved in a rollover accident causing life-ending injuries. Jansma has also been representing BMW in the Takata airbag MDL in Miami. Jessica Farley is recommended in Houston.

O’Melveny & Myers LLP often defends clients against class actions. In Los Angeles, Carlos Lazatin and of counsel Michael Reynolds obtained dismissal before the Central District of California of plaintiffs’ claims against client Hyundai alleging failure to inform customers of defective sunroofs in certain models. Lazatin, Reynolds and San Francisco-based Randall Edwards successfully obtained a motion to dismiss a consumer class action brought against Ford regarding defective keyless cars. The practice is jointly headed by Richard Goetz and Steve Brody in Los Angeles and Washington DC, respectively. Brian Anderson is now of counsel.

Bryan Cave LLP has strong experience acting for clients in high-stakes litigation. Bettina Strauss has been defending long-term client Enterprise Rent-A-Car in a number of matters. Robert Ebert has been representing U-Haul as lead national counsel in a number of wrongful death claims. The group is headed by Stephen Strauss. All partners are based in St Louis.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s product liability and mass tort litigation practice has experience handling class and putative class actions and personal injury lawsuits. Robert Ellis in Chicago and Robyn Bladow in Los Angeles have been representing General Motors in a class action alleging defects in the headlamp systems on 2014 and 2015 pickup trucks. In Washington DC, Stuart Drake and Andrew Clubok have been leading advice to Volkswagen in an MDL alleging the company’s violation of the Clean Air Act. Key partners include Andrew Bloomer in Chicago.

Jointly headed by Paul Zevnik in Washington DC and Brady Edwards in Houston, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP often handles class actions for automotive and transportation clients. In Los Angeles, David Schrader has been representing Toyota in a class action brought against a number of other automotive manufacturers alleging a defect in keyless cars that led to carbon monoxide poisoning. The team includes trial expert Daniel Savrin in Boston.

Reed Smith LLP is jointly headed by Robert Roth in Chicago, who leads the product liability team, and John Hooper in New York, who leads on complex litigation. In addition to product liability matters, the team often assists automotive clients with industry-related consumer fraud issues. Roth successfully defended Volvo in a putative class action brought before the Northern District of Illinois alleging misrepresentations of the mileage range of Volvo’s XC90 T8 Twin Engine hybrid SUV. Hooper served as strategic counsel to Toyota in a class action concerning defective rust protection on certain vehicles. In 2016, Tracy Ferak and Jason Whitt joined Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP’s Chicago office, while James Reiland joined CA Ventures as in-house counsel.

St Louis-based firm Thompson Coburn LLP handles class actions and product liability litigation for a broad range of clients. Co-head Rick Mueller has been leading the representation of Kawasaki in a number of matters regarding allegations of motorcycle defects following a post-accident recall. Co-head Carl Pesce successfully obtained dismissal for Honda of a product liability case alleging a defect in the ignition switch interlock. Co-head Kathy Wisniewski has been handling a number of class action cases brought against Fiat Chrysler in the US and Canada.

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