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

Bowman and Brooke LLP

Jointly led by Phoenix-based Paul Cereghini and Bard Borkon in Minneapolis, the team at Bowman and Brooke LLP is praised for ‘achieving superior results’ in the automotive arena and covers the whole range of product liability lawsuits, class action defense and mass tort litigation in the auto sector. Recent highlights include defending several automotive manufacturers including Ferrari, Jaguar and Tesla against lemon law and warranty claims, and also representing Honda and BMW in the Takata airbag MDL. In another highlight, Thomas Branigan in Detroit acted for BMW North America as lead trial counsel in litigation regarding crash avoidance technology. Other significant clients include Nissan, Hyundai and Mazda. The highly regarded Vincent Galvin in San Jose and Columbia-based Joel Smith are other key members of the practice. Courtney Shytle departed to McGuireWoods LLP in December 2018.

Dykema Gossett PLLC

Dykema Gossett PLLC regularly acts as national product liability, trial and appellate counsel for leading car manufacturers in relation to personal injury suits arising from car accidents, manufacturing defects and breach of warranty claims and recalls, which have included major class actions. Los Angeles-based Derek Whitefield recently represented Toyota and Honda Motor in serious injury lawsuits involving alleged seat and seat belt defects. Washington DC-based Terri Reiskin leads the team; James Feeney in Los Angeles is also recommended.

Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell LLP

Denver-based Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell LLP is headed by Michael O’Donnell and has significant experience handling class actions, MDLs and product liability litigation in the automotive sector. In recent work, the team obtained dismissal of a putative class action lawsuit against Volvo involving alleged misrepresentation and false labeling of the safety features of the Volvo 850 models. The firm’s client roster also includes FCA, Ford Motor and General Motors. Peter Herzog is another key contact in the group.

Ballard Spahr LLP

With extensive experience in class actions, Ballard Spahr LLP has ‘deep knowledge’ of the automotive industry and ‘takes a pragmatic approach to litigation’. In New Jersey, ‘highly responsive’ practice head Neal Walters and Roberto Rivera-Soto are representing longstanding client Kia Motors in a class action alleging consumer fraud and breach of warranty based on brake defects; Walters is also defending Subaru against allegations that several of its vehicle models suffer from engine rod defects. In other work, the team is acting for automotive seat manufacturer Johnson Controls in two lawsuits claiming the plaintiffs sustained enhanced injuries in motor vehicle accidents as a result of certain seat defects. New Jersey-based associate Casey Watkins, who has ‘excellent legal skills’ is also recommended. John Kearney retired in December 2017.

Campbell Conroy & O’Neil

Campbell Conroy & O’Neil is regularly involved in automotive and aviation-related cases and represents manufacturers in product liability and personal injury litigation. In a recent highlight, the team obtained a defense verdict on behalf of Toyota in an action involving the alleged unintended acceleration of a 2008 Toyota Corolla which resulted in a crash. Boston-based James Campbell leads the department; the highly regarded William Conroy in Philadelphia is another name to note. Ford Motor is a longstanding client of the group.

King & Spalding LLP

King & Spalding LLP's automotive and transportation litigation team is jointly led by Philip Holladay and Susan Clare, and recently welcomed Livia Kiser and Michael Shortnacy in Chicago and Los Angeles, respectively, both of whom joined from Sidley Austin LLP in July 2018. With particular strength in class actions and product liability litigation, the group defends leading OEMs against manufacturing defects, design defects and failure to warn claims. In recent highlights, Stephen Devereaux represented Daimler and Mercedes Benz in a putative class action alleging a design defect in the HVAC systems of various models of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, and senior counsel Chilton Varner is defending Suzuki as appellate counsel against design defect, negligent recall, failure to warn, and loss of consortium claims arising from a crash involving the plaintiff’s motorcycle. John Hooper in New York continues to act for Toyota in the settlement of the unintended acceleration class action. Unless otherwise noted, all named partners are based in Atlanta.

McGuireWoods LLP

Perry Miles leads the Richmond-based automotive product liability practice at McGuireWoods LLP, while Diane Flannery heads the wider product liability environmental and mass tort litigation group. The team regularly handles sector-related product liability claims and class actions. Together with Tracy Walker and Samuel Tarry, Miles is acting as national class action and product liability counsel for Ford; in this capacity, the team was recently involved in a class action concerning allegations of defective door latches in Ford F-150s manufactured between 2015 and 2017. In December 2018, Courtney Shytle joined the office in Columbia from Bowman and Brooke LLP.

Norton Rose Fulbright

Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP advises manufacturers and service providers on product liability litigation in the automotive sector. Steven Jansma, who heads the products, pharmaceuticals, medical and mass tort practice in San Antonio, is defending a tire company against various product liability claims, including a wrongful death case regarding an accident allegedly caused by a failed tire. In other work, the team is representing a client as regional trial counsel in several personal injury lawsuits involving the installation and replacement of tires on vehicles. Stacey Martinez in Austin is another name to note.

DLA Piper LLP (US)

Led by Christopher Campbell in Atlanta, DLA Piper LLP (US) assists clients from the automotive industry with product liability litigation and class actions. Notably, Phoenix-based Mark Nadeau is defending Uber Technologies in a personal injury case regarding a homeless person who was struck by an autonomous vehicle. In addition, William Kiniry in Philadelphia is representing Porsche in litigation relating to the Cayenne Sport Utility engine, which contained an emissions control device designed to fool the designated emissions testing. In another highlight, the team is acting for Mazda in a consumer protection lawsuit filed by the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office regarding faulty airbags supplied by vendor Takata. Other clients include Michelin and Goodyear.

Hogan Lovells US LLP

The automotive group at Hogan Lovells US LLP is headed by Washington DC-based Michael Kidney and represents OEMs and distributors as trial and appellate counsel in class actions and product liability litigation; the team also has experience of large-scale recalls. Head of the global products practice Lauren Colton in Baltimore is representing an importer of Chinese tires, ITG Voma, in a catastrophic injury lawsuit involving a chain of distribution of an allegedly failing tire manufactured in China. Also recommended is Latane Montague, who has been advising Daimler on a large recall of vehicles with Takata airbag inflators. In Washington DC, Sean Marotta was promoted to partner in January 2019, and  Jessica Ellsworth is also recommended.

Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP

Jointly led by Walter Cofer in Kansas City and Alicia Donahue, the product liability group at Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP regularly represents OEMs from the automotive industry in class actions and product liability lawsuits. In recent highlights, Frank Kelly successfully defended Ford in a putative class action alleging that certain vehicles had defective relays in electronic power-assisted steering that caused the steering mechanism to malfunction. Additionally, Amir Nassihi obtained dismissal of a class action filed against Toyota regarding the soy-coated wiring in certain vehicles, which allegedly attracted rodents to gnaw on it and destroy the wiring. All named partners are based in San Francisco unless otherwise noted.

Condon & Forsyth LLP

Noted for its ‘coordination, efficiency and experience’, New York-based Condon & Forsyth LLP stands out in particular for its aviation sector expertise. Jointly led by Christopher Christensen, Bartholomew Banino and John Maggio, the team demonstrates ‘a deep understanding of the client's business’ and is regularly instructed in wrongful death and product liability claims. Recent highlights include representing Aeromexico and TACA in litigation relating to aircraft crashes, defending Kalitta against claims arising from an engine fire, and acting for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in product liability matters regarding the manufacture and sale of Mitsubishi aircraft in North America. Anthony Battista is also recommended.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP

Kirkland & Ellis LLP is frequently involved in product liability litigation and class actions in the automotive and aviation sectors. Chicago-based Richard Godfrey and Andrew Bloomer as well as Mike Brock in Washington DC continue to represent General Motors in ongoing class actions and personal injury lawsuits arising from recalls relating to certain ignition switches. In another highlight, the team is defending Polaris Industries in a consolidated consumer class action alleging that certain Polaris ORVs have a design defect that creates an unreasonable risk of overheating and fire.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP is active in the automotive and aviation sectors, where it acts for clients such as Boeing, Toyota and General Motors as national, trial and appellate counsel in class actions and product liability lawsuits involving manufacturing defects, design defects and personal injury claims. Practice head Paul Zevnik in Washington DC, Miami-based Brian Ercole and Gordon Cooney in Philadelphia are the key contacts in the practice.

O'Melveny & Myers LLP

O'Melveny & Myers LLP is noted for its expertise in class action litigation, where it acts for OEMs in cases involving manufacturing and design defects. Steven Brody in Washington DC is the chair of the product liability and mass torts practice, and Los Angeles-based Carlos Lazatin is another name to note in the automotive space.

Reed Smith LLP

Chicago-based Robert Roth and Melissa Geist in Princeton head the product liability team at Reed Smith LLP, which is regularly instructed by clients from the aviation and the automotive sectors. Oliver Beiersdorf in New York handles class actions involving consumer fraud and breach of warranty claims in the automotive space, while Princeton-based Patrick Bradley heads the aviation litigation team and represents manufacturers in litigation arising from aircraft crashes.