Firms To Watch: Rail and road: litigation and regulation

As a former senior official at the US Department of Transportation, Venable LLP‘s Washington DC-based partner Ariel Wolf, who currently serves as general counsel to the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association, heads up the firm’s autonomous and connected mobility group.

Rail and road: litigation and regulation in United States

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

The enviable client base at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP‘s Washington DC-based road transportation industry practice comprises auto manufacturers, large rental car companies, automobile trade associations, and companies involved in the manufacture of materials for the transportation industry. It covers a broad array of specialisms, including litigation, appellate matters involving punitive damages, environmental matters and franchising work. The group also fields experts in antitrust and unfair competition issues, false advertising claims, class actions, and labor and employment matters, along with international trade and anti-dumping issues. The group is additionally well known for its longstanding efforts to ensure that punitive damage awards and procedures comply with constitutional requirements. In the rail space, the firm consistently handles railroad critical matters in the federal and state courts, as well as before regulatory bodies. The principal advisers are Raymond Ludwiszewski, whose career includes several years in senior US government legal positions, and experienced trial and appellate advocate Thomas Dupree Jr. Also key to the group’s offering are Theodore Boutrous Jr in Los Angeles, who acts in federal and state appellate courts throughout the US, while Daniel Nelson focuses on environmental and mass tort litigation, along with business, antitrust and class action claims.

Other key lawyers:

Raymond Ludwiszewski; Thomas Dupree Jr; Theodore Boutrous Jr; Daniel Nelson; Jacob Spencer; Matt Gregory

Key clients


Mercedes-Benz USA

Ford Motor Company

Fiat Chrysler

Coalition for Sustainable Automotive Regulation

Association of Global Automakers

The Association of American Railroads

Union Pacific Railroad Company

Purple Line Transit Partners

BNSF Railway

Norfolk Southern Corporation

Hogan Lovells US LLP

With ‘an incredible grasp of the industry‘, Hogan Lovells US LLP‘s global automotive sector team acts for both traditional automotive companies and emerging mobility industry players. On the rail side, the transportation department is sought out by both freight and passenger railroad clients, and the team has particular expertise in the transportation of hazardous materials by rail, including regulatory compliance issues. Latane Montague focuses on the transportation industry’s safety and environmental regulations, Kevin Sheys is ‘extremely knowledgeable about railroad law‘, and Joanne Rotondi advises automotive manufacturers and suppliers on emissions, fuel economy, and greenhouse gas issues. Also key to the department, Michael Kidney defends clients in lawsuits targeting the automotive industry, William Yavinsky co-heads the global automotive industry sector group, and Ryan Ford is an experienced litigator and trial lawyer. In New York, John Sullivan is a franchise litigation expert, and senior counsel Carl Chiappa is a highly-rated motor vehicle franchise law specialist. Outside counsel for the Railway Supply Institute, Emily Kimball in Denver was promoted to partner in January 2023, counsel Hannah Graae is a regulatory expert, and senior associate Carolyn Kraska acts for a range of rail clients. All attorneys listed are in Washington DC, unless otherwise stated.

Practice head(s):

Latane Montague; Kevin Sheys; Joanne Rotondi; William Yavinsky

Other key lawyers:

Michael Kidney; Ryan Ford; John Sullivan; Carl Chiappa; Emily Kimball; Hannah Graae; Carolyn Kraska


The team at Hogan Lovells has an incredible grasp of the industry, the changes that are coming, and the way clients’ businesses work.

What clients value about Hogan Lovells’ attorneys is that they understand the business environment in which companies operate, the competing interests within business organizations, and the role of the legal department among those competing interests. They help clients navigate such conversations every day.

Always provides business-oriented and pragmatic feedback that clients can really use in their work. Their legal statements are just the right length, not too short, but also not too lengthy. For every request, clients get high-quality replies.

Excels in handling matters before the Surface Transportation Board and federal and state environmental permitting issues for new bulk distribution terminals.

The practice focuses significantly on market thought leadership and engagement with the transportation and mobility ecosystem. It aims to understand fully what drives businesses in the sector forward and how this impacts both litigation and regulatory approaches.

A highly efficient and knowledgeable team – Kevin Sheys is great.

Kevin Sheys is extremely knowledgeable about railroad law of all types. Easy to work with and highly responsive. The same can be said for his co-worker, senior associate Carolyn Kraska.

Joanne Rotondi and counsel Hannah Graae are always well prepared for con-calls. They are very competent, highly-qualified experts, who provide clients with very helpful support. Clients feel that they are in good hands with them and rely very much on them for issues concerning the US market.

Key clients

Virginia Passenger Rail Authority

Railway Supply Institute

Hyundai Motor America

Genesis Motor America

Ford Motor Company

Bridgestone Americas

Nissan North America


Alliance for Automotive Innovation

Mercedes Benz USA


Work highlights

  • Retained by Virginia Passenger Rail Authority to assist with the Western Rail Initiative, a series of rail line and operating rights acquisitions from Norfolk Southern Corporation, a Class I North American freight railroad.
  • Assisting Hyundai Motor America and Genesis Motor America with the implementation of their dealer support programs, as well as defense-side litigation against dealers challenging those programs under federal and state law across the US.
  • Providing Nissan North America with ongoing advice regarding emissions and fuel economy-related topics, including developments at state and federal level concerning mobile source greenhouse gas regulations and the Corporate Average Fuel Economy program.

McGuireWoods LLP

McGuireWoods LLP‘s transportation practice is consistently mandated by railroad clients in state, federal, regulatory and arbitration forums. It both prosecutes and defends clients in litigation relating to federal pre-emption matters, real estate disputes, private and public crossings, contract enforcement and interpretation issues, and cargo transportation claims. The team is also regularly hired by trucking and logistics companies, particularly in relation to the firm’s innovative use of technology through case management applications. Clients additionally benefit from the department’s complementary credentials in areas such as energy, natural resources development, land use, real estate and M&A. Another particular selling point for the practice is McGuireWoods Consulting, the firm’s government relations subsidiary that provides enviable public policy insight. Eric Bilik is a commercial litigation specialist, Christopher Thanner‘s experience includes representing railroads in disputes with state agencies and local governments, and experienced litigator Bryan Brantley in Pittsburgh heads up the firm’s transportation industry group. Tort litigation specialist Natalie Zagari, who serves as national coordinating counsel for a major transportation company, was elevated to the partnership in January 2023. All practitioners listed are based in the firm’s Jacksonville office unless stated otherwise.

Practice head(s):

Bryan Brantley; Eric Bilik

Other key lawyers:

Christopher Thanner; Natalie Zagari; Sean Walsh

Dykema Gossett PLLC

Dykema Gossett PLLC‘s enviable client list comprises a broad range of original equipment manufacturers, along with electric and automotive companies and suppliers. The team’s litigators routinely defend claims involving automotive product liability, wrongful death, defects, property damage and recall matters. The workload of automotive industry group director Laura Baucus includes supply chain, contract and consumer financial services litigation, while Dallas’ Deron Wade acts in product defect lawsuits. In Detroit, Lisa Brown regularly represents global automotive companies in disputes, while Michael Cooney is litigation department director. Over in Los Angeles, Dommond Lonnie is well known for automotive liability cases and defending original equipment manufacturers, and Derek Whitefield is an automotive crash safety expert. Further key partners includes product liability litigators Daniela Gonzales Aldape in San Antonio, and John Black and Brian Smith; Minneapolis-based Michael Carey, who co-leads the firm’s electric and autonomous vehicles and advanced mobility practice; and compliance specialist Robert Hugh EllisNina Gavrilovic, Samantha Hughes and Dmitriy Kopelevich are key associates. All attorneys named are based in the firm’s Bloomfield Hills office, unless otherwise mentioned.

Practice head(s):

Laura Baucus

Other key lawyers:

Lisa Brown; Michael Cooney, Dommond Lonnie; Derek Whitefield; Daniela Gonzales Aldape; John Black; Brian Smith; Michael Carey; Robert Hugh Ellis; Nina Gavrilovic; Samantha Hughes; Dmitriy Kopelevich; Janet Conigliaro; Rebekah Hudgins; Deron Wade

Key clients

Commercial Vehicle Group

Ford Motor Company

General Motors

Porsche Cars

Kia America

Hyundai Motor America

Robert Bosch

American Honda Motor Company


Work highlights

  • Obtained summary judgment for Porsche in a high-exposure product liability case.
  • Represented Harley-Davidson in a class action that alleged that the hang-tags attached to motorcycles on dealer lots did not comply with California law.
  • Defended Commercial Vehicle Group against an action by EV manufacturer Rivian Automotive, which alleged breach of contract.

King & Spalding LLP

King & Spalding LLP‘s recent track record includes advice on significant automotive industry diesel issues, as well as regulatory, enforcement and policy work. The firm also houses experts in transportation-related high-stakes disputes, government investigations, and corporate and finance work. On the litigation side, the group’s prowess covers both single-plaintiff catastrophic injury cases and multi-district litigation and class actions. As a former assistant administrator for the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance, Washington DC-based Granta Nakayama is go-to practitioner for automakers facing diesel-related issues, and Livia Kiser in Chicago represents automotive manufacturers, automotive technology companies, and distributors and suppliers in matters involving vehicle components. Other names to note are Los Angeles-based Alexander Calfo and Susan Vargas, whose product liability practices cover the automotive sector; DC-based environmental law specialist Ilana Saltzbart; and New York-based automotive industry expert Jacquie Seidel. Also in New York, John Hooper chairs the firm’s automotive and transportation litigation practice, which is co-chaired by Susan Clare in Atlanta, where class action and product liability litigator and newly promoted partner Adam Reinke is located.

Practice head(s):

Granta Nakayama; John Hooper

Other key lawyers:

Livia Kiser; Alexander Calfo; Susan Vargas; Ilana Saltzbart; Susan Clare; Jacquie Seidel; Adam Reinke

Key clients

American Honda Motor Co

Automobili Lamborghini America


Mercedes-Benz USA

Daimler Trucks North America

General Motors

Kia Motors America


Porsche Cars North America

Stellantis (formerly FCA)

Subaru of America

Subaru Corp

Toyota Motor Sales

Toyota Motor Company


Work highlights

  • Representing Volkswagen before the Environmental Protection Agency, California Air Resources Board and the US Department of Justice in widely publicized matters surrounding emissions from 2.0-liter and 3.0-liter diesel engine-powered vehicles.
  • Representing Toyota as strategic counsel in several product liability cases, including actions alleging defects in Denso fuel pumps, defective fuel tanks, defective inverters, and defective batteries.
  • Representing General Motors in patent litigation brought by Intellectual Ventures, which concerns patents spanning a range of subject matters and technologies.

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP‘s sizeable national automotive practice advises a large proportion of the US’ active motor vehicle manufacturers. It is also increasingly involved in new industries such as driverless cars, electric vehicles and over-the-air repairs. The team’s expertise covers advising on federal and state legislative frameworks, as well as motor vehicle-related regulatory work. It additionally acts in disputes spanning class actions, product liability claims, terminations, relocations and ownership transfers. Other areas of strength include advising on distribution models, sales, and data privacy issues. Columbia-based Steven McKelvey routinely represents manufacturers of cars, trucks, motorcycles, powersports and recreational vehicles, while Tallahassee’s Andy Bertron is the firm’s lead automotive lawyer in Florida, and Los Angeles office managing partner Richard Otera focuses on franchise and distribution law and litigation. Other key practitioners are Mark Clouatre in Denver, LA-based Jody Porter, and Washington DC’s Christie Iannetta. In 2022, the firm expanded its automotive product liability practice through the recruitment of over 50 attorneys (including 30 partners) from product liability-focused firm Bowman and Brooke LLP; the move added several automotive product liability litigators with ties to major car companies.

Practice head(s):

Steven McKelvey

Other key lawyers:

Andy Bertron; Richard Otera; Mark Clouatre; Jody Porter; Christie Iannetta; Sally Caver


‘Nelson Mullins has a wide variety of professionals that can assist on any given matter within the industry. Clients appreciate the wide range of expertise and deep bench.’

‘The individuals at Nelson Mullins have a good grasp of the challenges that manufacturers face in this industry and the competing interests that in-house counsels have to navigate. Clients trust their judgement and guidance.’

‘The Nelson Mullins team is extraordinary in many ways. They are subject matter experts in the automotive industry, from product liability to warranty laws, from supplier contracts and participation agreements to state dealer franchise issues, from brand protection issues to consumer class actions relating to automotive products or services. In short, they have the expertise to handle all areas of legal need, and to do it at great value and with exemplary responsiveness.’

‘Steve McKelvey: Steve is simply the most effective outside counsel I have ever worked with when it comes to identifying and providing the appropriate legal expertise and client satisfaction. He is greatly attuned to our business and our legal needs, and he is always ready with appropriate suggestions for representation and counseling in whatever area of need we have.’

‘Rich Otera is extremely smart, insightful, and makes you feel like you are his only client, even knowing that is not the case. His deep experience and intelligence are evident in his advice and communications.’

‘Sally Caver has become the go-to transactional expert for our legal team. She knows our business, our culture, our approach, and she tailors her advice accordingly.’

Key clients

Fiat Chrysler


General Motors








Steptoe LLP

The core of Steptoe LLP‘s railroad practice involves representing rail carriers in complex commercial disputes before both federal and state courts, as well as acting in arbitration proceedings. The Washington DC-based group also fields experts in pre-emption matters before the Surface Transportation Board (STB), and has knowledge of the regulatory elements of M&A deals; the team also regularly advises on rail-related safety and environmental issues. Transportation practice chair Linda Stein acts for railroad clients in proceedings before the STB, in relation to rail rate reasonableness, unreasonable rule and practice issues, mergers, and railroad line construction and crossings. Further partner-level support is provided by ‘excellent rail transportation lawyersAnthony LaRocca and Peter Denton. In May 2022, rail regulatory specialist Tim Strafford was hired from the Association of American Railroads, where he served as associate general counsel and corporate secretary. Of counsel to note Onika Williams is a former legal advisor in the STB’s Office of Proceedings and assists with compliance and enforcement issues.

Practice head(s):

Linda Stein

Other key lawyers:

Anthony LaRocca; Peter Denton; Tim Strafford; Onika Williams


Anthony LaRocca and Peter Denton are excellent rail transportation lawyers and a pleasure to work with.

Key clients

BNSF Railway

CSX Transportation

Work highlights

  • Assisting BNSF Railway Company with its participation in a regulatory approval proceeding at the Surface Transportation Board for the proposed merger between Canadian Pacific Railway Company and The Kansas City Southern Railway Company.
  • Represented BNSF in rail freight fuel surcharge antitrust litigation.
  • Advised CSX Corporation on its acquisition of New England’s Pan Am Railways, which included assisting CSX with obtaining regulatory approval for the merger.

Thompson Hine LLP

Thompson Hine LLP‘s transportation practice is highly involved in the rail regulatory reform movement, including proposals to increase rail competition in the US. The group is also active in regulatory debates over the transportation of hazardous materials by rail, including safety and liability issues and common carrier obligations. It additionally has extensive experience in rail rate cases, including matters for the chemical and plastics industries. In the road sector, the group has notable regulatory expertise, while the department’s motor carrier lawyers assist shippers, intermediaries and carriers with a wide array of work, including regulatory rulemaking proceedings, and loss, damage and delay-related claims. Regulatory and commercial freight rail expert Karyn Booth leads the transportation group from Washington DC, where Sandra L. Brown represents bulk commodity shippers and other entities that use transportation services. Other key DC partners are commercial and regulatory transportation expert Jeff Moreno, former senior US Department of Transportation official Tim Goodman. and transportation specialist Jason Tutrone. Counsels to note are senior counsel Nicholas DiMichael in DC and Columbus’ Dan Ujczo, along with David Benz in Chicago.

Practice head(s):

Karyn Booth; Tim Goodman

Other key lawyers:

Sandra L. Brown; Jeff Moreno; Jason Tutrone; Nicholas DiMichael; Dan Ujczo; David Benz


‘The team has a unique practice group, with not only lawyers, but engineers, who have years of real-world and regulatory experience. The fact that the team has worked both directly at major OEMs, as well as with NHTSA and EPA, they are able to understand the real-world needs of clients and how to work with the agencies.’

‘The team doesn’t hold back on hard news – it comes up with solutions that enable clients to take the next step and resolve the problems. The team is also forward looking, and comes to the table with business advice on what could work better through risk-based decisions.’

‘Practical, real-world, honest advice.’

‘The team has great subject matter knowledge and excellent communication skills. They have a desire to learn our business and provide practical advice. We are glad to have them collaborate directly with our commercial team.’

‘We have had a great experience working with Jason Tutrone. He provides terrific business-oriented advice and is extremely thorough and detail-oriented. In addition, he is sensitive to our timing requirements and makes an effort to control costs.’

Key clients

American Chemistry Council

American Forest & Paper Association

Corn Refiners Association

Costco Wholesale Corporation

Dead River Company

Health and Personal Care Logistics Conference

Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries

LFS Freight Solutions

National Association of Chemical Distributors


NiSource Inc.

Southern Company

Suez Water Technologies

The Dow Chemical Company

The Fertilizer Institute

The National Industrial Transportation League

Toyota Tsusho America

Work highlights

  • Representing Southern Company, Ameren Corporation and NiSource, as plaintiffs, in fuel surcharge-related antitrust litigation against four large railroads.
  • Representing ACC, NITL, TFI, and Dow in urging the STB to adopt revised rules to expand access to competitive switching.
  • Filed an amicus curiae brief at the US Supreme Court in support of the trucking industry’s Petition for Certiorari, which sought review of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that California’s AB-5 law as applied to motor carriers was not pre-empted.

ArentFox Schiff

ArentFox Schiff‘s sizeable team of automotive lawyers acts for some of the US’ largest retail dealership groups, auto-tech businesses, and global auto parts suppliers, as well as equipment and aftermarket suppliers. It is highly experienced in regulatory, franchise, distribution and litigation matters, with the practice also housing specialists in corporate, real estate, vehicle safety, environmental and emissions-related work. The litigation group covers complex class actions and government investigations, and franchise and distribution cases, and, on the regulatory side, the practice regularly acts before both government agencies and state motor vehicle boards and agencies. Los Angeles office managing partner Aaron Jacoby is highly focused on autonomous vehicles, ride sharing issues, online sales, and direct manufacturer sales. Over in New York, litigator Russell McRory represents auto dealerships in matters involving franchising issues and relations with factories, while Michael McMahan acts for automobile dealerships in high-stakes disputes against automotive manufacturers.

Practice head(s):

Aaron Jacoby

Other key lawyers:

Russell McRory; David Meyer; Michael McMahan; Franjo Dolenac

Key clients

McKenna Auto Group

Napleton Automotive Group

Velocity Truck Centers

Knight Automotive Group

Work highlights

  • Defending the retail automotive industry before the US Federal Trade Commission, which seeks a greater enforcement role in an area typically led by state (as opposed to federal) regulators.
  • Regularly advising industry newcomers on the legal and regulatory hurdles to market penetration strategies.
  • Representing McKenna Auto Group in attempting to enforce laws prohibiting unfairly determined and randomly applied performance metrics in the national franchise system.


Dentons‘ transportation group acts for some of the largest rail carriers in North America, along with investors and public transit agencies, in significant regulatory work. The firm’s transportation lawyers are particularly active in matters involving freight railroads and rail passenger carriers, as well as trucking clients. It also fields specialists in autonomous vehicles and drones, while additionally leveraging the firm’s enviable international network. In Washington DC, US transportation and rail practice head David Hirsh is a regulatory and business expert, who is experienced in rail M&A, rate and competition issues, safety compliance, licensing matters, and construction and environmental issues. Simon Steel focuses on federal appellate matters, and the broad practice of experienced counsel James Guinivan covers administrative and appellate work for transportation companies. Litigator Shannon Shin and land use specialist John (Jack) Lawlor provide additional partner-level support from the firm’s Chicago office.

Practice head(s):

David Hirsh

Other key lawyers:

Simon Steel; James Guinivan; Shannon Shin; John (Jack) Lawlor

Key clients

Illinois Central Railroad Company

Canadian National Railway Company Grand Trunk Western Railroad Company

R.J. Corman Railroad Group

Lineage Logistics

The Andersons

James Richardson & Sons

Work highlights

  • Representing IC and GTW in a proceeding initiated by Amtrak before the Surface Transportation Board, requesting that the agency dictate terms and compensation for the operation of all six of the Amtrak passenger train services operating over IC and GTW lines.
  • Represented R. J. Corman in negotiating an asset purchase agreement and seeking regulatory authority before the Surface Transportation Board for the acquisition and operation of Norfolk Southern’s Jellico and Middlesboro lines by the Knoxville and Cumberland Gap Railroad.
  • Represented The Andersons as corporate and regulatory counsel, in relation to the sale of its railcar leasing business.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP‘s transportation practice is highly focused on the evolving legal issues surrounding the development and deployment of electric vehicles (EV). Leveraging the firm’s strong energy sector credentials, the team represents developers of EV charging stations that access energy grids and energy storage solutions to establish new transportation corridors. The broad practice also represents automotive and mobility companies in litigation, labor and employment issues, and corporate and structured transactions, along with IP protection and disputes, and antitrust and consumer protection matters. In Boston, Daniel Savrin acts for manufacturers, distributors and allied finance companies in high-stakes civil and class action litigation and government investigations; and Levi McAllister in Washington DC acts for EV charging station developers. Over in Los Angeles, David Schrader regularly tries high-stakes cases, while Lisa Weddle is a litigation and class action expert. Jackson (Jack) Stoddard is the name to note in San Francisco.

Practice head(s):

Daniel Savrin; Lisa Weddle

Other key lawyers:

Levi McAllister; David Schrader; Jackson (Jack) Stoddard; Noah Kaufman; Mark Fanelli

Key clients

BMW Manufacturing Co


Uber Technologies

Toyota Motor Corporation

Toyota Motor North America


Nuvve Corp

Toyoda Gosei North America Corp

High Performance Industries

Work highlights

  • Obtained the dismissal of all claims with prejudice asserted against BMW in Braman Motors v. BMW of North America​ in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
  • Represented Toyota Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor North America in several class action lawsuits, which alleged that HVAC systems in various Toyota vehicles are defective and promote mold growth and odor.
  • Assisted Nuvve Corp and its affiliate, Levo Mobility, with the creation of first-of-its kind V2G operations on behalf of clean, electric fleet vehicles.

Winston & Strawn LLP

Winston & Strawn LLP‘s transportation practice has a strong track record in representing railroads and rail equipment suppliers. Its expertise covers assisting rail companies with securing various easements, permits and rights of way. The group also has significant relationships with major automobile manufacturers, including Toyota Motor Corporation and General Motors Company, as well as several electric vehicle manufacturers, and trucking, transportation logistics and vehicle rental companies. In Washington DC, appellate partner Andrew Tauber is a highly rated authority on pre-emption matters, and his railroad sector experience includes litigating cases under the industry’s relevant statutes. Over in Chicago, Bill O’Neil‘s experience includes handling numerous major cases for Hertz Corporation, and of counsel Matthew Poplawski assists with the e-discovery aspects of commercial litigation, multi-district product liability disputes, and regulatory investigations. Brett Johnson leads the firm’s Dallas litigation practice.

Other key lawyers:

Andrew Tauber; Bill O’Neil; Matthew Poplawski; Brett Johnson

Key clients

CSX Transportation

Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad

Patriot Rail Company

FreightCar America

Toyota Motor Corporation

General Motors Company

Lordstown Motors Corp

Atlis Motor Vehicles

Hub Group

Echo Global Logistics

Hertz Global Holdings

Patton Logistics

Pasha Automotive Services

Work highlights

  • Won an important appeal for CSX before the Ohio Supreme Court, challenging an Ohio statute that prohibits trains from blocking grade crossings for more than five minutes.
  • Won a motion for rehearing and summary judgment for defendant Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad, which related to the plaintiff’s negligence per se claim under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act.
  • Secured a $100m+ jury verdict for Versata Software against Ford Motor company for breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets.