With origins in the Southeast, a region the firm still maintains its largest footprint in, Nelson Mullins has since expanded strategically and found success in terms of geographic reach, market share and distribution of talent. In the product liability space, the firm has even staked itself a national presence, with several trial luminaries taking the lead on high-stakes cases for a “who’s who” of pharmaceutical industry household names.
One of the most buzz-worthy and undeniably successful expansions the firm has made of late was its 2019 entry into the Baltimore market, a move which netted the firm 30 partners from a more local firm. One of these, Michael Brown, is viewed by all Baltimore peers familiar with him as a substantial coup. Brown, a trial lawyer who is particularly in demand in the product liability arena, receives resounding praise. “The biggest news in Baltimore right now is Nelson Mullins getting started here, and by recruiting Michael Brown, they made a grand entrance. They are getting into product liability in a big way,” insists one local peer. Another confides, “One of our partners actually just left us to go work for Michael Brown! But I can’t blame them, because it’s a great opportunity. Michael is dynamite and has a direct line to J&J, who he now does a lot of work for.” Brown’s successes for this particular client, especially regarding its talc litigation, have made headlines and won him acclaim. However, Brown’s acumen is not limited to product liability. He worked with fellow Baltimore partner Michael Blumenfeld, who acts as lead partner on a commercial matter for Westminster Properties stemming from a 2017 property contract dispute in which five current and former tenants of Westminster-managed properties filed a putative class action lawsuit seeking to certify a class of tenants who have allegedly been charged improper and/or excessive fees related to the late payment and/or non-payment of rent. The court dismissed the class action motion, after which the plaintiffs proceeded with individual claims. Deborah St. Lawrence Thompson, who is on the lead counsel in defense of thousands of asbestos-related personal injury and wrongful death cases, is also recognized for her work in complex disputes around the country, with notable strengths in the commercial, mass tort, product liability, toxic torts, and labor and employment areas.
Another of the firm’s trial aces with a flair for product liability, David Dukes in the Columbia, South Carolina office plays a prominent role in Bayer’s defense of its anticoagulant medication Xarelto (rivaroxaban) against claims that it caused excessive bleeding. After victories in the first 2 MDL bellwether trials in early 2017, Dukes and his team has been on the trial team for every Xarelto defense verdict, of which there have been a series. Dukes and his team was also instrumental in the workup of approximately 75 cases pending in the MDL and Philadelphia Court of Common Please litigations during the latter half of 2018 through global resolution of the Xarelto litigation in early 2019.
Mark Clouatre, the managing partner of the firm’s Denver office, has been particularly active in commercial litigation. Clouatre represented FCA in a matter involving the bankruptcy proceedings of three FCA dealerships located in Gallup, New Mexico, Holbrook, Arizona, and Winslow, Arizona. These dealerships filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2019. Additionally, the dealer principals are being prosecuted by the Federal Trade Commission for potentially falsifying consumer loan documents. In the bankruptcy proceedings, FCA learned that the dealerships had been selling vehicles “out of trust,” or selling vehicles without paying back their floor plan lenders. The dealerships had also engaged in “double flooring” for a number of vehicles, receiving loan funds from two different floor plan lenders for the same vehicle. The bankruptcy court eventually entered an order prohibiting the dealerships from using their cash collateral, forcing the dealerships to discontinue business operations. In light of the bankruptcy, the abrupt end of the dealership’s business, the issues with the dealer’s floor plan lenders, and the FTC lawsuit, FCA was forced to seek termination of its dealership agreements with the dealerships through the bankruptcy proceedings. FCA was successfully able to obtain an order from the bankruptcy court granting the termination, enabling FCA to protect its business interests and to move forward with finding a business solution to its lack of representation in these important market
The litigation team of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr provides representation in numerous jurisdictions, boasting 16 offices, including locations in New York, Chicago, DC, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and West Palm Beach, among others. Each is stocked with fine litigators whose clients can expect specialist knowledge in a diversity of practice areas.
Among the practice groups at the firm is higher education litigation, as well as commercial, real estate, and white collar, that it demonstrates itself to be “a potent force.” The firm has represented numerous universities, including both smaller schools and prolific universities, in numerous disputes. On the higher education front, it is often Philadelphia partner Joseph O’Dea, Jr. leading the charge. Among his current undertakings is his lead representation of Pennsylvania State University in civil litigation arising from the University’s high-exposure scandal involving former football coach Jerry Sandusky. With O’Deaspearheading the effort, the firm has successfully resolved the majority of disputes faced by the client and has simultaneously established a course of action that has since been adopted by numerous universities facing similar, large-scale disputes. Cathleen Devlin, who also hails from the firm’s Philadelphia office, is another of the litigation team’s most active members, providing her vast expertise as both vice-chair of litigation and co-chair of the environmental practice group. Devlin’s specialty is “things that go wrong in the ground,” and she is at the helm of several local environmental disputes related to alleged contamination. She is also a renowned commercial litigator, currently leading the firm in its role as counsel to Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) as it seeks to recover $2.5 million from infamous casino executive Nicholas “Nick” Ribis in a breach of contract dispute arising from, among other matters, Ribis’ falsification of the existence of a company, NLR, of which he had alleged that he was the owner numerous times to CDI, as well as before the Court. The contractual obligation of the purported NLR was to purchase the Showboat Atlantic City Hotel and Casino from Caesars Entertainment by January 2014 prior to CDI’s development and operation of a multimillion-dollar online gaming system for the Showboat. Shortly after the terms of the contract had been agreed upon by both parties, CDI paid a total of $2.5 million to NLR as the first installment of a $10 million “rights fee,” which was to be repaid to CDI in the event that NLR failed to purchase the Showboat. When NLR’s 2014 deadline had passed and the Showboat remained unpurchased, Ribis refused to refund the payment. Devlin was instrumental in winning summary judgement on CDI’s breach of contract claim in 2017 and again in 2020 on the firm’s motion to the Court for it to hold Ribis personally liable on the contract that he had earlier signed on behalf of NLR, which had been revealed as a falsehood in 2017. Devlin makes her debut appearance as one of Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation this year.
The firm’s offices are studded with numerous other litigators that have been key components of the firm’s success and growth, including Baltimore’s Jason St. John, who was recently named chair of litigation; litigation vice-chair, Chicago’s George Apostolides; Nancy DePodesta, who serves as white-collar and government enforcement co-chair; Baltimore office managing partner Michelle Lipkowitz; congressional investigations co-chair Jeffrey Robbins; and Charles Lizza, who serves as life sciences and intellectual property litigation chair, as well as litigation vice chair.
Whiteford Taylor Preston has deep roots in litigation, dating back to its inception in 1933. “The firm is outstanding regarding its expertise, efficiency, responsiveness and strategic thinking,” a client lauds about the firm. Another client highlights its bankruptcy practice, saying Whiteford Taylor Preston is “my go-to bankruptcy litigation firm,” characterizing the group as “highly efficient, incredibly responsive” and displaying “cutting-edge awareness of specialized bankruptcy-related issues.” In addition to its strong bankruptcy practice, the firm also handles business, product liability, intellectual property, labor and employment, construction, real estate, e-discovery, health care, administrative law and regulatory litigation.
While the firm operates from a network of 16 offices, it is best known for its Maryland footprint, particularly in Baltimore, where it hosts its highest concentration of litigation talent. Kevin Hroblak is the subject of much praise from clients and serves as co-chair of the firm’s litigation department. An authority in bankruptcy and general commercial litigation, Hroblak is currently representing mineral rights owners of over 143 million tons of coal reserves in West Virginia in claims arising out of the breach of a coal mining lease against the largest privately held coal mining company in the US. The lawsuit, valued at $42 million, sought accrued and lost royalty damages, transfer of mining permits and specific performance for sale or lease of surface rights, and other monetary damages. A week-long trial in the District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia was completed in April 2019. Hroblak also represents a party in a $10 million suit for breach of contract and related causes of action arising from the purchase and liquidation of numerous nursing comes and senior care facilities contained within the two individuals' investment venture. The initial trial took place in January 2019 in the Circuit Court for Fairfax County to recover damages due to non-payment of the defendant's share of the partnership debts. The initial case was nonsuited under Virginia rules during trial, and the subsequent case was scheduled to be filed in April 2019. The matter was refiled in the Maryland District Court, where discovery is proceeding. Hroblak is also, along with Paul NussbaumAaron Casagrande, litigation counsel for two bankruptcy trusts established by the US Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. In this capacity, the firm team is investigating claims against former directors and officers of various debtor entities pursuing those claims relating to breach of fiduciary duty. Another frequently mentioned all-purpose commercial partner and fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, William Ryan, represented Landry’s in commercial litigation against a subsidiary of Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation, a commercial property/shopping center owner, obtaining a verdict in Landry’s favor following two-week trial in Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland and defending subsequent appeal before Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, which affirmed in part and remanded in part the verdict in December 2019. Ryan is also defending direct and derivative action shareholder claims filed in October 2020 in the Delaware Chancery Court against consulting services entity Percona regarding open-source software and databases. The case involves alleged claims of breach of contract and fiduciary duty against corporate managers and concerns Delaware’s developing law regarding the management of limited liability companies governed by Delaware law and management’s potential liabilities to nonvoting shareholders, as well as valuation standards for emerging companies. In a matter exemplifying the intersection of commercial and employment law, Ryan is also part of a team representing Medical Transportation Management, a nationwide transportation broker for non-emergency medical transportation services for Medicaid recipients, in defense of a collective class action under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act as well as a federal Rule 23 class action with respect to putative wage claims brought under federal and District of Columbia laws on behalf of employees of transportation companies providing Medicaid transportation services for the District of Columbia’s Medicaid program.
Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr has a highly regarded labor and employment practice in its Baltimore office. The practice is known for its employment litigation and investigations capabilities. In particular, the firm’s specialty handling higher education litigation often involves employment claims. The labor and employment practice boasts several notable lawyers, including Harriet Cooperman and Gary Eidelman in Baltimore. Cooperman represents public and private clients in both employment litigation and traditional labor disputes. She has experience in litigating all types of employment claims and recently has been involved in a restrictive covenant case.
Eidelman is a well-known litigator who has been in courts throughout the nation. He has been in two separate contentious disputes involving former employees of the client Willis Re. One case is being litigated in Miami Dade-Circuit court is a restrictive covenant case that particularly involves the enforcement of non-solicitation agreements that were signed by the defendants in the case. Eidelman was one of the partners leading the cross-office team in a victorious emergency temporary injunction against the former employees. The second case was litigated in the District of Puerto Rico. Earlier this year, Eidelman defended Willis Re against two motions filed by the plaintiff, the chairman of the client’s LatAm practice. Both motion attempts were denied, and the case was dismissed with prejudice. The plaintiff filed an appeal to the First Circuit.
Whiteford Taylor Preston is lauded for its litigation expertise that stretches across many practice areas, including labor and employment. The practice’s notability spans its offices in Maryland and the District of Columbia. The Maryland outfit houses the chair of the practice, Steven Bers, a seasoned litigator who focuses entirely on labor and employment. Bers is widely recognized not only for his employment work, but his maritime law expertise as well – making him especially well-suited for handling employment issues for clients in the industry. His labor and employment practice has encompassed all types of claims related to employment. A case Bers is currently litigating involves alleged violations of wage-and-hour laws.