Product liability, mass tort and class action - defense: automotive/transport in United States

Bowman and Brooke LLP

With bench strength spread across both coasts, niche product liability firm Bowman and Brooke LLP regularly acts as lead trial counsel and national co-ordinating counsel in high-exposure and technically intricate lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions. It has developed a particular strong reputation defending leading car and motorcycle manufacturers, including Toyota, Ford Motor and Honda, and is also at the vanguard of industry developments and the subsequent litigation spawning from the increased computer decision making in vehicles, including disputes arising from airbag control technology, electronic stability control and automatic emergency braking. Vastly experienced Phoenix-based firm chairman Paul Cereghini‘s formidable courtroom skills and subject matter knowledge have ensured that he remains a popular choice for automotive defendants in their highest exposure litigation. San Jose-based Vincent Galvin, Jr. is a favorite among high-profile clients, including Toyota, which he has gained particular acclaim as a result of his work as lead counsel in the well-publicized bellwether “unintended acceleration” trial in 2013. Columbia-based Joel Smith is also recommended and continues to represent Honda against all claims relating to injuries and deaths tied to the much-publicized Takata air bag non-deployment recall. Bard Borkon and Tom Branigan co-chair the automotive practice group from Minneapolis and Detroit respectively.

Key clients

Toyota Motor North America, Inc.

Ford Motor Company

Honda North America, Inc.

Stellantis/FCA US LLC

Nissan North America, Inc.

Hyundai Motor America

BMW AG

Tesla, Inc.

Jaguar Land Rover North America

Yamaha Motor USA Corp

Subaru of America, Inc.

Kia Motors America, Inc.

Work highlights

  • Representing Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. as their lead counsel and largest provider of automotive product liability defense counsel in the US.
  • Representing in hundreds of California warranty and lemon law claims throughout California on behalf of multiple automotive manufacturers.
  • Representing as lead counsel l in multiple mass actions for Ford Motor Company, including their DPS6 transmission, 10R80 transmission class action, 6F35 transmission and Diesel litigation.

Dykema Gossett PLLC

Praised for its ability to ‘listen and adapt well to the ever-changing automotive product liability environment’, Dykema Gossett PLLC handles complex cases for manufacturers and suppliers. The scope of the work is wide-ranging and includes personal injury, wrongful death, product recall and related product defect litigation associated with  automotive products, systems and components. The firm is well-equipped to handle class action litigation throughout the life cycle of a case and has also developed a particularly strong reputation at the discovery phase, where it is frequently brought in to manage the process even where another firm is retained as lead counsel. As well as handling litigation, the team also regularly advises clients from a risk management perspective, including assisting on product assessment, product safety design and labeling. Based out of Ann Arbor, Jill Wheaton  is overarching head of the firm’s product liability and class actions practice and has significant experience within the automotive sector, including at an appellate level. Ann Arbor-based John Thomas leads the firm’s class action practice and has extensive experience in the automotive sector, gleaned not only from many years in private practice but also a long tenure as in-house counsel for Ford Motor Company. Los Angeles-based Derek Whitefield  is particularly accomplished in relation to handling automotive crash safety and has handled airbag cases from numerous manufacturers. Of the more junior partners, Michael Carey in Minneapolis continues to garner a strong reputation and has niche expertise regarding litigation and risk management relating to autonomous vehicles. Terri Reiskin left the firm in May 2021.

Practice head(s):

Jill Wheaton; John Thomas

 

Testimonials

‘The lawyers I deal with are astute, creative thinkers and problem solvers. They are good partners in defending the company from both a technical and legal perspective.’

‘They listen and adapt well to the ever-changing automotive product liability environment and can handle even the most complex of issues, should one arise.’

‘Paul Nystrom is a very experienced litigator, with an excellent track record and a key focus on understanding and delivering on client expectations. He is easy to work with, always prepared, has a great sense of humor, and is very responsive.’

Key clients

Ford Motor Company

General Motors LLC

Harley-Davidson

Kia America

Work highlights

  • Represented Kia America in a product liability case brought by a plaintiff seeking $103.5m in damages, alleging her brain injury was caused by a defect in the restraint systems of her vehicle after she was involved in a significant side impact crash that caused the vehicle to rollover.
  • Represented Ford Motor Company in a nearly three-week wrongful death and personal injury trial in federal court in Ohio, with damages of more than $65m.
  • Represented General Motors (GM) in a class action alleging that it committed fraud and violated the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act by failing to disclose an alleged defect in the electrical system of various 2013 through 2017 GM vehicles.

King & Spalding LLP

Able to leverage a trial-ready approach should the need arise, King & Spalding LLP is well-equipped to provide a ‘very effective‘ service to major automotive manufacturers (including Honda, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz) across a wide array of their highest-stakes product liability and mass action litigation. This experience includes cases consolidated in federal multi-district litigation (MDL) proceedings, as well as individual and class actions in separate federal and state courts throughout the length and breadth of the country. New York-based John Hooper  has longstanding expertise in the sector, including his ongoing representation of Toyota across a range of product liability matters, including on the negotiation of a settlement resolving claims that the company’s hybrid Prius cars were prone to stalling. Susan Clare  in Atlanta co-heads the auto and transport litigation group alongside Hooper and her broad practice includes acting as strategic counsel to automotive manufacturers in connection with hundreds of consumer fraud and breach of warranty cases. 

Practice head(s):

John Hooper; Susan Clare

 

Testimonials

The team provides a very effective service.’

Key clients

American Honda Motor Co. Inc.

Automobili Lamborghini America, LLC

General Motors LLC

Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC

Subaru of America Inc.

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Volkswagen AG and Volkswagen Group of America

Work highlights

  • Representing Toyota as strategic counsel in several product liability and most of the currently active class action cases pending in various courts nationwide, including actions alleging defects in Denso fuel pumps, defective fuel tanks, defective inverters, and defective batteries, among others.
  • Representing GM as lead counsel in various high-profile, high-exposure class action litigation matters throughout the country, several of which were resolved on an individual basis.
  • Representing Automobili Lamborghini America, LLC in two product liability wrongful death lawsuits pending in Las Vegas, Nevada arising out of a high-profile crash involving a post-collision fire at the Speed Vegas experiential race track.

Campbell Conroy & O’Neil

With increased geographical bandwidth by dint of the relatively recent opening of offices in Florida, Campbell Conroy & O’Neil is increasingly well-positioned to handle transport-related product liability work, both regionally as well as on a national basis. The automotive sector remains the most fertile source of work for the firm and with longstanding ties with a number of world leading manufacturers in the space, it continues to be extremely active throughout the litigation life cycle, including through to trial and at appellate level. Based out of Philadelphia and Palm Beach, respectively, William Conroy and James Campbell  are two of the most experienced practitioners at the firm and exemplify the firm’s trial-ready approach to work in the sector.

Other key lawyers:

James Campbell; William Conroy

Testimonials

The firm has excellent attorneys who are able to handle very complex cases.’

William Conroy is an excellent litigator.’

Kirkland & Ellis LLP

The ‘thoughtful, pragmatic and effective’ team at Kirkland & Ellis LLPdelivers quality class action defense‘ to a raft of high-profile corporates, including automotive manufacturers, in state and federal courts across the country, including in the context of MDL litigation. The firm is noted for its trial-ready approach which translates to very persausive advocacy in jury trials, as well as providing it with the leverage to secure favourable settlements, success at summary judgment and the early dismissal of cases. General Motors remains a cornerstone client of the practice and continues to provide a raft of product liability instructions, including relating to airbags and emissions standards. ‘A master in the complex litigation class action realm’, Richard Godfrey continues to handle work for GM, including his work alongside the ‘incredibly smart, thoughtful and client-focused’ Renee Smith  in relation to the Takata airbag litigation and the high-profile diesel emissions putative class action. All named practitioners are based out of the firm’s Chicago office.

Other key lawyers:

Richard Godfrey; Andrew Bloomer ; Wendy Bloom; Renee Smith; Matthew Regan

Testimonials

The firm’s litigation team in the area of product liability, mass tort and class actions in the auto space is first rate. They have routinely been involved in some of the most significant cases and bring that expertise to the table on all matters.’

‘The firm delivers quality class action defense that is thoughtful, pragmatic and effective. Best in the business.’

‘Richard Godfrey is a master in the complex litigation class action realm.’

‘Renee Smith is a standout partner for the firm.’

‘Renee Smith is a superstar. She’s incredibly smart, thoughtful, client-focused, and gets the job done.’

Matt Regan is outstanding. Sharp mind, responsive, all the tactical, strategic and legal capabilities you need.’

Key clients

General Motors

Polaris Industries

ZF-TRW Automotive Holdings Corporation

McGuireWoods LLP

McGuireWoods LLP handles a considerable volume of automotive-related work under the overarching products, environmental and mass tort litigation group, which is led out of Richmond by Diane Flannery . The firm has gained most of its recognition in the space by dint of its long-running representation of Ford Motor Company in relation to wrongful death and severe injury cases throughout the country. Key to this work is Richmond-based Samuel Tarry , who continues to act for Ford in asbestos-related litigation.

Practice head(s):

Diane Flannery

Key clients

Ford Motor Company

 

Work highlights

  • Representing Ford Motors in proceedings proving that the client provided adequate safety warnings relating to asbestos contained in its brakes and thereby was not responsible for the subsequent terminal cancer diagnosis suffered by a former employee.

Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP

Benefiting from a deep understanding of the industry, as well as the legal and regulatory landscape, Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP is well-positioned to effectively represent many well-known entities in the automotive space, including Ford Motor and Kia America, in high-stakes litigation, as well as from a risk management perspective. Primarily centered out of the West Coast, the team, which is co-headed by Janet Hickson  in Orange County, Amir Nassihi  in San Francisco and Robert Adams  in Kansas City, has expertise handling cases across a wide spectrum of disputes impacting not only automakers but also component suppliers and Original Equipment Manufacturers. Supported by more than 100 research analysts with advanced science and technical degrees, the firm is also at the vanguard of developments in the sector and is particularly adept at advising on litigation/regulatory matters relating to autonomous vehicles. Frank Kelly in San Francisco has formidable advocacy skills, representing clients across a range of product liability cases, including in high-stakes matters for automotive manufacturers accused of causing catastrophic injury and wrongful death.

Key clients

Ford Motor Company

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Tesla

U-Haul International, Inc.

Porsche Cars North America, Inc.

Mazda North American Operations

Kia America, Inc.

Hyundai Motor Company

American Honda Motor Co.

Ferrari North America, Inc.

Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC

Volvo Car USA, LLC

Ducati North America, Inc.

Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell LLP

Automotive-related product liability work forms a core component of Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell LLP‘s civil litigation capabilities. In this segment of the market, clients, which include car manufacturers, trucks and automotive component makers, benefit from the considerable expertise of lawyers based out of its two offices in Denver and St Louis, who have strong first instance and appellate trial skills alongside detailed underlying industry knowledge of the sector. Consequently, the firm has achieved some notable results in consumer class actions and wrongful death claims in dozens of states throughout the country. Counsel emeritus Malcolm Wheeler in Denver has regularly represented major auto manufacturers as trial counsel in big-ticket mandates, including his precedent-setting success for Honda in a 2000 Supreme Court case that established the standard for federal pre-emption arguments in airbag litigation. Denver-based firm chair Michael O’Donnell is a widely recognized trial lawyer with an excellent reputation in this space.

Ballard Spahr LLP

Under the leadership of New Jersey-based Neal Walters, who heads up the overarching product liability and mass tort group, Ballard Spahr LLP handles a significant volume of automotive and transport-related disputes, as well as providing risk management counselling. The team is adept at representing clients throughout the life cycle of litigation in New Jersey federal and state courts, as well as nationally, including in the context of class certification defense proceedings, and mounting vigorous defenses at a final trial stage. Subaru of America remains a core client of the firm and continues to generate a significant amount of product liability-related work, including numerous ongoing class actions in the New Jersey federal court. Roberto Rivera-Soto, a former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice, is a core member of the practice, particularly when it comes to appellate matters. Casey Watkins departed the firm for an in-house role in July 2021.

Practice head(s):

Neal Walters

 

Key clients

Subaru of America, Inc.

Valero, Inc.

Oracle Finance

Sottoriva SPA

Viking Yachts

Express Scripts, Inc.

Lisec America, Inc.

Work highlights

  • Representing Subaru of America in six active class actions in federal court in New Jersey.

Condon & Forsyth LLP

Specialist aviation boutique Condon & Forsyth LLP has strong expertise representing airlines and manufacturers in product liability and class actions throughout the country. With a core group of lawyers based in New York and Los Angeles, as well as an offering from Miami which is focused on international carriers, the team has the strength-in-depth to handle the full range of disputes, including inter-alia wrongful death, personal injury, property damage and cargo claims. Many of the instructions relate to high-stakes litigation and investigations in the aftermath of major accidents, and in this regard the firm is also able to rapidly mobilize resources through its emergency response and crisis management offering. Christopher Christensen has vast experience defending foreign and domestic airlines in litigation following major accidents and has consequently also developed niche expertise guiding clients through the National Transportation Safety Board investigation process. Bartholomew Banino is also regularly engaged in big-ticket accident-related litigation and has also been particularly active of late defending a major European carrier against class action claims alleging a failure to refund due to the Covid-19 pandemic flight cancellations and restrictions. Both Christensen and Banino are based in New York and co-head the team alongside Miami-based John Maggio.

Key clients

Advent Aircraft Systems, Inc.

Aer Lingus

Aeroflot

Aerolineas Damojh, S.A. de C.V. (d/b/a Global Air)

Aerovías de México, S.A. de C.V. (d/b/a Aeromexico)

Air Charter Service

Air Lease Corporation

AIG

AirAsia

Air India

Air New Zealand

Airparts Company, Inc.

AJ Gallagher

Alaska Airlines

Allianz

All Nippon Airways

American Airlines

Aon Risk Services

Aruba Airlines

Asiana Airlines

Avianca

Bahamasair

BAE Systems Plc

Bangkok Airways

British Airways Plc

Caribbean Airlines

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd.

Cebu Pacific Air, Inc.

China Airlines

Compañía Panameña de Aviación, S.A. (d/b/a Copa Airlines)

Croatia Airlines Ltd.

Dassault Falcon Jet

Delta Air Lines

Duncan Aviation

Eaton Corporation plc

Embraer Executive Aircraft and Embraer Maintenance Services

Embraer S.A.

Etihad Airways

F&E Aircraft Maintenance

Flight Lease Capital Management

Fly 7 Executive Aviation SA

Frontier Airlines

GE Aviation

Global Aerospace

Global SuperTanker Services, LLC

Iberia

International Underwriting Association

Japan Airlines Co., Ltd.

Kalitta Air

Kenya Airways Ltd.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (aka Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V.)

Kuwait Airways

LATAM Airlines

Lion Air

LOT Polish Airlines (aka Polskie Linie Lotnicze LOT S.A.)

Lufthansa German Airlines (aka Deutsche Lufthansa AG)

Marsh Aviation

Martinair Holland N.V.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.

Nature Air

NetJets

Nippon Cargo Airlines

Northrop Grumman

Pakistan International Airlines

Pegasus Air

Philippine Airlines

Piiq Risk Partners

Pilatus Aircraft Ltd.

PrimeFlight Aviation Services

Qantas Airways

Royal Air Maroc

Royal Jordanian Airlines

Saudia (formerly known as Saudi Arabian Airlines)

Scandinavian Airlines System

Servotronics, Inc.

Singapore Airlines

Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance

South African Airways

Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA)

Spirit Airlines

Starlux Airlines

ST Aerospace Engineering

Sun Country Airlines

TACA

TAP Air Portugal

Tokyo Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd.

Underwriters at Lloyd’s of London

United Airlines

US-Bangla Airlines

Volaris (aka Concesionaria Vuela Compañía de Aviación, S.A.B. de C.V.)

Willis Towers Watson

Yaborã Indústria Aeronáutica S.A.

DLA Piper LLP (US)

Benefiting from a sizeable overarching product liability and mass tort offering throughout the country and also aided by a raft of legal technology products including an expert witness portal and litigation analytics tool, DLA Piper LLP (US) is able to represent numerous transport-based clients in resource-intensive mandates. Philadelphia-based Matthew Goldberg represents a variety of multinational automotive and automobile component part manufacturers in complex litigation; including successfully helping Porsche Cars North America to resist numerous putative class actions relating to product liability, including defective engine and suspension systems. Although automotive clients remain central to the practice, it has also been fairly active in the aviation space, including work for several airlines defending against putative class actions seeking damages for an alleged failure to pay refunds due to Covid-19.  Christopher Campbell in Atlanta co-heads the team with Loren Brown in New York and James Brogan in Philadelphia. Baltimore-based Joel Dewey has vast experience at trial and appellate level, including in the context of class actions and MDL proceedings for automotive manufacturers.

Other key lawyers:

Joel Dewey; Matthew Goldberg; Timothy Pfenninger; Haley Torrey

Key clients

Hyundai Mobis

Porsche AG

Goodyear Tire Company

British Airways

Work highlights

  • Representing Porsche Cars North America in a putative nationwide class action complaint filed in the Central District of California alleging defective engine and suspension systems on all Porsche Macan vehicles sold in the United States since 2014.
  • Represented The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co in Aybar v. Aybar, a general jurisdiction case which held that The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and its co-defendant the Ford Motor Company do “not consent to general jurisdiction in this state merely by complying with the Business Corporation Law’s registration provisions.”
  • Representing Hyundai Mobis Co., Ltd. and its affiliate Mobis Parts America, Inc., in multiple nationwide class actions coordinated into an MDL proceeding in the US District Court for the Central District of California.

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

Combining deep sectoral knowledge of the transportation industry allied with strategic litigation credentials, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP is a popular choice for handling product liability and class actions throughout the country. Drawing upon the expertise of many practitioners with former in-house experience at major car companies, the team is particularly effective at representing automotive clients, including many OEMs. Exclusively focused on work in the automotive sector, Steven McKelvey  combines commercial and advisory prowess, alongside litigation smarts, ensuring that he is a trusted advisor to stakeholders, both in a non-contentious and contentious setting. Mike Brown  and Phil Cosgrove, based out of Baltimore and Los Angeles, respectively, are both noted for their advocacy skills, which they regularly implement to good effect for automotive defendants in product liability disputes. The arrival in June 2021 of Washington DC-based Terri Reiskin  from Dykema Gossett PLLC was also a major boost to the firm, particularly in light of her product liability and class action expertise within the sector. In addition, the recent recruitment of a sizeable team of litigation partners from Bowman and Brooke LLP provides added weight to the practice, with many having a focus on automotive matters as a function of their broad product liability expertise.

Testimonials

One of their strengths is the depth of their talent. They have a diverse group of attorneys in many different specialties, and are always available.’

They exhibit creativity and passion in their defense of my cases, and bring a diverse collaborative team to every case they handle for me.’

They are client focused, work their hardest to get a “win” for my company, however that might be defined. Their candor towards me helps me do my job better.’

Key clients

Peterbilt

FCA

Crown Equipment

Textron

General Electric

Work highlights

  • Representing Peterbilt in achieving a complete defense verdict in the first injury case for the client in nearly 20 years.
  • Representing Texton in multiple matters in multiple states.

Norton Rose Fulbright

Primarily based out of its Texas offices but also aided by a strong national and international presence, Norton Rose Fulbright has developed a strong offering for a range of stakeholders, including component part manufacturers, retail outlets and automotive companies within the automotive/trucking sector. In this context, the team is quickly and effectively able to mobilize resources – including liaising with a strong network of external experts – to ensure that clients are most appropriately represented at an early stage in the process. Splitting his time between the firm’s San Antonio and Houston offices, co-head of litigation for the US Steven Jansma has a strong focus on  automotive product liability matters, including class actions involving catastrophic injury and death nationwide. Other key practitioners include Houston-based Brett Young, who regularly handles automotive-related disputes as a function of his leadership of the firm's overarching US products, pharma, medical and mass torts offering, and Jeffrey Webb, who heads up the auto industry group from San Antonio.  

Practice head(s):

Brett Young

 

Key clients

Walmart Inc.

BMW AG

Safe Harbor/Safety-Kleen and Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc.

NuStar Energy L.P.

Phillips 66 Pipeline LLC

Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.

Parsley Energy Inc. and Parsley Energy Operations LLC (now Pioneer Natural Resources)

Vulcan Materials Company

Cooper Tire & Rubber Company

Work highlights

  • Advising Walmart and Sam’s Club on their automotive and tire litigation docket for many years, expanding it from ten to the entire United States.
  • Represented BMW in the multidistrict litigation (involving over 90 class actions) related to a the largest automotive recall of its kind in history involving more than 100 million vehicles worldwide that are using Takata airbags.
  • Representing Vulcan, handling a docket of trucking accidents involving catastrophic injury and death.

O'Melveny & Myers LLP

More than willing to go the extra mile to ensure the optimal result’, O’Melveny & Myers LLP has developed a strong reputation in defending large corporates in consumer class actions and product liability disputes. In the automotive sector, the team has perhaps gained most visibility as a result of its role as national class action counsel for Ford Motor Company. Acting for Ford, Washington DC-based Steve Brody recently successfully secured a favorable settlement for the client in relation to three Attorney General actions brought against it relating to its use of the defective Takata airbags. Carlos Lazatin in Los Angeles also regularly handles class actions and product liability litigation for automotive clients and is well-versed in cutting-edge matters associated with autonomous vehicles. Brody co-chairs the product liability and mass tort team alongside Los Angeles-based Sabrina Strong. Based out of San Francisco, Matt Powers  chairs the firm’s consumer class actions practice.

Other key lawyers:

Carlos Lazatin; Scott Voelz

Testimonials

They are more than willing to go the extra mile to ensure the optimal result.’

Key clients

Ford Motor Co.

Kia Motors America, Inc. & Kia Motors Corporation

Hyundai Motor America

XPO Logistics, Inc.

FedEx Ground

LaserShip

Work highlights

  • Representing Ford in litigation related to Ford’s use of airbags produced by Takata Corporation.
  • Represented Kia Motors America, Inc. and Kia MotorsCorporation in a putative class action alleging defects in the panoramic sun roof glass of numerous Kia models.
  • Representing FedEx Ground in both employment and tort cases involving its independent contractor (now ISP) model.

Reed Smith LLP

Leveraging the firm’s longstanding industry focus on the transportation sector and utilizing vast disputes expertise throughout the length and breadth of the country, Reed Smith LLP is well-placed to handle product litigation resulting in wrongful death, personal injury and property loss/damage. Aviation-related work is a particular strength, an area in which Princeton-based Patrick Bradley has amassed vast experience defending aircraft manufacturers, airlines, aircraft maintenance facilities and pilots in cases arising out of aircraft accidents. Melissa Geist and Robert Roth co-head the product liability team from Princeton and Chicago, respectively, with Roth regularly involved in product liability-related matters in the automotive sector.

Practice head(s):

Melissa Geist ; Robert Roth