Thought Leaders: Product Liability Defence 2017
Christy Jones is a member of the pharmaceutical, medical device and healthcare industry team at Butler Snow. With over 30 years of trial experience, Jones has served as national and MDL counsel and has tried dozens of cases throughout the country, often as lead counsel in bellwether trials. Jones is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and has been consistently recognised as a leader in her field by her peers and respected directories.
What motivated you to enter the legal profession?
When in high school, I learned that I could not sing but that I could talk comfortably and with emotion and some degree of persuasiveness to a crowd of people. From that day, my goal was to be a trial lawyer.
You have been at Butler Snow for over 30 years now – what is it about the firm that sets it apart from its competitors?
Butler Snow is committed to the client first, above all other interests. As a result, we have to work collaboratively as a team to accomplish our goals, and there is no internal competition among partners. We regularly transition work, with the client’s approval to other partners and associates, and support each other both privately and publicly.
What qualities make a successful trial lawyer?
A successful trial lawyer is by definition a risk-taker willing to risk rejection and failure in order to accomplish the client’s goals, willing to experiment, but always with the commitment to excellence, ability to communicate, professional attitude, hard work, and the dedication to the fairness of the judicial system.
What is the greatest challenge currently facing the product liability sector in the US? How is your firm prepared to tackle this challenge and ensure that client needs are met?
The greatest challenge today is the collection of large groups of cases in the mass tort arena, resulting from advertising and third-party litigation financing. As a result, clients are held hostage for payment of invalid claims while plaintiffs who may have valid claims see the value of their claims diminish. The failure of the judicial system to deal with these abuses jeopardises both the clients and our economy. In order to address this situation, we have prepared to fight, rather than settle, when it is in the client’s interest – and have ensured that we have adequate trial lawyers willing to defend the client interests in court, while resolving those cases that should be compromised.
Are there any particular industries or products that you see being the subject of increased litigation over the next few years?
There is no doubt that a new era is coming where litigation will arise out of the connectiveness and dependence on the internet for the provision and delivery of both products and services.
With the rise in cost-consciousness and difficulties around funding, many lawyers have noted a drop in product liability litigation. Is this something that you have noticed, and if so how has your firm adapted to deal with this change in the market?
We are always trying to be futuristic in anticipating what is coming. While there has been some drop in more traditional product liability work, the more specialised product liability work in toxic torts, drugs and medical devices, and other areas has remained steady. We have tried to maintain price-consciousness and emphasise economic efficiency – turning away from billable hours wherever possible. We are also positioning ourselves for the future and changes brought about by technology and the internet.
With such a distinguished and successful career as you have enjoyed, what is the most memorable matter that you have worked on?
I have been privileged to represent many different clients in various areas. Perhaps the most memorable of all the trials though was the second Vioxx trial, where three experienced trial lawyers joined forces to represent the client in a very highly publicised and pressure-packed contest. We won, and that victory had an impact in the litigation.