Product Liability Defence 2015: Analysis

The 13th edition of Product Liability Defence is the authoritative guide on this legal market, based on over a decade of comprehensive international research. This year, our listings comprise a total of 468 practitioners from 238 firms in 33 countries.

Shook Hardy & Bacon outstrips its rivals with a record number of listings across the US, followed by Chicago heavyweight Sidley Austin.

Hogan Lovells’ expansion in this market continues to bear fruit as it boasts the most comprehensive global practice. Arnold & Porter has also developed one of the strongest networks, with market-leading practitioners on the west and east coast of the US, as well as in London.

Litigation firms Gordon & Rees and Sedgwick also distinguish themselves in the US market, while King & Spalding has some of the very best names in the field.

In this section, we also select the top 10 most highly regarded individuals both inside and outside the US.

Who's Who Legal: Product Liability Defence 2015
Most Highly Regarded Individuals
Lawyer Firm
The US
Christy Jones Butler Snow, Jackson
Quentin Urquhart Jr Irwin Fritchie Urquhart & Moore, New Orleans
Bruce Parker Venable, Baltimore
Donald Zimmer Jr King & Spalding, San Francisco
Harvey Kaplan Shook Hardy & Bacon, Kansas City
Chilton Davis Varner King & Spalding, Atlanta
James Campbell Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy, Boston
Edward Sledge III McDowell Knight Roedder & Sledge, Mobile
Jack McCowan Jr Gordon & Rees, San Francisco
Mary Wells Wells Anderson & Race, Denver
 
Rest of the World
Gordon McKee Blake Cassels & Graydon, Toronto
Peter Pliszka Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, Toronto
Colin Loveday Clayton Utz, Sydney
Stuart Clark Clayton Utz, Sydney
Ian Dodds-Smith Arnold & Porter, London
John Meltzer Hogan Lovells, London
Roddy Bourke McCann FitzGerald, Dublin
Alessandro Giorgetti Studio Legale Giorgetti, Milan
Michael Molitoris Noerr, Munich
Thomas Rouhette Hogan Lovells, Paris

Shook Hardy & Bacon once again leads our listings, with a record number of leading lawyers far outstripping its rivals. Headquartered in Kansas City, the firm has 10 listings in this city alone. “Superstar” Harvey Kaplan is known throughout the US for his defence of pharmaceutical and medical devices companies. Our research also found effusive praise for the “excellent” William Sampson, who has defended product liability claims in state and federal courts throughout the US across the manufacturing industry. Scott Sayler comes highly recommended for his “brilliant ability in and out of court” and his considerable experience stretches over several hundred individual and class action products liability cases. Marie Woodbury is an “outstanding litigator and strategist” with a deep understanding of the pharmaceutical and medical device sector. A trio of practitioners are recognised in the Irvine office, including Michelle Fujimoto who has decades of experience in complex products liability, toxic tort and mass tort litigation. Her “scientific and wide-ranging knowledge” of drugs and medical device products is an “asset” to life sciences companies. The Miami office is replete with expertise. The “highly thought of” Kenneth Reilly is known for his defence of class actions against the tobacco industry. William Geraghty “connects well with juries” and has successfully defended several Fortune 500 companies in high-stakes commercial and product liability cases. In DC, Madeleine McDonough chairs the firm’s pharmaceutical and medical device litigation division. Representing clients in a host of industries, including pharmaceutical, animal health, medical device, food, cosmetics and beverage, she is said to create “inventive strategies”, as well as provide “insightful knowledge regarding regulations”. In Philadelphia, Sean Wajert has a “pervasive understanding” of a large number of industry sectors that face significant product liability risks, gained through a longstanding and successful practice.

The firm’s non-US based practitioners also gain significant recognition. In London, Simon Castley focuses on litigation and advice on liability regulation, marketing and advertising for UK, European and US clients. He is held in internationally high regard for his “stand-out” practice. Alison Newstead handles a variety of UK and multinational claims and regulatory issues across Europe. Sources praise her knowledge and hard work. The “talented” Sarah Croft defends clients in product liability litigation and group actions in the UK and in a number of European jurisdictions, particularly in the pharmaceutical and medical device sector.

Hogan Lovells’ expansion in this market continues to bear fruit as it now boasts 15 world-class lawyers across nine jurisdictions. The London office is particularly strong. John Meltzer is consistently cited as “one of the top product liability defence lawyers worldwide”. He has acted for clients in the life sciences, electronic, chemical and tobacco industries. Rod Freeman also represents clients across those industries and he draws praise from around the world for his international practice. Sources state that “he has an in-depth and practical understanding of product liability issues”; he is also “a joy to work with”. In Paris, Thomas Rouhette is said to be “the finest product liability lawyer in the country and one of the very best on the continent”. He is active before the French commercial, civil and criminal courts on behalf of leading French and international clients in the aviation, automotive, consumer goods and telecommunications sectors. In Munich, the “fantastic” Ina Brock co-heads the firm’s global life sciences industry and regularly acts on pharmaceutical and medical device product liability issues and disputes, including acting as defence counsel in Germany for one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies and assisting the client in coordinating the defence in more than 27 countries throughout the world.

In China, the firm is well represented by Eugene Chen, who is one of a few full-time US-trained litigators in the country. He is greatly experienced in representing Asian and Western companies in product liability disputes. Peers are consistently impressed by his knowledge and expertise in the field. In Hong Kong, Patrick Sherrington has been engaged with product liability defence work for major multinationals in numerous jurisdictions around the world. He is a “fantastic resource” for complex international disputes.

The firm’s US offices also boast a number of top lawyers. In Baltimore, Lauren Colton focuses on life sciences product liability. She is “a natural litigator” and also has “exceptional scientific and medical knowledge”. In DC, James Hourihan is a well-known figure in mass and toxic tort litigation involving chemicals, as well as the electrical and mechanical industries for almost half a century. Peers point out that “there are few more experienced and dedicated product liability practitioners in the whole of the US”. In Los Angeles, Barry Thompson places particular emphasis on defending food, drug, and health-care products. He is well known to have a “strong and dynamic court room presence”.

Chicago heavyweight Sidley Austin scores the second highest number of listings in the US. Its headquarters fields six market-leading lawyers alone. Sara Gourley is an expert in life sciences product liability litigation. Those who have worked with her cite her “keen intelligence” and “hands-on approach”. James Mizgala consistently ranks highly in our research for his skills in court and “personable and committed approach” to clients. Maja Eaton has extensive experience litigating in pharmaceutical and medical device mass torts. She is a “big hitter” who shows “clear-sightedness in relation to highly technical issues”. In Los Angeles, famed product liability litigator Debra Pole has a diverse and long-standing practice in the field. Her “dedication to clients” and her “powerhouse performances in court” have placed her “among the top 20 defence lawyers in the US”. In DC, Rebecca Wood handles a wide range of product liability and mass tort litigation. One source adds that “no case is too complex for her and she is always on the top of her game”.

San Francisco’s Gordon & Rees has a strong focus on national litigation with an established and respected name in product liability defence. Jack McCowan Jr is consistently ranked in the highest strata of our research for his “distinguished practice” that is equally divided between drug, medical device and other product liability litigation. In Portland, Nancy Erfle is specifically engaged with pharmaceutical and medical device, automotive, agricultural chemical, and aviation manufacturers. Clients recognise her for her “quick-thinking” and her “strategic mind-set”. Laura De Santos is a “highly skilled operator” extensively experienced in state and federal litigation for pharmaceutical and medical device companies, as well as other consumer products. Co-founder Stuart Gordon is “a legendary trial attorney” having tried more than 50 cases to verdict and has settled thousands of cases.

Sedgwick has an “outstanding” pan-US network and it is clearly a distinguished name in product liability defence. At its San Francisco headquarters, Kevin Dunne is “a true superstar” and is a widely held up as one of the best class action lawyers throughout his long-standing career. Michael Healy is an experienced and well-regarded trial attorney whose peers state that they would refer work to him “without a second hesitation”. In Dallas, E Paul Cauley Jr is the chair of the firm’s product liability and specialty tort practice group. He is known to be “a highly intelligent, adaptable and creative trial attorney”. Also in Dallas, Wayne Mason is actively engaged in diverse product liability matters nationally. His direct and “pragmatic” approach has earned him many fans of his work.

Arnold & Porter has developed one of the strongest networks in the product liability field with market-leading practitioners on the west and east coast of the US, as well as in London. In New York, the “excellent” Anand Agneshwar co-chairs the firm’s product liability litigation practice group. He represents pharmaceutical and medical device clients in litigation, litigation risk counselling and regulatory advice. Sources praise his “strategic mind and highly acute knowledge of both science and law”. In DC, Robert Weiner is “a long-standing lawyer of note” who serves as national coordinating and trial counsel in product liability cases. He also has an in-depth knowledge of the Supreme Court and the Appellate court. In Los Angeles, Ellen Reisman represents pharmaceutical and medical device companies in complex liability litigations. She is both “skilled in court and knowledgeable in her advice on regulatory matters”.  In London, Ian Dodds-Smith’s reputation as a “tough and resilient litigator” and his “all-encompassing knowledge” of European regulatory systems stands him out as one of the very best product liability lawyers in the UK and the European market as a whole.

We feature five market-leading lawyers from King & Spalding, two of whom are considered to be among the very best lawyers in the US. In San Francisco, Donald Zimmer Jr is focused on the defence of pharmaceutical, medical devices, and toxic products. Peers and clients are effusive, claiming that he has “an exhaustive knowledge of the market” and is “peerless in court”. In Atlanta, Chilton Davis Varner’s expansive and renowned practice is described as “a lion of the defence bar”. Respondents often state that she is “undeniably one of the world’s best defence lawyers”.

Christy Jones of Butler Snow sits at the very top of our research. She is universally praised for her “remarkable practice”. She is “a formidable opponent” who is regularly employed for the toughest litigations. Notably, she acted as the lead counsel for the first MDL bellwether product liability action involving pelvic mesh, which resulted in a defence verdict in favour of her client Johnson & Johnson.

Quentin Urquhart Jr, co-founding partner of Irwin Fritchie Urquhart & Moore, has “a detailed knowledge” of a wide range of liable products. He is “the first port of call” for many leading manufacturers, due to the fact that “he takes full command of difficult situations, his written and oral advice is both excellent and he is an amazing all round trial lawyer”.

Venable boasts the “exceptional” Bruce Parker, who is consistently ranked as one of the leading lawyers in our research year after year. He is known, in particular, for his work defending pharmaceutical and medical device companies, which include Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals; LabCorp; Takeda Pharmaceuticals; Johnson & Johnson; Georgia Pacific; and Navistar International.

James Campbell, president of Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy, has had a hugely influential career that has seen over 100 court cases in 15 different states. He regularly counsels the automobile, pharmaceutical, medical device, construction and chemical industries in product liability claims. Both clients and peers observe with respect his “pervasive knowledge” and “total command of the court”.

At McDowell Knight Roedder & Sledge, Edward Sledge III is one of the most instantly recognisably names at the defence bar. One client described him as “their favourite lawyer on the planet”. Another source claimed that “he is a very strong opponent” and that his “preparation is thorough and his delivery is outstanding”.

Mary Wells, co-founder of Wells, Anderson & Race, is “an all-time great” according to peers. Across her diverse litigation practice, she is particularly active in mass tort litigation for medical device, pharmaceutical, safety equipment, and friction product companies. One client stated that “she is certainly one of the first names that come to mind in the defence of complex actions”.

The standout names outside the US include Gordon McKee of Blake Cassels & Graydon. He is “the man for complex product liability claims and class actions in Canada”, according to sources. His “sensational” practice covers a wide range of consumer products, including drugs, medical devices and automobile parts.

Fasken Martineau DuMoulin has a very strong inclusion in Peter Pliszka. He represents an extensive range of product manufacturers in complex litigation and class actions. Both peers and clients enjoy working with him, extolling his “hands on approach”, “dedication to clients” as well as his “intricate knowledge, which is always presented in a clear and practical way”.

Clayton Utz is the top defence law firm in the active Australian market. Five leading lawyers are listed from the firm in our research, including two of the most notable practitioners in the world. The hugely popular Colin Loveday is “the benchmark for every other defence lawyer”. He has been at the cutting-edge of the development of Australia’s class action system and has been involved in many of its most high-profile cases. Alongside him, Stuart Clark is “the definition of a big hitter”. He is “very prominent” in the market and is well-known for his “commanding presence” in the most complex big-ticket matters.

At McCann FitzGerald, Roddy Bourke is “Ireland’s top litigator”. He is regularly engaged with defending product liability cases, including pharmaceuticals, blood, tobacco and consumer products; product recall and safety issues. Peers state that he is “practical, diligent and user-friendly”, which makes him an “extremely sought after lawyer”.

Alessandro Giorgetti, founder of Studio Legale Giorgetti, is one of the standout defence lawyers in the entire European market. He is an expert in product liability litigation, both nationally and in Europe, especially for medical devices. Among the praise he has received, peers note that he is “a highly intelligent, pragmatic and diligent lawyer”.

Co-head of Noerr’s “brilliant” litigation, arbitration and ARD practice group Michael Molitoris has extensive experience in national and international product liability claims.  A “supreme strategist” and a “first rate” adviser in product liability issues, he often represents the world’s largest product manufacturers in German and European matters.  

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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