Beasley Allen Has Secured Over $32 Billion In Verdicts And Settlements
Beginning in January 1979, we have built one of the country’s leading civil litigation firms securing over $32 billion in verdicts and settlements. I am told that several of our verdicts and settlements hold national records and have served as catalysts for improving health and safety for consumers and those in the workplace across the country. Through this hard-won success, we have never lost sight of our founding principle – “helping those who need it most.”
Beasley Allen is blessed to be a law firm that represents victims of wrongdoing. We elected in the beginning to be such a firm, and as a result, our lawyers don’t do any defense work of any kind. The firm has grown since I started it in January of 1979 as a sole practitioner. We now have over 337 lawyers and support staff with offices in Montgomery, Mobile, Atlanta and Dallas. The thing that really matters to me the most is that we have helped bring about significant change in the safety culture of Corporate America. While the $32 billion in verdicts and settlements has greatly benefited our clients, we have also brought about these badly needed changes in Corporate America.
Our lawyers and support staff do things the right way and for the right reason. The firm has set priorities, and those are in this order – God first, family second, and the work of Beasley Allen next in line. I learned years ago that when God is first, the other two areas of concern always work out well.
Our firm has also fought hard to help preserve the judicial system and especially the right to trial by jury. The Rule of Law is the key to monitoring a democratic form of government and protecting the rights of its citizens. This battle is still being waged, and we will stay in for the duration.
The firm has remained at the forefront of the consumer law landscape. I will mention a few instances where change came about. We have obtained justice for those injured by defective General Motors ignition switches and exploding Takata airbags, Gulf Coast states devastated by the BP oil spill, and countless consumers injured or killed by defective drugs and medical devices and environmental toxins. We have taken on giant pharmaceuticals such as Johnson & Johnson because of its talcum powder and the link to ovarian cancer. The first case where we knew Beasley Allen and our client Mrs. Spivey caused Kubota Tractor Company to put rollover protections (ROPs – roll bars and seat belts) on their tractors. Kubota actually bragged about being the first in the industry to do so.
Our lawyers have challenged the predatory lending industry that often preys on marginalized populations. We have exposed corporate fraud such as the VW emissions cheat scandal, Exxon Mobile’s violation of leases in Alabama and recovered millions of dollars lost by state Medicaid agencies due to fraudulent price reporting by the nation’s largest drug manufacturers.
As the consumer law landscape changes with ever-evolving technology, consumer products and workplaces, our lawyers remain committed to advancing and adapting their practices to meet our clients’ different and increasing legal needs. Some of our recent victories include helping lead the national JUUL litigation to four global settlements over its alleged role in spawning a national vaping epidemic among the youth.
In one year alone, we secured $186 million in verdicts and settlements for clients who were victims of negligent security. We recovered $45 million for a young client paralyzed in a vehicle accident involving a defective auto product – an illegal lift kit – that contributed to the seriousness of the child’s life-altering injuries.
Victims of trucking accidents have relied on us to secure millions of dollars in compensation after negligent commercial vehicle drivers and/or their employers failed to protect the safety of the traveling public.
Our Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section lawyers continue working diligently with the federal government and brave whistleblowers to recover taxpayer dollars and compensate those courageous enough to speak up about fraud against the federal government. For example, the judge tripled a recent whistleblower verdict in a case we handled after he found the federal government received no benefit from the local transportation agency it funded to complete a public transportation project. The final verdict totaled more than $4.6 million.
These are just a small sample of the cases we have handled for over four decades. Serving our clients has been an honor and a privilege for our lawyers and staff. We look forward to many more years of “helping those who need it most.”
THE TALC LITIGATION
Talc Plaintiffs Fighting Second Bankruptcy Filing By Johnson & Johnson Subsidiary
The talcum powder litigation experienced many rapid changes last month. At times, these developments were happening on an hour-to-hour basis. On April 4, Judge Kaplan dismissed the bankruptcy of the newly formed Johnson & Johnson (J&J) subsidiary, LTL Management, following the instruction of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Once again, women were allowed to file lawsuits alleging that J&J talc products caused them to suffer from ovarian cancer. The MDL Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee quickly requested a status conference to get the federal court cases moving toward trial. However, within two hours of the bankruptcy’s dismissal, J&J caused LTL Management to file a new Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition, again bringing the talcum powder litigation to a screeching halt.
J&J’s public relations team went to work quickly, announcing to media outlets that it had reached an agreement to “settle” all talcum powder claims for $8.9 billion. In actuality, J&J was describing a bankruptcy plan that it had apparently developed but has not yet been proposed or approved. Notably, although J&J attorneys continue to characterize the yet-to-be-proposed bankruptcy plan as a “settlement,” LTL’s chief legal officer testified during a hearing on April 18 that there is no settlement and that neither the plan nor any planned support agreements were settlements.
J&J wants to focus attention on the total dollar amount – $8.9 billion. However, it hopes that no one notices this amount is intended to settle the claims of present and future ovarian cancer claims, present and future mesothelioma claims, and claims by all state attorneys general (currently, 42 state attorneys general have brought claims), and claims brought by insurance companies and others, and would be paid out over 25 years. This amount would not even provide enough compensation to cover medical expenses for the average ovarian cancer claimant.
Beasley Allen and the other firms leading the talcum powder litigation around the country strongly oppose this plan. J&J says that it has the support of more than 55,000 talc claimants. No individual claimants have expressed support for the plan. These are claimants represented by 14 law firms that have agreed to support J&J’s plan. Remarkably, none of these firms have tried a talcum powder case, and some have not even filed a single talcum powder lawsuit, despite purporting to represent thousands of claimants. It is believed that many of the claimants that these firms represent do not even have ovarian cancer but another gynecological cancer for which there is minimal or no evidence demonstrating a causal connection with genital talc use.
In the second bankruptcy proceeding, after a daylong hearing, Judge Kaplan declined to extend a preliminary injunction to the same extent as in the first bankruptcy. All litigation and filings against the debtor, LTL Management, are stayed. No trials can take place against LTL or non-debtor entities, and the MDL remains stayed. However, new complaints against non-debtor entities can be filed and proceed through discovery and motion practice in state court jurisdictions. Lawyers who have questions about what is covered by the preliminary injunction are encouraged to reach out to the Beasley Allen Talc Litigation Team.
On April 24, the Official Committee of Talc Claimants (TCC) filed a motion to dismiss LTL’s second bankruptcy petition. As we previously reported, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that LTL’s first bankruptcy was not filed in good faith because it was not in financial distress, given the funding agreement in place. Following that ruling, J&J attempted to manufacture financial distress by conducting more corporate restructuring and replacing the funding agreement, even while the LTL estate was still under the bankruptcy court’s supervision.
The TCC argues that the second bankruptcy filing was also made in bad faith because LTL still cannot show current financial distress and should not be allowed to use the fraudulent transfer of more than $30 billion to manufacture financial distress. Due to the machinations surrounding J&J’s obligations to fund talc liabilities, this fraudulent transfer is likely the largest in history.
Under bankruptcy procedure, the bankruptcy court is required to hear the motion to dismiss within 30 days and rule on the motion within 15 days of the hearing.
Fraudulent abuse of the bankruptcy court by J&J cannot be allowed, and we will fight this battle to the very end. I am confident that right is right and wrong is wrong. Right, will prevail in this matter.
Beasley Allen Talc Litigation Team
Beasley Allen lawyers Ted Meadows and Leigh O’Dell head the Beasley Allen Talc Ovarian Cancer Litigation Team. Andy Birchfield, who heads our Mass Torts Section, has been directly involved in all phases of the talc litigation. The team handles claims of ovarian cancer linked to talcum powder and mesothelioma cases. Several key team members who have been focused on Johnson & Johnson’s abuse of the bankruptcy system can now be busy working on upcoming trials. The following Beasley Allen lawyers are members of the Talc Litigation Team:
Leigh ODell, Ted Meadows, Kelli Alfreds, Ryan Beattie, Beau Darley, David Dearing, Liz Achtemeier, Jennifer Emmel, Lauren James, James Lampkin, Caty OQuinn, Cristina Rodriguez, Brittany Scott, Charlie Stern, William Sutton and Matt Teague.
While Charlie Stern and Will Sutton are on the team, they exclusively handle mesothelioma claims. Charlie and Will are looking at industrial, occupational, and secondary asbestos exposure resulting in lung cancer or mesothelioma and claims of asbestos-related talc products linked to mesothelioma.
THE ASBESTOS LITIGATION
Discovery And Motions To Compel In Asbestos Litigation
Discovery is critically important in all litigation, and effective discovery is not easy. Conducting good discovery requires skills, planning, hard work and total dedication to the task. Discovery in asbestos litigation is no exception. Charlie Stern, the lead Beasley Allen lawyer handling asbestos litigation for the firm, wrote on this subject this month. Let’s see what he has for us.
Discovery is one of the most useful tools we have to get information about a client’s claim. But far too often in asbestos litigation, defendants’ discovery responses are inadequate. These responses can be frustrating and hamper your ability to build your case up.
The problem is that unless we act aggressively, then these illegitimate objections and refusals to produce responsive documents work. So how do we handle this?
First, one must always review discovery responses shortly after receiving them. Often, these responses will include references to document repositories and additional documents that will only be produced upon request. I believe that defendants often get away without producing things simply because many plaintiff lawyers do not even review responses and request what is being offered. Similarly, when you identify illegitimate objections to important discovery requests, good attorneys draft “dirty letters” or “deficiency letters” identifying the illegitimate objections, referring to basic discovery rules and re-requesting the sought-after information. These letters serve as your evidentiary record if you are forced to file a motion to compel.
In two recent mesothelioma cases, I have had to write such letters re-asking for (1) information related to defendants’ experts (compensation, number of times retained, etc.) and (2) information serving as the basis for the anticipated argument that the defendant is not the proper entity holding the liabilities at issue.
I knew that the defendant did not want to disclose the expert-related information. After numerous letters and meet and confers, the defendant finally admitted they would not produce this information. In that situation, I had to file a motion to compel. While most courts do not love discovery disputes, by documenting the discovery, deficiency letters, meet and confers, etc., it was clear that my motion was an option of last resort. In that motion, I explained to the court that I was not bringing this motion lightly but that these very specific discovery requests were part of my overall case theme and discoverable.
But the successorship/liability requests were a different story. There, I knew the defendant might not have any information or basis to say it was not the proper entity. In that situation, having them admit that they do not have facts, documents or testimony for this belief was as important as them producing any of that information. By forcing their hand to admit that they do not have any of that material, it made it clear that their belief/argument was speculative and based on nothing. No motion to compel was needed in that situation, but eventually, they were forced to admit that they had no supporting material.
In both these cases, the Beasley Allen lawyers identified a particular theme that we knew would be important at trial. We served discovery to help us learn more about those themes. When the defendants refused to answer our requests, we acted purposefully and aggressively sought the information we were entitled to. It is critical that prosecuting attorneys utilize the law as a sword, when necessary, and force the defendants to provide us with the information we are entitled to.
If you have any questions or you would like to discuss an asbestos case, contact Charlie Stern at 800-898-2034 or by email using the form at the bottom of this page
The Beasley Allen Asbestos Litigation Team
There has been no slowdown in the asbestos litigation. Case filings continue to increase nationwide. The Beasley Allen Asbestos Litigation Team is headed by Charlie Stern in our Dallas, Texas, office. Charlie has years of experience in asbestos litigation and was a perfect fit to lead the team. Other team members are Will Sutton and Cindy Lopez. Rhon Jones, who heads our Toxic Torts Section, works with the team. If you need assistance with cases involving asbestos products, contact one of the team members by phone at 800-898-2034 or mail using the form at the bottom of this page
THE CAMP LEJEUNE LITIGATION
Camp Lejeune Litigation Update
Camp Lejeune litigation hit another milestone in April. Judge James C. Dever III, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina, held the first status conference for the Camp Lejeune litigation pending in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Judge Dever is one of four district judges presiding over this litigation. His colleagues include Chief Judge Richard E. Myers II, Judge Terrence W. Boyle, and Judge Louise W. Flanagan.
At the initial status conference, several critical areas of the litigation were discussed, including subjects that concerned the possible future of consolidation and coordination amongst the cases pending in the Eastern District of North Carolina. The status conference focused on the mechanics of the cases moving forward, including some key areas: discovery tools to reduce repetitive discovery requests; procedures to streamline plaintiff information concerning exposure; procedures to streamline defendant information concerning the chemical exposures on the base; procedures for depositions; and even procedures for settlement and mediations.
Aside from litigation areas, the court also discussed local rules and procedures for attorney conduct and behavior expected of attorneys practicing law in the Eastern District of North Carolina courts.
At the time of writing this article, over 800 Camp Lejeune cases have been filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina. There will be many more over the coming weeks.
Beasley Allen has a team of lawyers and staff dedicated to investigating, filing, and establishing causation for these Camp Lejeune claims. The team is co-led by Julia Merritt and Leslie LaMacchia, lawyers in our Toxic Torts Section. The timetable for filing claims for the exposure to toxic water at Camp Lejeune is limited to two years from the date the Act was signed into law on Aug. 10, 2022.
Beasley Allen Camp Lejeune Litigation Team
If you need help with a potential claim or more information on the Camp Lejeune litigation, contact one of the Camp Lejeune Litigation Team lawyers at 800-898-2034 or by email. The team is comprised of the following:
Julia Merritt and Leslie LaMacchia, who co-lead the team. Other members are Matt Pettit, Trisha Green, William Sutton, Elizabeth Weyerman. Ken Wilson, Ryan Kral and Tucker Osborne. Rhon Jones Rhon Jones works closely with the team. Additional lawyers are added to the team as needed.
THE JUUL LITIGATION
Big Developments In The JUUL Litigation
Several significant developments in the JUUL litigation occurred last month. Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt, Soo Seok Yang, and Davis Vaughn are part of the trial team representing the San Francisco Unified School District in a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) against the tobacco giant Altria Group Inc. The long-awaited bellwether trial began on April 24 to address plaintiffs’ claims that the company helped create the country’s youth vaping epidemic. U.S. District Judge William Orrick, the judge presiding over most of the litigation, selected the case.
The school district brought public nuisance, negligence, violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, and conspiracy to violate RICO claims against Altria. It sued e-cigarette maker JUUL Labs, Inc. and Altria in 2019, claiming that JUUL used deceptive marketing strategies targeting youth and endangering them with highly addictive nicotine-containing e-liquids or juices. As a result, schools that lack the resources and time to combat the issues were forced to deal with the costs of students’ nicotine addiction. The plaintiff alleges that as early as 2017, Altria was complicit in supporting JUUL’s efforts to recklessly expand the youth nicotine market, causing a school vaping crisis. Altria would ultimately pay billions to JUUL and its controlling owners and further exacerbate the youth vaping crisis by utilizing Altria’s extensive sales and distribution operations to rapidly expand JUUL product availability amid an ongoing youth crisis. Altria’s actions allowed JUUL to increase its sales of e-cigarettes and flavored vaping juices, specifically focusing on young consumers. The mutually beneficial relationship yielded a new generation of nicotine addicts and a renewed profit stream.
Altria denied the school district’s allegations, claiming it had no control over JUUL’s actions despite investing in the company. Altria further denied responsibility for product design, nicotine content, flavors, and advertising.
During opening statements in the trial, the school district emphasized Altria’s concern for money and money only. Because studies show that fewer young consumers smoke traditional cigarettes than in the past, the company needed an appealing new product to hook teenagers on nicotine. That product was JUUL’s vaping device.
JUUL vaping devices soon flooded schools, disrupting the learning environment and causing multiple problems for educators. Its sales increased dramatically from 2017 to 2019, while similar product manufacturers did not see a significant rise in sales. During that time, the plaintiff school district’s high school student vaping rates jumped from 7.1% to 16%.
The plaintiff also claimed that Altria knew that JUUL had little to no plans to protect youth from its products. The school district explained that before the companies formed a partnership, Altria secured an independent review of JUUL’s regulatory compliance. The study included talks with corporate leadership and found that JUUL was unlikely to “focus meaningful resources on preventing youth initiation and use.”
In December 2022, the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) In re: Juul Labs, Inc., Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation announced four global settlements with local government entities and individual consumers. The firm’s Joseph VanZandt was a member of the PSC and explained that the settlements will help address the public health crisis in this country caused by youth use of e-cigarettes.
Before the Altria trial in California, JUUL also negotiated a $462 million settlement with seven attorneys general (New York, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Colorado, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia) to settle litigation based on similar allegations.
Judge Orrick instructed jurors in the Altria trial not to base Altria’s liability on the claims against JUUL and its settlement with the school district.
The San Francisco Unified School District was the second Altria plaintiff to go to trial. Earlier last month, the state of Minnesota’s case against the tobacco giant and parent company of Philip Morris went to trial. It ended in a settlement the week before the Altria trial in California began.
Beasley Allen’s Joseph VanZandt will lead the trial team in the next bellwether trial set against Altria in September 2023, which involves claims from an individual who became severely addicted to nicotine through the use of JUUL.
We will update readers on the outcome of this case and other aspects of this litigation in future issues of this Report.
If you need more information about the JUUL settlement or the ongoing litigation against Altria, contact any of the lawyers on the JUUL Litigation Team at 800-898-2034 or by email. The team is led by Joseph VanZandt, Sydney Everett, Beau Darley, Davis Vaughn, SooSeok Yang and Seth Harding. Andy Birchfield heads the firm’s Mass Torts Section and has worked closely with the team on the JUUL litigation.
Sources: Law360, National Law Journal and Reuters
SOCIAL MEDIA LITIGATION
Meta Litigation Update
Social media lawsuits against defendants Meta (Instagram and Facebook), Snapchat, TikTok, and Google (YouTube) are coordinated in California in JCCP 5255 under Judge Carolyn Kuhl in the Los Angeles Superior Court. Beasley Allen lawyer Joseph VanZandt was appointed co-lead counsel for the litigation. The lawsuits are based on the product design of the social media platforms, which use features to addict children and adolescents and algorithms to manipulate them further and reinforce product usage.
The repeated and chronic use of the products results in dopamine release, reinforcing the reward pathways associated with addiction and risk-taking. The decision-making portion of the brain is not fully developed until age 25, and this imbalance with the reward system results in vulnerability to addiction.
Judge Kuhl has ordered plaintiffs to submit their master and short-form complaints on or before May 15. In the first phase of the litigation, by early June, plaintiffs will identify three cases that will be the subject of defendants’ demurrers, followed by plaintiffs’ opposition. Plaintiffs can join the lawsuit by filing a short-form complaint, adopting, in whole or in part, the allegations contained in the master complaint.
The Social Media Addiction/Personal Injury Product Liability multidistrict litigation (MDL), which includes the same defendants, continues to move forward as well. Joseph was also appointed by MDL Judge Gonzalez-Rogers, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to the plaintiff leadership team of that litigation. The master complaint has been filed, and the defendants were ordered to file an aggregate motion to dismiss certain claims on or before April 17, 2023. The plaintiff leadership team’s opposition must be filed on or before June 1, 2023. Litigation will continue to the discovery phase, provided plaintiffs overcome the defendants’ motion to dismiss the initial claims.
We will write separately in this issue on an important lawsuit filed recently by our firm on behalf of three Alabama public school districts. This litigation is most significant.
If you have a potential claim or need more information on our Meta litigation, contact one of the lawyers on the Meta Litigation Team at 800-898-2034 or by email. Members of the team are Joseph VanZandt, who heads the team, Jennifer Emmel, Suzanne Clark, Clinton Richardson, Sydney Everett, Davis Vaughn and Seth Harding. Andy Birchfield, who heads our Mass Torts Section, also works with the team.
Three Large Alabama School Districts File Lawsuits Against Social Media Giants
Beasley Allen and Wagstaff & Cartmell and Goza & Honnold firms have filed lawsuits on behalf of three Alabama school districts against Meta (Facebook and Instagram), TikTok, and YouTube and Snapchat over the youth mental health crisis caused by the social media companies. The Baldwin County, Montgomery Public and Tuscaloosa City School Districts’ lawsuits are filed in the California state court Judicial Council Coordination Proceeding (JCCP). Beasley Allen lawyer Joseph VanZandt, JCCP co-lead counsel, says:
The harm created by social media companies has strained already limited school resources as educators attempt to combat the widespread problems caused by social media addiction. These lawsuits make it clear to social media companies that they will face consequences for their conduct, not only from the adolescents they harmed but also from the people and institutions supporting our youth.
Davis Vaughn, another lawyer on the Beasley Allen trial team in this case, adds these comments:
We must guide our youth through this mental health crisis. To do so, our schools need additional funding, personnel, training and more. Beasley Allen attorneys, along with our co-counsel at Wagstaff Cartmell and Goza & Honnold, seek to help these school districts get the resources they need from the companies that preyed upon our youth.
The Alabama school districts are among the first to file these types of suits against social media companies. The complaints allege public nuisance and negligence claims under Alabama law. The three districts fall within the top 15 in Alabama based on student population, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Beasley Allen began filing social media lawsuits nationwide last year for adolescents harmed by social media addiction. The suits claimed social media companies knowingly exploited young people for profit, employed addictive psychological tactics to increase the use of their products and failed to protect young, vulnerable, at-risk users. They further alleged that social media addiction causes harm, such as anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia, self-harm and even suicide.
Joseph VanZandt heads the firm’s litigation team and serves on the Plaintiffs Steering Committee for the federal social media multidistrict litigation, consolidated in the Northern District of California, Oakland. In addition to Joseph, the school districts are represented in this case by Beasley Allen lawyers Davis Vaughn, Jennifer Emmel, Clinton Richardson and Seth Harding, and lawyers from Wagstaff & Cartmell and Goza & Honnold (co-counsel with Beasley Allen).
The case involving the Alabama school districts is Baldwin County Public Schools, et al. v. Meta Platforms, et al., filed in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles.
Parents Sue TikTok Claiming The Platform Goaded Their Son Into Killing Himself
Parents of a 16-year-old who killed himself last year filed a lawsuit against TikTok. They claim their son was “targeted, overwhelmed, and actively goaded” by videos from the social media app, which led him to step in front of an oncoming commuter train. The lawsuit also names ByteDance, Inc., the Chinese-owned parent company of the app; the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA); and the township of Islip.
On Feb. 18, 2022, Dean and Michelle Nasca’s son Chase was heading home from the gym when he sent a Snapchat message to a friend that said, “I can’t do it anymore,” before killing himself. His parents allege that for “several hours every day” before his death, TikTok flooded Chase’s app with depressing, violent, and suicide-themed videos, which his family said prompted him to take his own life.
On two separate occasions in the weeks before he died, Chase had used the app’s search function to look for uplifting content. But the platform “quite literally ignored” his requests, the lawsuit states. Instead, “some of the videos TikTok directed to Chase suggested that young people should end their lives by stepping in front of a moving train.” Shortly after receiving one of those videos, Chase did just that.
“TikTok acted, at best, with reckless disregard for the horrific and foreseeable consequences its design and programming decisions would have, and Chase died as a result,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit accuses TikTok and ByteDance of strict product liability damages for design defects, failure to warn, and negligence. It also accuses MTA and Islip of negligence for not fencing the area along the Long Island Rail Road where Chase was killed. About 30 people have intentionally or accidentally lost their lives on that portion of the track in the last 20 years.
The Nasca family is represented by Matthew P. Bergman, Laura Marquez-Garrett and Glenn S. Draper of the Social Media Victims Law Center PLLC, and Harris Marks of Belluck & Fox LLP.
The case is Dean Nasca et al. v. ByteDance LTD. et al., case number 607250/2023, in the Suffolk County Supreme Court.
Sources: Law360 and News.com
TikTok Fined $15.9 Million By UK Watchdog Over Misuse Of Children’s Data
Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office fined social media platform TikTok $15.9 million for misusing children’s data and violating other personal information protections for young users.
The British watchdog claims TikTok permitted up to 1.4 million children younger than 13 to use its app in 2020, despite its own rules prohibiting children from setting up accounts. TikTok didn’t adequately identify and remove the children from the platform even though it knew they were using the app. The platform also failed to get the parents’ consent to process their kids’ data, as required by Britain’s laws. Information Commissioner John Edwards said in a press release:
There are laws in place to make sure our children are as safe in the digital world as they are in the physical world. TikTok did not abide by those laws. TikTok collected and used personal data of children who were inappropriately given access to the app. That means that their data may have been used to track them and profile them, potentially delivering harmful, inappropriate content at their very next scroll.
The fine also covers other breaches of UK data privacy laws, such as failing to inform users that the platform was collecting and sharing their data and failing to ensure them that the platform was lawfully and transparently processing their data.
TikTok’s $15.9 million fine is less than half the $33.4 million the platform initially faced. The company persuaded regulators to drop other charges.
In 2019, US regulators fined TikTok (formerly known as Musical.ly) $5.7 million over similar allegations of unlawful collection of children’s personal data.
Source: Associated Press
AN UPDATE ON MOTOR VEHICLE LITIGATION
Federal Court Certifies Nissan Automatic Emergency Braking Class Action Lawsuit
Beasley Allen lawyers Dee Miles, Clay Barnett, Mitch Williams, and Dylan Martin represent class members in a certified class action lawsuit against Nissan of North America, Inc., and Nissan Motor Company, Ltd. (together Nissan), filed in the Middle District of Tennessee. Plaintiffs allege that Nissan equipped its 2017 or newer Nissan brand vehicles with defective Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) systems that places them at risk of misdetecting obstacles within the vehicles’ path.
On March 31, 2023, U.S. District Court Judge William L. Campbell, Jr. found the requirements of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 23 were satisfied and granted class certification to current and former drivers of 2017-2021 Nissan Rogues, Altimas, and Kicks in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
Specifically, the court certified plaintiffs’ implied warranty claims for California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania and breach of express warranty claims for California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs also move forward with certified claims for unjust enrichment and fraudulent omission for all 10 states and subclasses for the consumer protection statutes of eight states.
Many car manufacturers utilize advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) in vehicles, such as AEB, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, autonomous driving, and adaptive cruise control. Customers’ complaints about these systems can include braking without warning, failing to keep the vehicle centered within the lane, overaggressive lane management, or system deactivation.
The case will now proceed toward trial unless it is settled. We look forward to moving the case to a swift remedy for consumers. We will keep our readers posted on any new developments in this matter.
If you or someone you know has experienced failure of ADAS safety systems in their vehicle, Nissan or otherwise, contact Clay Barnett, Mitch Williams, or Dylan Martin at our firm. They can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by mail using the form at the bottom of this page.
The Nissan AEB case is In re Nissan North America, Inc., Litigation, filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. The plaintiffs are represented by Dee Miles, Clay Barnett, Mitch Williams, and Dylan Martin of Beasley Allen, and lawyers with Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC, Bursor & Fisher, P.A., Dicello Levitt Gutzler, LLC, and Bailey Glasser, LLP.
Consumers’ Class Action Against GM Proceeds In Massachusetts
In one of several class actions, Beasley Allen lawyers have filed across the U.S. alleging GM designed and sold defective 2010-2014 model year GM 5.3L trucks, plaintiffs successfully defended against GM’s motion to dismiss, and several claims are now going forward. The allegations, in this case, are based upon the same defect that resulted in a $102.6 million plaintiff’s verdict in California federal court last fall, but the case is under different state laws.
The California case, Siqueiros v. General Motors LLC, included class claims under California, Idaho, and North Carolina laws, while this one, Awalt v. General Motors, LLC, involves Massachusetts law. While the court in Awalt did dismiss a few of the claims, those proceedings include breach of express warranty, Massachusetts’s consumer protection claims, and a claim for unjust enrichment. For comparison, the Siqueiros jury also found GM liable under implied warranty and consumer protection laws.
Although the Awalt case is in much earlier stages, the plaintiffs believe their experience and successful jury verdict in California indicate a strong likelihood they will succeed under Massachusetts law. As always, the Beasley Allen Auto Defect Team is working hard to hold vehicle manufacturers responsible for selling defective vehicles to consumers and looks forward to another successful resolution in this case.
If you suspect your vehicle may have a defect that involves all similar vehicles in a class of cars, feel free to contact a lawyer in our Class Action Auto Defect Practice Group. They include Clay Barnett, Demet Basar, Mitch Williams, Rebecca Gilliland and Dylan Martin. Dee Miles, who heads our Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section, also works with the group.
Self-Driving Cab Collision Prompts GM Cruise Recall
General Motors’ self-driving taxi division, Cruise LLC, is recalling the automated driving software in 300 vehicles after one driverless robotaxi collided with a public bus in San Francisco.
The collision occurred on March 23 when a self-driving Cruise vehicle inaccurately predicted how a San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority bus when it pulled onto Haight Street from a bus stop. Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt said the collision occurred because of a software glitch in the automated vehicle (AV), not because the bus’s movements were unreasonable or unpredictable.
Vogt said the Cruise software could lead the self-driving vehicles to miscalculate the motions of articulated vehicles, such as buses and tractor-trailers with two sections joined by a flexible joint. The front section of the bus blocked the self-driving vehicle’s view as the bus entered the traffic lane, causing the AV to react based on the predicted actions of the bus’s front end, which it could no longer see. Essentially, it did not properly expect the motion of the bus’s rear section.
The AV ultimately detected the obstacle in front of it and braked, but it was too late to avoid a collision. The vehicle ran into the back of the city bus at 10 mph. The crash caused some damage to the Cruise AV, but there were no injuries.
The crash was the only one of its kind that the company has experienced, Vogt said. But the collision warranted “immediate and careful study” to eliminate the potential for other similar accidents to occur. The company’s driving software update affected about 300 AVs.
In September, Cruise revealed that it recalled and updated software in 80 self-driving vehicles. This recall was prompted by a crash in San Francisco last June that injured two people.
Last year, NHTSA said the software could “incorrectly predict” an oncoming vehicle’s path. The agency opened a formal safety probe into the Cruise autonomous driving system in December after receiving reports of incidents in which self-driving Cruise vehicles “may engage in inappropriately hard braking or become immobilized.”
I am not a fan of the automatic driving technology at this stage. Hopefully, this is something that is really needed. If so, it must be fully developed before becoming widely used on the market. Safety must be a top priority!
Sources: GetCruise.com and Reuters
Tesla Semi Trucks Recalled For Brake Defect
Nobody wants a semi-truck to roll away unexpectedly, but that’s a potential problem that recently prompted Tesla to recall nearly three dozen of its all-electric Semi trucks.
On May 23, Tesla will begin notifying the owners of 35 of its Semi trucks of a defect in the electronically controlled parking brakes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) Safety Recall Report, the electronic parking brake valve module may sometimes fail to transition when the parking brake is engaged or disengaged. Consequently, the parking brakes may not be set or released as the driver expects. If the driver expects the parking brakes to be engaged and releases the service brakes, the truck may move unexpectedly, potentially causing a crash.
Ohio-based auto supplier Bendix manufactured the parking brake valve module. Too much air inside the module may leak. When this happens, air pressure will fail to build, and the parking brake may not be set or released as expected. According to NHTSA, all of the Tesla Semis contain the defective part.
To repair the defect, Tesla says it will replace the modules with a revised part that prevents air leakage and allow the driver to engage or disengage the parking brakes without error. Tesla publicly announced its plans for a fully electric semi-truck in 2017. After repeated setbacks, the automaker finally started rolling the trucks off its Sparks, Nevada, assembly line in December 2022. The Semi weighs about 33,000 pounds and can haul the maximum legal weight load (81,000 pounds) at highway speeds for 500 miles.
This is not the first recall and setback Tesla has encountered over the past few years. For example:
- There have been a reported 3.4 million Tesla vehicles recalled since 2018.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has opened an investigation into possible seatbelt malfunctions after two Tesla owners filed complaints.
- The DOT said 3,470 2022-2023 Model Y cars were recalled after reports that seat back frames may not be properly secured.
- Late last year, Tesla recalled another 40,000 of its Model S and Model X vehicles when a software defect caused a glitch that could impact the power steering assistance.
- 356,309 Model 3 sedans were recalled in December 2022 for possibly dangerous rearview camera malfunctions.
- An additional 119,009 Model S vehicles were recalled for a misaligned front trunk latch.
I predict there will be more significant developments in the Tesla litigation.
Sources: National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Gizmodo and Freight Waves
Beasley Allen Lawyers Handle Fatal And Life-Altering Truck Accident Cases
Beasley Allen lawyers regularly file, litigate, and resolve motor vehicle accident cases involving trucks and commercial vehicles. Accidents involving tractor-trailers, semi-trucks, and other large commercial vehicles cause serious injuries and fatalities year after year. In the first three quarters of 2022, fatalities increased by an estimated 10% in crashes involving at least one large truck compared to the first half of 2021.
Lawyers in our firm recently filed a case involving a truck driver who struck and killed a pedestrian one night as he parked his truck along an interstate on-ramp to sleep. He failed to notice the pedestrian until his pre-trip inspection the next morning. The pedestrian died from positional asphyxia after the truck’s tires rolled onto her body.
The plaintiffs sued the truck driver and his employer for negligence, alleging that the driver ignored the roadway and failed to maintain control of his vehicle to avoid striking the pedestrian. Because the driver breached his duty of care, a woman lost her life.
Another case our firm is handling involves a tractor-trailer driver who rear-ended our client’s vehicle as traffic proceeded at a stop-and-go pace. The truck driver disputed liability, blaming our client for not driving her vehicle at the speed he anticipated. He also stated that our client was using her cell phone while driving.
Despite blaming our client for the accident, the truck driver admitted that the manual he studied before earning his commercial driver’s license (CDL) discussed “the need for space ahead” because “the vehicle that trucks and buses most often run into is the one in front of them. The most frequent cause is following too closely.”
In addition, although our lawyers contest the distracted driving accusation against our client, the truck driver indicated that distracted driving is a foreseeable hazard and one that should alert him to exercise care. In this case, he should have paid more attention than usual to the plaintiff’s vehicle to ensure he maintained enough space between his truck and her vehicle to stop completely.
The truck driver was or should have been aware of the dangerous situation because he drove behind our plaintiff for two miles before the accident. The truck driver testified that company policy required him to have an operational dash camera. According to his testimony, he did not have one installed, nor did his employer, further proving that the driver and his employer failed to exercise reasonable care.
In another case involving a hit-and-run tractor-trailer accident, our lawyers also reached a confidential settlement. As our client was driving in stop-and-go traffic through a construction zone on a Georgia highway, a tractor-trailer slammed into the back of his pickup truck. The collision caused the pickup truck to rear-end a tractor-trailer ahead of it. The tractor-trailer driver that crashed into our client’s vehicle fled the scene. Photographs taken by a witness to the accident helped us to identify the driver.
Our client experienced severe pain and suffering, affecting his ability to work and enjoy life after the crash. A treating physician’s testimony showed that his pain was acutely onset, persisting from the day of the wreck to the present. The client also experienced emotional distress.
The plaintiff alleged negligence and wantonness claims, including negligent hiring, training, entrustment, and driver supervision. The plaintiff further asserted that the defendant companies failed to maintain records properly, including the falsifying of records.
If you need help with a truck wreck case involving serious injuries or death, contact Sloan Downes, Director of our Personal Injury & Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034. Sloan will have a Beasley Allen lawyer who handles trucking litigation respond to you.
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
PRODUCTS LIABILITY LITIGATION
Beasley Allen Lawyers In All Of Our Offices Successfully Handle Product Liability Litigation
Beasley Allen lawyers are blessed to work in several specific areas of litigation, from business and employment cases to cases involving medical devices and medications. The areas of litigation cover a vast spectrum, with many other areas in which we are involved.
One area in which we can assist consumers is personal injury and wrongful death litigation. Lawyers in our Personal Injury & Products Liability Section in our Montgomery, Atlanta and Mobile offices handle a wide range of litigation nationwide, including cases involving automotive, aviation, bus, train, motorcycle, maritime, premises, sexual abuse, and social media. We will discuss product liability litigation below, including a difficult product liability case successfully handled by Evan Allen in our Mobile office.
Personal injury and death cases, especially those involving defective products, can be highly complex and expensive. Our lawyers and support staff work hard to ensure they are current on all developments in this critical litigation field. They continue to improve their skills to represent clients in the best way possible and help receive justice in their cases.
Many of our personal injury and wrongful death cases include products liability aspects. Defective products are very dangerous to the general public. Unfortunately, manufacturers are often aware of their products’ specific dangers and safety risks before putting them on the market. Yet those defective products are being used by the consuming public.
An example of this work resulted in a confidential $2.75 million settlement in a difficult products liability case that Evan Allen in our Mobile office handled recently. Beasley Allen lawyers continue fighting to hold manufacturers and retailers of products accountable to ensure safety for the public.
If you, or anyone you know, has been impacted by defective products, or if you have any questions about our practice, contact Sloan Downes, Section Director of the Personal Injury & Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email using the form at the bottom of this page. Sloan will have a lawyer who practices in the area of law relating to bodily injury and wrongful death cases contact you.
Vehicle Lift Kits Are Extremely Dangerous
As motor vehicle technology has advanced, more options for personalization have become available. Some may cause vehicles to become safer, such as dash cameras that record accidents. However, some vehicle alterations can prove fatal. One especially dangerous vehicle alteration that continues to put the public in danger is installing lift kits on trucks, thus changing the vehicle’s height altogether.
Vehicles are generally designed to have bumpers at the same or similar height so that when collisions inevitably occur, the vehicles come into contact at relatively similar points on the vehicle’s body. Lift kits serve to raise vehicles higher off the ground, therefore causing bumper mismatches to occur.
Bumper mismatch crashes are an increasingly common and extremely dangerous type of wreck. When a lifted truck meets an un-lifted vehicle, crashworthiness structures within both vehicles are ineffective as designed. For example, if a lifted truck meets a factory-height car, the car risks going entirely underneath the truck, severely injuring or killing any occupant inside the vehicle.
Similarly, if a lifted truck meets a factory-height truck, the lower vehicle will incur significantly more damage due to the bumpers not aligning as initially designed. This can cause the passenger compartment of the lower vehicle to crush more than it usually would, consequently failing to protect occupants as designed.
Chris Glover, the lawyer who heads our Atlanta office, recently represented a family impacted by an illegal lift kit when their son was paralyzed following a crash. On Jan. 14, 2019, in Coweta County, Georgia, plaintiff Ann Marie Brown’s vehicle sat in standstill westbound traffic on Georgia Highway 16. Ms. Brown was driving a 2001 Honda Civic, and Dominick Perez, a minor, was in the rear passenger’s seat. Defendant Gregory Newman was driving a jeep behind the Brown vehicle. Mr. Newman failed to slow the jeep in time to avoid a collision with the plaintiff’s vehicle, sticking the car from the rear.
Mr. Newman’s 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited was fitted with an aftermarket lift kit and sat higher than state law allowed. The Honda Civic’s rear portion sustained significant crushing due to the difference in the vehicles’ heights. The passenger compartment survival space crumpled, causing Perez’s life-altering injuries. Chris Glover from Beasley Allen and Penn Law secured a $45 million settlement for the child’s family.
Beasley Allen lawyers continue fighting to ensure the traveling public’s safety on our highways. If you or a loved one were seriously injured in a bumper mismatch crash or have questions about automotive wrecks like the one described above, contact Sloan Downes, our Personal Injury & Products Liability Section Director, at 800-898-2034 or by email using the form at the bottom of this page. Sloan will have a lawyer in the section who handles motor vehicle cases contact you.
Workers’ Compensation Laws Can Work Against Injured Workers
Kendall Dunson, a veteran lawyer in our Personal Injury & Products Liability Section, represents Markus Williams, who lost his dominant arm in an on-the-job injury while employed at Paramount Services, Inc. in Birmingham, Alabama. Mr. Williams was tasked with unloading a conveyor that moved cleaned product from the dryer for further processing. His arm became entrapped when he reached under the machine to pull a towel from a roller. Mr. Williams was pulled into the rollers up to his shoulder before maintenance employees and the local fire department could free him. He was entrapped in the machine for over twenty minutes.
Usually, cases involving unguarded nip points require filing suit against the equipment manufacturer for failing to properly guard a recognized hazard. In this instance, the manufacturer identified the danger and shipped the conveyor with adequate guarding to prevent entrapment. Unfortunately for Mr. Williams, three separate guards had been removed from the conveyor before he began working at Paramount. The manufacturer satisfied its responsibilities and sold a machine that complied with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) regulations and industry safety standards. After providing testimony that the guards were included and placed on the machine before it was sold to Paramount, the conveyor maker was dismissed as a defendant early from the suit.
Alabama Workers’ Compensation Immunity laws prevent direct action against the employer for conduct based on negligence. The law, however, does allow an injured employee to bring a claim against co-employees who removed guards from machinery. Removing a guard or safety device must rise to the level of “willful” conduct. While it is relatively easy to prove a willful removal of a safety device, obtaining an adequate recovery for the client is often difficult for the following reasons.
- First, the case is against an individual or individuals instead of a company or corporation. A $1 million judgment against an individual isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on if the defendant does not have the insurance or assets to pay the judgment.
- Secondly, insurance policies often contain a clause that the policy does not cover willful or intentional conduct. Thus, proving our case to the judge and jury often proves that the insurance policy does not cover the alleged conduct.
Our lawyers who handle workplace litigation have lots of experience in cases involving removing safety devices. Despite the difficulties of prosecuting these claims, they have obtained substantial recoveries for our clients. In his case, Mr. Williams will have to live the remainder of his life without his dominant arm. He will have to purchase and maintain a prosthesis.
In Mr. Williams’ case, our client’s ability to earn income has been negatively affected, and he will have more difficulties managing activities of daily living. Kendall was able to resolve Mr. William’s claim just before trial. While the settlement won’t replace our client’s arm, it will allow him to explore future employment options and purchase and maintain his selected prosthesis. He was also compensated for his pain, suffering and the lost enjoyment of life associated with his injury.
If you have any questions, contact Kendall Dunson at 800-898-2034 or by email using the form at the bottom of this page.
Alabama Paper Company Faces $230,000 Potential OSHA Fine After Worker’s Electrocution Death
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed a nearly $230,000 fine against a paper production plant in Maplesville, Alabama, after investigating the death of an employee at the plant.
The agency determined that South Carolina-based South Coast Paper LLC’s Alabama production plant willfully ignored safety procedures last September, leading to the death of Marlon Quinones, who was operating a sheeter machine. The sheeter machine operator and other employees were replacing the motor of a conveyor belt that stopped working but failed to stop the power to other machines in use. A hot wire on the ground became energized, and the sheeter machine operator was electrocuted when he touched the metal.
OSHA cited the paper company with one willful violation for allowing the workers to proceed with machine maintenance without properly documenting the need for and following hazardous energy control procedures. The agency also gave the company a repeat violation for allowing employees to conduct machine maintenance without ensuring the employees were properly trained and had the knowledge and skills to apply, use and remove hazardous energy controls safely. OSHA proposed fines totaling $227,040.
South Coast Paper’s New Jersey plant was cited for a similar violation last June. The company also received violations by OSHA for lack of machine guarding, not keeping clear access in front of a 480-volt breaker panel, and not providing safe work practices training for electrical work. OSHA Area Office Director Jose Gonzalez in Mobile, in a statement on April 13 announcing the agency’s findings, said:
There is no reason to perform maintenance on machinery without first taking all steps to de-energize that piece of equipment. Doing otherwise places workers at serious risk for injury and death. South Coast Paper’s failure to follow established safety procedures cost this worker their life and has left family, friends and co-workers to mourn.
The paper company has 15 days to respond. It can accept the fine, request a conference with OSHA or contest the penalty before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
PREMISES LIABILITY LITIGATION
$26 Million Settlement Reached In Georgia Wrongful Death Shooting Case
Beasley Allen and co-counsel have secured a $26 million settlement in a deadly Georgia apartment complex shooting case that took the lives of a young mother and her unborn child. The victims were killed by stray bullets from a shooting involving other parties.
Beasley Allen Atlanta lawyers Parker Miller and Houston Kessler, along with Greg Stokes and Neil Kopitsky of Stokes & Kopitsky, and Natanya Brooks, Meredith Watts, and Morgyn Graber of Brooks Injury Law, represented family members of the victims. Parker Miller, who led the Beasley Allen trial team, says:
This was a hard-fought, tragic case that should have never happened. The defendant apartment complex had a history of violent crime, and was warned consistently about the dangers. We absolutely were not settling this case unless the defendants did the right thing, which they ultimately did, but not before precious lives were lost and years of litigation ensued.
The complex had violated many of its own policies and procedures relating to property management on numerous occasions before the shooting event at issue in this case. The complex also received many calls reporting multiple gunshot events on the premises.
One witness compared the complex to a war environment, explaining that he and his family have had to duck under the kitchen table during meals when gunshots would ring out. A retired police officer with experience responding to calls at the complex described the location as one of the worst in the area.
These and other witnesses’ testimony show that the complex’s owners and management were aware of its history of violence and should have followed its policies. Management could have also hired a security guard, a courtesy officer or could have installed a fence. But they did not take any measures to address the known violence commonplace on the premises. Natanya Brooks of Brooks Injury Law says:
Unfortunately, this is what happens when little to no action is taken to address known violent activity. The defendants had every opportunity to do something to make a difference in this community, but they chose another path. The victim’s family was so brave throughout this entire process, given they had to bear this enormous loss while also fighting for justice at the same time. We are all so proud of them.
Violence at apartment complexes throughout Georgia has gained attention because owners’ inaction allows the violence to continue. Many complexes are privately owned and operated but receive significant government funding. Ownership might be tempted to collect the funds and ignore the conditions of the complex, but that would be a mistake. Parker concludes:
Not all complexes and ownership are bad, but all it takes is for management to let a few bad actors remain on the property with no repercussions, which is what happened here. Owners and management became part of the problem by enabling such violent activity.
The claims made in the case were based on negligent security, public and private nuisance, and premises liability. By agreement, the identities of the parties in the case are to be confidential.
All of the lawyers who represented the family, working together and in concert, did an excellent job in the case.
If you need more information or help in a premises liability case, contact Parker Miller at 800-898-2034 or by email using the form at the bottom of this page.
Constructive Knowledge And An Owner/Occupier’s Duty To Inspect
Regarding premises liability actions, Georgia law makes clear that the true ground of the liability of an owner or occupier of a premises for injuries sustained by an invitee upon those premises is the owner/occupier’s superior knowledge of the hazard causing the invitee’s injuries. While this requirement is undoubtedly meant when the owner/occupier possesses actual knowledge of the hazard (yet fails to address it and/or warn invitees), the requirement can also be meant in certain instances in which the owner/occupier merely has constructive notice of the hazard. Specifically, under Georgia law, “[a]n owner/occupier is on constructive notice of what a reasonable inspection would reveal.” Carter v. Country Club of Roswell, Inc., 307 Ga. App. 342, 344–45, 705 S.E.2d 170, 173 (2010)(citations omitted).
Thus, the owner/occupier is responsible for implementing inspection procedures to discover otherwise unknown hazards and ensure that the inspections are reasonable under the law. In practice, counsel should thus request and thoroughly review all inspection policies and procedures of the owner/occupier defendant and determine the following:
- The reasonableness of any such policies and procedures, and
- Whether they were followed by the defendant and/or their agent(s) in the case at hand.
The owner/occupier defendant is under a duty to perform reasonable inspections regardless of the contents of their policies and procedures. Those documents are always a good place to start and can serve as evidence of the defendant’s negligence.
Parker Miller and Houston Kessler, lawyers in our Atlanta office, handle these types of cases, and other premises liability and negligent security cases, across Georgia and in other states. If you have any questions about premises cases, you can contact Parker or Houston at 800-898-2034 or by email using the form at the bottom of this page.
Lawsuit Involving Death Of Man Crushed While Shopping For Granite Settled For $12 Million
A widow who watched her husband get crushed by marble slabs while vising a Stone Basyx warehouse in southwest Charlotte, North Carolina, has settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $12 million over the incident. The settlement was final last October but was considered confidential until publicized in N.C. Lawyers Weekly.
Angela and Behzad “Al” Abedi-Asl built homes as a hobby and were shopping for granite or marble for a house they were building. The couple was invited to visit the warehouse by a Stone Basyx employee, and while touring the warehouse on Sept. 20, 2019, racks of 1,000-pound stone slabs shifted. Ten slabs toppled down on top of Abedi-Asl, and he died within minutes as Angela stood beside him.
In 2021, Angela filed a lawsuit against Stone Basyx and Canadian manufacturer CNS Fabrication, the maker of the racks holding the slabs that fell on Abedi-Asl. Among her claims against the defendant companies, Angela alleged negligence, gross negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit claimed that Stone Basyx failed to assemble and install the racks properly, exceeded the racks’ 13,000-pound capacity, and failed to warn customers of the possibility of danger. The lawsuit alleged that CNS failed to ship the equipment with an owner’s manual and without instructions regarding the weight-bearing capacity and loading.
The Charlotte Observer reported that Abedi-Asl immigrated to the U.S. in 1975 as a teenager from Iran and became a U.S. citizen in 1989. He attended the University of Tennessee, earning engineering degrees. Abedi-Asl became vice president of manufacturing for A.B. Carter in 1996, and he was the father of two.
The Charlotte Observer reported that Angela was represented by Adrienne Blocker of DeMayo Law Offices in Charlotte.
Source: Charlotte Observer
Class Action Litigation
Demet Basar Selected To Co-Lead ARC Airbag MDL For Plaintiffs
Beasley Allen lawyer Demet Basar has been selected as co-lead counsel for the ARC Airbag multidistrict litigation (MDL). With nearly 30 years of experience in class action litigation and MDLs, Demet’s knowledge and expertise will greatly benefit the plaintiffs as she helps guide the case through the legal process.
The plaintiffs in the MDL include those owning or leasing vehicles nationwide that are known to have used ARC inflators. ARC Automotive, Inc. (ARC) is a global manufacturer that produces airbag inflators for automotive airbag products for many leading vehicle makers, including General Motors, Kia, FCA (formerly Chrysler), Hyundai, and Ford, among others.
The plaintiffs filed suit against ARC, the vehicle manufacturers, and Autoliv, Inc. and Autoliv ASP, Inc., Joyson Safety Systems and Toyoda Gosei North America, Inc., the makers of the airbags. The plaintiffs claim:
- ARC’s design of the inflators was defective because it called for a welding technique that can result in “flash” or excess material becoming stuck in a gas ventilation orifice, increasing pressure and causing the inflator to rupture or explode during deployment.
- Despite knowing the dangers revealed during the Takata airbag ordeal, ARC used ammonium nitrate as the secondary propellant or fuel in ARC inflators.
- All defendants have known about the dangers and cite seven events involving ARC inflators, including two where vehicle occupants were killed.
The MDL is in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Judge Eleanor L. Ross is overseeing the MDL. Judge Ross noted in her order appointing the MDL leadership that Demet and the other eight lawyers appointed have extensive experience, are heavily invested in developing potential claims and are supported by their firms with resources “to vigorously prosecute this action through trial and appeal.”
Demet’s experience includes serving as co-lead counsel with our firm’s Dee Miles in a class action that secured a $287 million class settlement for 6.5 million class members in the Toyota fuel pump litigation. She is the sole lead counsel for the national Rock ‘n Play Sleeper class action and previously served as co-class counsel with Dee Miles in the dangerous Toyota Sienna sliding doors class action.
Demet has represented individual and institutional investors seeking recovery in securities fraud class actions. Earlier in her career, she co-chaired the Madoff Recovery Litigation Task Force for her previous firm in class actions surrounding the Bernie Madoff-operated Ponzi scheme. She brought her leadership experience to many other national litigations.
Beasley Allen lawyers working on this case, in addition to Demet, are Dee Miles, Clay Barnett, Tom Willingham, Mitch Williams, and Dylan Martin. The class action is In re ARC Airbag Inflators Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 3051, Case No. 22-CV-03285-ELR.
Diversity Is Needed In Class Action Litigation Leadership
The aspect of diversity is growing in importance for judges and the bar, particularly identity diversity (e.g., race, ethnicity, age, gender, physical disabilities and demographic dissimilarities). Identity diversity is crucial in many facets of law, including class action and other mass litigation leadership committees. Diverse backgrounds, life experiences and perspectives enhance the litigation process and can improve the outcomes for clients.
The legal industry increasingly recognizes that people bring their own interests and backgrounds to a lawsuit, and plaintiffs included in complex litigation, including class actions, are no different. There are just many more interests involved. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (FRCP) 23 requires that class counsel be able to “fairly and adequately” represent the interest of class members.
Historically, white male lawyers have predominantly been appointed to mass litigation leadership, including class actions. For example, Alissa Del Riego, a lawyer with Podhurst Orseck, P.A., surveyed cases involving “auto defect multidistrict litigation (MDL) asserting class action claims from the 1970s to 2021,” finding:
Women occupied less than 10% of lead counsel positions; the same was true for attorneys of color. Indeed, no woman had been appointed to serve as lead counsel in any auto defect class action until 2014, and since 2014, only two women have been appointed.
Why is this so important?
It is essential to remember that a class action combines many lawsuits filed nationwide in one court. In such litigation, clients don’t select and hire their lawyers. The court overseeing the litigation chooses a panel of leaders or class counsel. The class counsel then decides how the litigation is shaped. They determine the claims that will be included in the litigation, injuries that will be considered and strategies used in the litigation. Further, if there is a settlement, class counsel negotiates the relief they deem acceptable to class members.
A slate of leaders with identity diversity, which includes lawyers of color and female lawyers, increases the prospect that class counsel has similar backgrounds and experiences (e.g., cultural, racial, ethnic, religious and gender) as the class members. This diversity allows those leading the litigation for the class to bring diverse perspectives, shaped by their backgrounds and experiences, into the litigation process where they can more easily relate to and better recognize members’ interests and needs. Identity diversity empowers class counsel to make decisions that result in litigation outcomes more representative and beneficial to class members – from the cases selected to the injuries addressed and the relief achieved at the end of the process. Del Riegio explains that “even with the best of intentions, nondiverse groups are prone to miss something.”
Compounding the lack of diversity is the courts’ interpretation of FRCP 23. With limited guidance about how to carry out the rule’s requirement to “fairly and adequately” represent the interest of class members, courts have relied mainly on lawyers’ past experience when selecting class counsel. This creates a revolving system of repeat lawyers in leadership positions.
Del Riego’s research revealed that the courts she surveyed have limited explanations, other than a lawyer’s past experience, regarding its reasoning behind selecting leadership – particularly prior experience in the same appointed role. She noted that more appointments reflected greater identity diversity when courts used a structured application process for selecting class counsel, even if past experience was a key factor.
Through Del Riego’s research and other anecdotal evidence, it is easy to see that lawyers with little to no experience in leadership positions are in a Catch-22 where experience is the only or most significant factor in such a selection process. They need experience to be selected but have little opportunity to be chosen without prior experience.
While other mass litigations, especially in mass torts, have demonstrated an improvement in diversity among leadership in the last few years, class actions may be lagging behind the rest of the legal profession, according to Del Riego. However, a recent example provides optimism that positive change is on the horizon.
Judge James Donato in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has been overseeing In re: Robinhood Outage Litigation. When the class counsel was first proposed for the case, Judge Donato rejected the slate citing a lack of diversity because all 11 were men. Judge Donato explained that he wanted to make room for “newer and less experienced” lawyers. He said:
While this experience is likely to benefit the putative class, it highlights the ‘repeat player’ problem in class counsel appointments that has burdened class action litigation and MDL proceedings.
A second proposed panel with men and women was submitted days later, and Judge Donato approved the more diverse leadership group.
Sources: UMKC School of Law Institutional Repository, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 23, Podhurst Orseck, P.A., and Law360
Amazon Must Face BIPA Suit Over NBA 2K Facial Scans
A Washington federal judge has denied a motion to dismiss filed by Amazon.com Inc. in a proposed class action against the company and its cloud-computing subsidiary Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS). The action alleges the companies violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) by collecting and sharing facial scans of teens playing its NBA 2K basketball game without proper disclosures or consent.
Amazon’s facial recognition technology scans and analyzes users’ facial data. Facial scanning allows users to customize and create 3D basketball players that resemble themselves. A lawsuit filed in October 2021 by Ann Mayhall of Madison County, Illinois, on behalf of her son, D.M., claimed that Amazon.com and AWS collected her son’s biometric information in violation of BIPA. She claims that the companies failed to get consent to use her son’s data; shared it with a third party; and didn’t disclose its policy of retaining and destroying the information, as required by BIPA.
The lawsuit seeks to certify a class of Illinois residents who scanned their faces in the gaming app. It also seeks to certify a subclass of Illinois gamers under 18 who did the same. U.S. District Judge Tana Lin denied Amazon’s motion to dismiss, finding the allegations “more than suffice to infer defendants had control over plaintiff’s biometric data.”
The plaintiff is represented by Jason T. Dennett and Cecily C. Jordan of Tousley Brain Stephens PLLC, Kevin P. Green of Goldenberg Heller & Antognoli PC and Christian G. Montroy of Montroy Law Offices LLC.
Class certification motions are due by Sept. 14, and discovery must be completed by March 6, 2024. The jury trial is slated for Aug. 12, 2024, before Judge Lin. The case is Ann Mayhall et al. v. Amazon Web Services Inc. et al., case number 2:21-cv-01473, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.
Cardinal Health Settles Suit Over J&J Unit Purchase For $109 Million
Cardinal Health will pay $109 million to settle claims its investors brought against the company over undisclosed inventory and supply chain issues affecting Johnson & Johnson unit, Cordis Corp. Cardinal Health acquired Cordis in 2015 but failed to reveal the problems to investors before the merger, the investors claimed.
The investors say that because Cardinal didn’t reveal the information, its stock traded at higher prices than it should have before the 2015 merger. When the truth surfaced, the stock price dropped.
Company insiders received over $113 million for the sale of their stock from March 2015 to May 2018, according to the investors.
Spencer A. Burkholz represents the investors. He said, “We are grateful to our client for pursuing this case on behalf of all investors, and we are very proud of this significant recovery for the class.”
Despite the allegations against the company, Cardinal says it did not break any laws.
If the proposed settlement receives final approval, claimants who purchased or acquired stock from March 2015 to May 2018 will be compensated. Robbins Geller intends to pursue up to 30% of the settlement in attorney fees and up to $850,000 in expenses. Robbins Geller may also use $1.5 million to cover notice and administrative costs. Further, lead plaintiff 1199SEIU Health Care Employees Pension Fund may request a $35,000 service award.
In 2015, Cardinal purchased Cordis, a heart and blood vessel medical device manufacturer, for $1.94 billion in cash. Cardinal later received $1 billion for the unit when it was purchased by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman in 2021.
Spencer A. Burkholz, Tor Gronborg, Laurie L. Largent, Jennifer N. Caringal, Christopher R. Kinnon, J. Marco Janoski Gray, and Megan A. Rossi of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP and Joseph F. Murray of Murray Murphy Moul & Basil LLP represent the investors.
The case is Louisiana Sheriffs’ Pension & Relief Fund v. Cardinal Health Inc. et al., case number 2:19-cv-03347, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
Class Action Lawyers At Beasley Allen
Beasley Allen lawyers remain heavily involved in class action litigation around the country. Dee Miles, who heads the Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section, leads the effort. Other lawyers in the section who handle class action cases are:
Demet Basar, Lance Gould, Clay Barnett, James Eubank, Mitch Williams, Rebecca Gilliland, Rachel Minder, Paul Evans and Dylan Martin. They can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email using the form at the bottom of this page.
If you need help on a case that would be a class action, you can contact one of these lawyers. You can also contact Michelle Fulmer, Section Director, and she will have one of the lawyers contact you. Michelle can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email using the form at the bottom of this page.
THE WHISTLEBLOWER LITIGATION
FCA Recoveries Drop Although Settlements And Judgments Increase
According to statistics released by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the federal government recovered roughly $2.2 billion in judgments and settlements under the federal False Claims Act (FCA) in fiscal year 2022. Consistent with past years, lawsuits filed in federal courts by whistleblowers accounted for the vast majority of the total amount of FCA recoveries in 2022. While the number of FCA settlements and judgments in 2022 was the second-highest amount since 1986, the amount of fraudulently obtained funds recovered in 2022 saw a sharp decline from the prior year, in which approximately $5.7 billion was recovered.
An FCA claim can be brought by a relator on the government’s behalf under the FCA’s qui tam provisions or by the government directly. A relator who files a lawsuit on the government’s behalf under the FCA’s qui tam provisions is entitled to an award based on the total amount recovered, typically 15% to 30% of the total recovery, if the lawsuit is successfully resolved.
In fiscal year 2022, 652 qui tam lawsuits were filed by relators compared to 296 lawsuits filed by the government. Notably, qui tam lawsuits filed by relators accounted for over $1.96 billion of the total $2.2 billion recovered under the FCA in 2022, while government-initiated cases accounted for the remaining $246 million. Also noteworthy is $1.7 billion of the total recoveries related to the healthcare industry.
In its press release containing the fiscal year 2018 statistics, the DOJ stated that the recoveries reflected its focus on fraud in pandemic relief programs, such as allegations that ineligible entities received loans under the Paycheck Protection Program and in violations of cybersecurity requirements in federal contracts.
The $2.2 billion recovered under the FCA in 2022 was less than half of the $5.7 million in 2021. However, it should be noted that $900 million of the $5.7 million recovered in 2021 was a settlement with Biogen, Inc. over claims that the drugmaker received kickbacks for services it did not need.
The DOJ did not comment on the reasons for the decrease in recoveries. Instead, they focused on the number of settlements and judgments. Head of the DOJ’s Civil Division, Brian M. Boynton, stated in the press release:
The large number of settlements and judgments this past year demonstrates that the False Claims Act remains one of the most important tools for ensuring that public funds are spent properly and advance the public interest.
Our Whistleblower Litigation Team continues to pursue these important cases with good results. If you suspect there is corruption or fraud of some kind occurring in your workplace when government funds are in use, feel free to contact our lawyers for a free consultation. Lawyers on our Whistleblower Litigation Team are set out below.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Law360
The Beasley Allen Whistleblower Litigation Team
Beasley Allen lawyers are heavily involved in handling Whistleblower cases. Fraudulent conduct in corporate America continues to cause huge problems in many industries in this country. Fortunately, we significantly increased our firm’s healthcare whistleblower practice months ago. Currently, our lawyers are handling cases throughout the country involving fraud against governments at both the federal and state levels.
If you are aware of fraud being committed against the federal or state governments, you could be rewarded for reporting the fraud. If you have questions about whether you qualify as a whistleblower, contact a lawyer on our Whistleblower Litigation Team for a free and confidential evaluation of your claim. There is a contact form on our website, or you may call or email one of the lawyers on our team who are listed below.
The experienced lawyers on the Whistleblower Litigation Team are dedicated to handling whistleblower cases. The Beasley Allen lawyers listed below are on the team:
Larry Golston, Lance Gould, James Eubank, Paul Evans, Leon Hampton, Tyner Helms, Lauren Miles and Jessi Haynes. Dee Miles heads our Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section and works with the litigation group. The lawyers can be reached by phone at 800-898-2034 or by email.
Robinhood Financial Agrees To $10.2 Million Settlement With Multiple States
Last month, state security regulators announced a settlement agreement between Robinhood Financial LLC and all 50 states over claims that the capital market company locked out hundreds of thousands of investors from its trading app in March 2020. Seven states, including Alabama, Colorado, California, Delaware, New Jersey, South Dakota and Texas, began investigating investors’ claims after several outages shut down the trading app three years ago.
The states worked with the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) in their probe of the allegations. The investigation uncovered evidence of the following:
- Robinhood’s oversight of the trading app’s platform was weak because its parent company was handling the platform’s technological maintenance. The parent company was not a licensed broker while maintaining the platform.
- Robinhood failed to address customer complaints in a thorough and timely manner.
- Robinhood failed to submit customer complaints to the appropriate regulatory agency – the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced people into quarantine at home, many relied on the Robinhood app to make stock trades. The company claimed an influx of investor activity led to outages. Robinhood experienced more problems and paused trading in January 2021 due to heavy trading and volatility around GameStop. Customers claim that the outages caused them to lose money.
Robinhood agreed in principle last year to a proposed settlement for a class action over similar claims filed by individual customers for $9.9 million. The parties are working to gain final approval of that settlement.
Beasley Allen represents one of the named plaintiffs in the case, an investor from Florida who was locked out of trading in his account during one of the largest stock market rallies in history.
Our lawyers continue to protect consumers without securities litigation practice. Feel free to contact James Eubank at our firm if you believe you have been the victim of securities fraud. James and other lawyers in the Securities Litigation Section are set out below. If James is unavailable, contact any of the lawyers on the team.
Sources: Law360 and Reuters
Beasley Allen Securities Litigation Team
Lawyers in our firm remain very active in securities cases. This area of our practice continues to grow. We anticipate there will be a marked increase nationally in securities litigation. Lawyers in our Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section welcome any opportunity to investigate suspected practices and are blessed to be able to engage with both new and established colleagues in federal securities law and state securities litigation. You can contact a member of our Securities Litigation Team concerning any securities issues. The team consists of the following lawyers:
James Eubank, who heads the team, along with Demet Basar, Rebecca Gilliland and Paul Evans. Dee Miles, who heads the section, also works with the team. The team members can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email using the form at the bottom of this page.
MASS TORTS LITIGATION
CPAP Litigation Update
On June 14, 2021, Philips Respironics issued a voluntary recall of over 15 million CPAP, BiPAP, and ventilator devices. At least half of these devices are used daily in the United States. The recall was issued because the PE-PUR foam, used to reduce noise and vibration of the machine and its off-gasses, has long been known to be toxic. These toxic particles and fumes can enter the devices’ airways, which then, in turn, are inhaled by the users. The potential health risks for inhaling particles of the PE-PUR foam include asthma, irritation to the respiratory tract, and cancer-causing effects on organs like the lungs and kidneys.
A multidistrict litigation (MDL) was established in the Western District of Pennsylvania in anticipation of a high volume of plaintiffs filing complaints throughout the U.S. On Sept. 14, the Census Registry program was created to toll claims to be filed in the MDL.
In recent news, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published updated findings on adverse health events reported to the agency over the last two months. To date, over 98,000 adverse health events are known by the FDA 346 deaths have been reported. This is a thirty percent increase in the death toll previously reported and an additional 8,000 adverse event reports.
Beasley Allen lawyers are investigating claims for the users of the recalled CPAP machines who have suffered from the adverse effects of the recalled Philips Respironics machines. For more information, contact us by email using the form at the bottom of this page.
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Infant Formula Litigation Update
Beasley Allen lawyers continue to investigate and file cases of Necrotizing Enterocolitis in premature infants fed cow’s milk-based infant formula. Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a dangerous gastrointestinal condition that damages developing intestinal tissue, often causing intestinal perforations that allow bacteria and other harmful substances to leak into the abdomen and bloodstream. Many of these stricken babies require surgery to repair the necrotic intestinal tissue, and 20-30% do not survive.
Other long-term complications from NEC include parenteral nutrition-associated cholestasis and liver dysfunction, poor growth/malnutrition, metabolic bone disease, short bowel syndrome, sepsis/severe infection, and even neurocognitive impairment.
Lawsuits filed by Beasley Allen lawyers focus on Similac (Abbott Industries) and Enfamil (Mead Johnson & Co.) products given to premature, underweight infants. The science is well-established that premature infants fed cow’s milk formula have a significantly greater risk of developing NEC than infants fed human breast milk. This conclusion is supported by the United States Surgeon General, The National Institute of Health, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. One well-designed meta-analysis of six combined population studies found a 362% increased risk of NEC among babies fed only cow’s milk formula.
The manufacturers of Similac and Enfamil aggressively market their dangerous products to new and expecting mothers without any warning of the risk of NEC when given to premature babies. The predatory marketing even includes free “new baby” care package samples of formula distributed to hospitals and obstetrics offices to imply brand legitimacy and safety.
We reported last month that a “science day” was upcoming in the federal multidistrict litigation court. However, the court postponed that hearing. Also, the Madison County, IL state court, where we have filed many cases, recently denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss and/or transfer, ruling that Madison County is an appropriate venue to bring these lawsuits.
David Dearing and Brittany Scott, lawyers in our firm’s Mass Torts Section, oversee this litigation for the firm. For more information, contact them at 800-898-2034 or email using the form at the bottom of this page.
Acetaminophen MDL Continues To Accelerate General Causation Expert Discovery
Discovery is underway in the Acetaminophen ASD/ADHD multidistrict litigation (MDL). In February, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote of the Southern District of New York issued an order outlining the initial general causation expert discovery plan. The first discovery phase focuses on the general causation link between using acetaminophen during pregnancy and autism. The initial discovery, Phase One, includes document productions and written discovery from Johnson & Johnson. The plaintiffs’ expert reports are due on June 16, 2023.
The court recently settled a dispute on the designated expert areas between the parties. The plaintiffs identified six scientific areas of general causation, but the defendants added an additional area, maternal-fetal medicine. In March, the plaintiffs notified the defendants that they would not submit an expert report on this subject but may need a rebuttal report. After the defendants objected, the court ordered the plaintiffs to disclose whether they intend to serve an affirmative expert report on maternal-fetal medicine. The court further clarified that the plaintiffs might only serve a rebuttal report if they served an affirmative report on that subject.
While the plaintiffs’ Science Committee continues to work with the experts on their reports, the Discovery Committee continues to review and code documents to determine which of Johnson & Johnson’s witnesses should be deposed for Phase One discovery. The plaintiffs were requested to identify up to five witnesses by April 21. Plaintiffs will continue to get ready for those depositions in the coming months.
If you have any questions or need help on a case, contact Ryan Duplechin at 800-898-2034 or email using the form at the bottom of this page.
Hair Relaxer MDL Update
Beasley Allen lawyers are handling lawsuits on behalf of women who regularly used chemical hair relaxers and developed either uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, or ovarian cancer. Our lawyers have filed cases in state courts in Georgia and Illinois and the federal court multidistrict litigation (MDL) for women who developed uterine, endometrial, or ovarian cancer after frequently using hair relaxers.
On March 30, 2023, Judge Mary Rowland issued Case Management Order No. 2 (CMO 2), which pertained to the direct filing and service of process for hair relaxer claims filed in the MDL. The order allowed the direct filing of cases in the MDL to eliminate delays in transferring cases and promote judicial efficiency.
When filing cases directly in the MDL, plaintiffs must assert the lead paragraph into their complaint as discussed in CMO 2, which includes a statement indicating the case is being filed in accordance with CMO 2, as well as a designation of venue which will be the presumptive venue of the case upon remand. The CMO 2 notes that absent any waiver between the parties, CMO 2 does not constitute a waiver under Lexecon, Inc. v. Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, 523 U.S. 26 (1998) by any party of that party’s right to challenge jurisdiction, choice of law, statutes of limitation, forum non conveniens, the location of any trials to be held, or any other legal rights and remedies. CMO 2 also notes a lawyer admitted to practice in any district court is admitted pro hac vice in the hair relaxer litigation.
Beasley Allen lawyers are actively investigating cases of uterine, endometrial, and ovarian cancer in women who developed these conditions after frequently using chemical hair relaxers. Contact Aigner Kolom or Melissa Prickett, lawyers in the Mass Torts Section, for more information at 800-898-2034 or by email.
Heavy Metals In Baby Food Lawsuit To Proceed To Trial In October 2023
Beasley Allen lawyers, and co-counsel law firms, have been litigating a first-of-its-kind case in California for the past few years. Judge Lawrence Riff in Los Angeles County is set to oversee a critical trial involving baby food, heavy metals, and autism in October 2023.
There are several similar lawsuits around the country, mainly in California state courts, where children allege that baby food companies knew there were toxic heavy metals in their products. They further allege that mothers would have chosen safer alternatives for their babies if the baby food companies had warned about that information.
In Los Angeles County, N.C. v. Hain, et al. is the main case that initially went through a rigorous scientific process to see if there was enough science connecting heavy metals to autism. The court ruled there was enough scientific evidence for the case to proceed.
The parties have conducted multiple weekly depositions over the past few months to conclude fact discovery before March 24, 2023. The court then allowed a few depositions that could not be completed by that time to be conducted in April 2023. The parties also recently exchanged expert reports and are conducting expert depositions nationwide.
If you need more information or help on a case, contact Ryan Duplechin at 800-898-2034 or by email using the form at the bottom of this page.
TOXIC TORT LITIGATION
Good News For Climate Litigation After Supreme Court Justices Reject Energy Companies’ Petitions
The U.S. Supreme Court on April 24 handed state and local governments an extremely important win in their quest to hold fossil fuel companies responsible for climate change-related infrastructure damages. The high court gave state and local governments a definite boost in this important litigation. The case before the high court had received a tremendous amount of attention.
The justices denied petitions from Chevron Corp., ExxonMobil Corp. and other energy companies to review circuit court rulings affirming the remand of dozens of suits accusing them of promoting the production and use of fossil fuels while concealing their environmental risks.
Cases will now be allowed to proceed in state and local courts, and this ruling ends relentless efforts by energy companies trying to keep the cases in federal court, where they may have ultimately been dismissed under precedent, including the Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling in American Electric Power Co. Inc. v. Connecticut.
The U.S. solicitor general had urged the justices not to take the case after the court asked the U.S. Department of Justice to weigh in. Robert Percival, who heads the environmental law program at the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law, says:
It indicates that they want to stay out of state tort litigation, and also that they don’t want to greatly expand the grounds for removal to federal court.
Lawyers in our firm’s Toxic Torts Section consider this development extremely important for this litigation. Attorneys general and lawyers representing state and local governments will have the opportunity to file their cases in state courts and can now keep them there. This was a tremendous victory for state and local governments and the people living within their boundaries.
Paraquat Litigation Update
Julia Merritt and Leslie LaMacchia, lawyers in our Toxic Torts Section, are hosting a CLE webinar on Paraquat this month. The webinar will discuss the history of paraquat, Parkinson’s disease, the association between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease, cases screening, bolstering evidence, and a litigation status update on both the pending multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Southern District of Illinois and the coordinated proceedings in California state court. Julia and Leslie are members of the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee on the Paraquat MDL.
If you cannot attend the live webinar, contact Beasley Allen to obtain the recorded one. This litigation has many unique issues, and Leslie and Julia wade through the speculation to provide the key facts and processes for the case. If you have any questions concerning Paraquat, contact a lawyer on our firm’s Paraquat Litigation Team.
Beasley Allen’s Paraquat Litigation Team will be happy to answer any questions about the status of this litigation or the intricacies of the intake process, including the Plaintiff’s Assessment Questionnaire. Beasley Allen continues to accept cases where clients applied paraquat and have Parkinson’s Disease or Parkinson’s-like symptoms.
Contact a member of our Paraquat Litigation Team if we can assist you in your paraquat applicator cases. The lawyers on the team are Leslie LaMacchia, Julia Merritt, Trisha Green, and Matt Pettit. Rhon Jones heads our Toxic Torts Section and works with the team on this important litigation. You can contact a lawyer on the team by phone at 800-898-2034 or online for more information on the litigation, including the MDL. A team member will gladly assist you in your paraquat applicator cases.
AFFF Firefighting Foam MDL Update
Firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals has caused widespread contamination across the country. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to a variety of illnesses. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently proposed regulations to limit permissible levels of these chemicals in drinking water.
Consolidated in the Federal District Court for the District of South Carolina, the AFFF multidistrict litigation (MDL) contains over 4,000 pending cases ranging from personal injury to states seeking natural resource damages. Many water utilities are seeking the cost of advanced filtration, which is required to remove the chemicals to safe levels.
The PFAS chemicals in AFFF have been linked to several adverse health conditions, including cancer. The most common cancers linked to the chemicals are testicular, kidney, prostate, pancreatic, and liver. There are a host of other illnesses also associated with PFAS exposure.
The first bellwether trail in the AFFF MDL is set for June 2023 for a water utility in the City of Stuart, Florida. The court is currently considering motions in limine ahead of the June trial date. Other water systems across the country have settled with PFAS manufacturers, and several have pending trial dates. The MDL is planned to have a second set of bellwether trials for personal injury plaintiffs.
If you need more information or help on a case, contact David Diab at 800-898-2034 or by email using the form at the bottom of this page.
Source: Consumer Reports
EMPLOYMENT AND FLSA LITIGATION
Department Of Labor Reports Huge Increase In Child Labor Violations
Federal child labor laws, first authorized by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, were implemented to ensure that when children and young people work, they do so in safe occupations and a safe work environment. Additionally, child labor laws aim to ensure that child workers do not jeopardize their well-being or educational opportunities by working. Since being enacted, child labor laws have been changed and refined over the past 60-plus years by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to continue to safeguard young workers.
Since 2018, the U.S. has seen an almost 70% increase in child labor violations. The U.S. has created an interagency task force to address child labor violations to combat this rise. The DOL will investigate potential violations, including some related to companies in Alabama, specifically a large automotive plant and some chicken processing plants.
Federal laws prohibit children under sixteen from working in factory conditions in most circumstances and children under eighteen from working in the more dangerous jobs in industrial plants. DOL Officials stated that the maximum civil penalty, currently $15,138 per child, is “not high enough to be a deterrent.”
In addition to cracking down on these violations, the Biden administration has announced plans to help quicken deportation relief for illegal immigrants who serve as whistleblowers for breaches of these child labor laws. Currently, violations of child labor laws do not have a private right of action. Still, there was at least some discussion that the “absence of a private right of action to address oppressive child labor underscores the importance of [the agency’s role] in safeguarding young workers.”
If you suspect an employer might be violating child labor laws or any other labor laws, contact one of our employment lawyers to discuss these issues. You can contact Lance Gould, Larry Golston, Leon Hampton, Lauren Miles or Jessi Haynes, who handle employment cases. You can reach them at 800-898-2034 or by email using the form at the bottom of this page.
Judge Approves Perdue Workers’ Wage-Fixing Settlement
Perdue Farms agreed in December to pay $60.7 million to settle its part in a sweeping antitrust lawsuit accusing it and more than a dozen other major poultry producers of conspiring to keep worker wages low. Maryland federal judge Stephanie Gallagher gave the deal preliminary approval in April.
The settlement resolves claims that Perdue executives held secret meetings with leaders from Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, and other big poultry processors to depress their plant workers’ hourly wages. The judge also certified a settlement class of past and present Perdue workers nationwide.
Class members include production and maintenance laborers, who perform notoriously dangerous work for their employers. According to an Oxfam America report, injury and illness rates among poultry plant workers are “shockingly high.” Yet, these workers earn low wages, putting them and their families near or below the poverty line.
Given the brutal nature of the work and the poor compensation, many workers avoid seeking jobs in the poultry processing industry. Poultry processing companies recruit vulnerable workers with scarce other job options. Judge Gallagher noted that Perdue managers, human resources personnel, administrative staff, salespeople, and security workers at the poultry plants are not included in the class.
The plaintiffs accuse Perdue and the other defendants of wage-fixing and violating federal antitrust laws from 2000 to July 2021 to keep production works earning “sub-competitive compensation.” Perdue also reached a settlement in a Colorado federal court with workers who alleged the company violated antitrust laws to keep wages low in its pork processing plants. Details of that settlement have not been disclosed.
The workers are represented by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Handley Farah & Anderson PLLC. The case is Jien et al. v. Perdue Farms Inc. et al., case number 1:19-cv-02521, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
THE CONSUMER CORNER
Do You Know If Your Tires Have Been Recalled?
Many people get their tires replaced only to find out that the tires they are replacing are subject to a recall. Some consumers never learn about these recalls because independent tire dealers, who provide the majority of consumers with tires, are not required to register the sale with manufacturers so that the consumer is effectively notified when the tire maker issues a recall. This means that tire manufacturers often have trouble reaching out to or do not reach out at all to consumers who have unregistered tires. It is often up to the consumer to register their tires to discover these recalls.
This system is admittedly flawed. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) admitted in 2015 that the current tire recall system is broken and issued 11 recommendations to fix the system. While many of those recommendations are yet to be implemented, small developments have been made. For example, tire sellers can now provide consumers with the means to register their tires at the point of sale by giving registration forms and/or links to online registration. Nonetheless, the system remains imperfect.
So how does the consumer receive notice about a recall? A consumer registered with the manufacturer should receive notification of any recalls directly from the tire manufacturer. However, if you move, the manufacturer will unlikely pay first-class postage to ensure your notice will be forwarded to your new address. Those consumers who are not registered or are perhaps unsure of their registration status can search for applicable recalls on the websites of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the tire manufacturer. Both websites provide relevant information such as brand name, DOT code, and other identifying information that the consumer can cross-reference with information found on their tires to see if any applicable recalls apply.
While the system is imperfect, manufacturers and retailers must inform consumers about recalls. Knowing whether a tire has been recalled is important for consumers because it ensures that travel remains as safe as possible. Beasley Allen lawyers have successfully handled cases involving fatal and non-fatal vehicle accidents linked to tire failure.
You can contact Sloan Downes, Director of our Personal Injury & Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email using the form at the bottom of this page. She will have a lawyer in the section who handles tire-related litigation contact you.
Sources: Rubber News, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and Consumer Reports
FBI Warns Against Using Public Phone Charging Stations
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is urging travelers, shoppers, and others against using public USB charging stations for cell phones because hackers can steal data from devices during recharging. The agency said:
Avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels or shopping centers. Bad actors have figured out ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices. Carry your own charger and USB cord and use an electrical outlet instead.
The FBI calls the data theft “juice jacking” on its website.
USB power charging stations in airports, hotels, and other locations because they may contain dangerous malware. USB connections were designed to work as both data and power transfer mediums, with no strict barrier between the two. As smartphones became more popular in the past decade, bad actors figured out they could abuse USB connections to hide and deliver secret data payloads that a user might think was only transferring electrical power. This is called “juice jacking.”
The FBI offers data protection tips.
- Opt for AC power outlets over USB charging stations.
- Use personal AC chargers, car chargers, and USB cables when traveling.
- Purchase a portable charger or external battery and use only personal cables from a reputable dealer.
- As an extra protective measure, travel with a charging-only cable that does not allow data transfer while the phone charges.
The Federal Communications Commission advises that if you see a prompt after plugging in your device to select “share data” or “charge only,” always choose “charge only.” Adrianus Warmenhoven, a NordVPN cybersecurity advisor, also recommends using a USB data blocker. A data blocker “cuts two or three wires in the middle of a USB connection, that’s it.” Electricity will still transfer to your device, but the malware will not.
Sources: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Communications Commission and Forbes
CURRENT CASE ACTIVITY AT BEASLEY ALLEN
The Latest Look At Case Activity At Beasley Allen
Our BeasleyAllen.com website provides the latest information on the current case activity at Beasley Allen. The list can be found on our homepage, the top navigation, or the Practices page of our website (BeasleyAllen.com/Practices/). The following are the current case activity listings for the Beasley Allen Sections.
- Business Litigation
- Class Actions
- Consumer Protection
- Employment Law
- Medical Devices
- Personal Injury
- Product Liability
- Toxic Exposure
- Whistleblower Litigation
The cases in the categories listed below are handled by lawyers in the appropriate Litigation Section at Beasley Allen. The list can be found on our homepage, on the top navigation, or on the Cases page of our website (BeasleyAllen.com/Recent-Cases/).
- Auto Accidents
- Aviation Accidents
- Camp Lejeune
- CPAP Devices
- Defective Tires
- Hair Relaxers
- Heavy Metals in Baby Food
- NEC Baby Formula
- Negligent Security
- Social Media
- Talcum Powder
- Truck Accidents
Resources to Help Your Law Practice
Beasley Allen only handles litigation on behalf of individuals, companies and governmental entities that have been injured or damaged in some manner by a wrongdoer. Our lawyers do no defense work of any kind, and that includes working for companies in corporate America. I made that decision in 1979, and the firm has stuck to it ever since. For the record: there will be no change!
All of us at the firm are pleased and humbled that our law firm has consistently been recognized as one of the country’s leading law firms representing solely claimants involved in complex civil litigation. It is an honor and a privilege to be trial lawyers for victims of wrongdoing.
All of us at Beasley Allen have truly been blessed. We understand the importance of sharing resources and teaming up with peers in our profession. The firm is committed to investing in resources that will help our fellow trial lawyers in their work. For those looking to work with Beasley Allen lawyers or simply seek information that will help their law firm with a case, the following are among our most popular resources.
Beasley Allen sends out a Co-Counsel E-Newsletter specifically tailored with lawyers in mind. It is emailed monthly to subscribers. Co-Counsel provides updates about the different cases the firm is handling, highlights key victories achieved for our clients, and keeps readers informed about the latest resources offered by the firm.
Aviation Litigation & Accident Investigation
Beasley Allen lawyer Mike Andrews discusses the complexities of aviation crash investigation and litigation. The veteran litigator offers an overview to the practitioner of the more glaring and essential issues to be aware of early in the litigation based on years of handling aviation cases. He provides basic instruction on investigating an accident, preserving evidence, and insight into legal issues associated with aviation claims while weaving in anecdotal instances of military and civilian crashes.
Beasley Allen hosts a variety of webinars. These webinars feature lawyers in the firm and cover topics related to Beasley Allen cases. Continuing legal education (CLE) credits for Alabama or Georgia are often available for live presentations. To register for upcoming events or to access past webinars on-demand, you can visit the Events and Webinar page of the Beasley Allen website at https://www.beasleyallen.com/events/.
The Jere Beasley Report
We also consider The Jere Beasley Report to be a service to lawyers and the general public. We provide the Report at no cost monthly, both in print and online, to a huge number of people. You can get it online by going to https://www.beasleyallen.com/the-jere-beasley-report/.
You can reach Beasley Allen lawyers in the four litigation sections of our firm by phone toll-free at 800-898-2034 to discuss any cases of interest or to get more information about the resources available to help lawyers in their law practice. To obtain copies of our publications, visit our website at www.BeasleyAllen.com.
PRACTICAL TIPS FOR TRIAL
Practice Tip: Organize Your Evidence Early And Often
Mitch Williams, a lawyer in our Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section, has some recommendations for our lawyer readers on an area of trial work that is critically important. So, let’s see what Mitch has for us relating to pretrial discovery.
Good trial lawyers pursue and fight hard for full discovery of documents, emails, text, videos, media resources and witness testimony, just to name a few types of discovery, but how does that discovery benefit us as lawyers and our clients if it cannot later be found in the thousands (or millions) of pages of documents, interrogatory responses, and deposition transcripts? More importantly, a clear admission on a specific element or issue is meaningless if we fail to establish another element of our client’s claim or rebut the defendant’s defenses. Therefore, organizing our evidence and our client’s case early in litigation is important. Putting together a good discovery plan of action is not as burdensome as one might think. Let us share with you how we approach discovery.
At the outset of each case, and after interviewing our client and researching the applicable causes of action, we create a chart that tracks our case’s elements and factual issues. For example, in a product liability case, our chart should include the AEMLD elements—defendant is a manufacturer, the defendant sold a product, the product was defective, the defect caused the plaintiff’s injury, the product was not modified—along with key factual issues in a particular case, such as relevant dates or events. The chart should also include the defendant’s defenses, such as contributory negligence, misuse, etc. Each element or issue should have its own column in the chart, and as the case progresses and new issues arise, add a new column for those issues so they can be tracked.
Once the chart is created, it is easy to fill in the blanks as discovery progresses by citing relevant documents or testimony underneath each enumerated element or issue. Also, the chart can be used to track the admissibility of your evidence, such as if you have laid an adequate foundation and authenticated a document (in our charts, we add “*” to each entry if it is authenticated and “^” if the foundation was adequately established).
This is just a glimpse of how we deliberately plan the discovery in a case and track the evidence. This proven system has many benefits and has produced many great results. First, it allows us to see in real-time any cracks in the evidence that can be remedied before discovery closes. Second, it also allows us to see holes in the admissibility of any evidence so that we can plan accordingly. Third, we have all the key facts and evidence in one place at the close of discovery, which makes it easier to oppose motions for summary judgment or prepare for trial or mediation. Finally, it allows us to provide a tailored approach for our clients to serve their needs better.
Again, this is just a glimpse of what we do when preparing a case for trial. There are many other aspects to preparing a case, but discovery is key in any case, large or small and must be approached with tenacity, organization, and skill.
If you have any questions, contact Mitch at 800-898-2034 or by email using the form at the bottom of this page.
A large number of safety-related recalls were issued during April. We mentioned several in this issue. There are other significant recalls available on our website, BeasleyAllen.com/Recalls/. We attempt to put the latest and most important product recalls on our site throughout the month. You are encouraged to contact Shanna Malone, the Executive Editor of the Jere Beasley Report, by email using the form at the bottom of this page if you have any questions or to let her know your thoughts on recalls. We would also like to know if we have missed any significant recalls over the past several weeks.
Lawyer And Employee Spotlights
Mike Andrews joined Beasley Allen’s Personal Injury & Products Liability Section in 1998. He handles complex products liability cases involving serious injury or death and is our firm’s lead aviation lawyer. Mike enjoys handling highly technical cases against manufacturers of aircraft, light and heavy trucks, automobiles, and agricultural and construction equipment. He is passionate about working in cases for injured children and for clients with traumatic brain injuries.
Mike says he began practicing law to advocate for those who need help the most. He explains:
I became an attorney because we must stand up and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Our product failure cases are technically complex; my clients who have been injured or who have lost family members depend on me to help them understand what caused their loss and work on their behalf to hold manufacturers responsible for their conduct.
Representing clients against manufacturers who have wronged them or their family members brings Mike satisfaction. He says:
The most rewarding part of my work is leveling the playing field for ordinary folks who have suffered and need help. Manufacturers often take shortcuts based on profit rather than safety, and it is a privilege to work in service to others who truly need and deserve our help.
Mike has represented clients against major manufacturers, including Ford Motor Co., General Motors (GM), and others. Recently, he was part of the trial team that secured a $7 million jury verdict in a negligence case against Ford after a young woman died in a fiery car crash. The jury found that Ford’s 2014 Mustang was defectively designed, causing the young woman’s death. Mike was also successful for his clients in a number of serious injury and death cases involving defective GM ignition switches.
Grateful to practice at our firm, Mike says:
Beasley Allen is a singularly unique place because we are all guided by the vision and purpose to serve others. Our firm is fortunate to handle some of the most significant legal issues and cases of our generation, and in many ways, our work has helped strengthen consumer protections and the safety of products everywhere.
Mike is a member of national and local professional associations, including the American Bar Association, Alabama Trial Lawyers Association, and Montgomery County Trial Lawyers Association. He has been named to the National Trial Lawyers Top 10 Aviation Attorneys and Top 100 Civil Plaintiff Lawyers lists. He is a Martindale-Hubbell AV Rated lawyer. Mike was also selected as Beasley Allen’s 2017 Litigator of the Year and 2015 Products Liability Section Lawyer of the Year. Mike is a Board Member At Large for the Alabama Head Injury Foundation and serves with Kiwanis International.
Mike is an exceptionally talented and hard-working lawyer. He is blessed with a tremendous understanding of complex mechanical and technical issues. That gives him a decided advantage in product liability cases. We are fortunate to have Mike at Beasley Allen.
Marion Brummal, a lawyer in the firm’s Toxic Torts section, is a welcome addition. He will be involved in the handling of Camp Lejeune claims. His experience in environmental matters will help him greatly in this area of his practice.
Marion graduated with a B.S. degree in economics from Birmingham-Southern College, where he was a member of the international economics honor society Omicron Delta Epsilon. After completing his undergraduate education, Marion earned his Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Louisiana State University’s Paul M. Hebert Law Center in 2020. He then graduated with his Master of Law Letters in Environmental Law and Policy, magna cum laude, from Florida State University College of Law in 2021.
Marion says nothing specifically motivated him to attend law school initially, but he found his calling. He explains:
I became deeply passionate about practicing environmental law after being exposed to the injustices—both to people and the environment–pertaining to a pollutioncase under the Clean Air Act while I was externing for a federal district court judge in law school. Thereafter, I began to focus on environmental and administrative law classes, and ultimately, decided to pursue an LL.M. degree on the subject before standing for the bar.
During law school, Marion won the CALI Excellence for the Future Award in legal research and writing. Further, he earned a graduate diploma in Comparative Law and a graduate certificate in Energy Law and Policy. He also held a judicial externship with the Honorable Shelly D. Dick, Chief Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.
Marion was asked about our firm, and his response was that he believes the firm’s staff and lawyers set it apart. He says:
In my opinion, the coordination and dedication of Beasley Allen’s expert staff and attorneys enable the firm to not only provide superior legal services to their clients but to do so on a colossal scale.
Marion is an Alabama State Bar member. He also volunteers with the Montgomery Volunteer Lawyers Program and plans to continue doing so while practicing at the firm.
We are fortune to have Marion with the firm. He will be a tremendous asset.
Ashley Cochran is a Paralegal in the firm’s Toxic Torts Section. She assists with the paraquat and Camp Lejeune litigations. Ashley also assists on other projects as needed. Ashley began her career with Beasley Allen a little over two years ago and has proved to be a tremendous asset to the firm. We are fortunate to have such a hard-working and dedicated employee as Ashley with us!
Ashley shares that she is the proud mom of a very smart, handsome twelve-year-old son, Caydence. Caydence is currently a sixth grader at Wetumpka Middle School, where he plays the Trombone in the band program. It is no surprise that Ashley is very proud of Caydence and his love for music! The two enjoy spending time together, especially playing UNO, in which Caydence is very competitive. Ashley also enjoys spending time in nature, visiting the beach and lake, or relaxing away from daily commotion.
Ashley says her favorite thing about working at Beasley Allen is helping clients during their most difficult times. She added, “I particularly enjoy getting clients to smile or laugh, which makes my day! I enjoy working with the Toxic Torts team, which feels like one big family.”
We are fortunate to have Ashley with us. She is a hardworking, dedicated employee who really cares about the clients she works for.
Janice Davis is an Intake Specialist in the firm’s Mass Torts Section. As an Intake Specialist, she is the initial point of contact with clients, where she gathers pertinent information and assists them with all applicable paperwork. Janice began her career with the firm in 2020 and has been dedicated to handling clients with compassion, respect, and the utmost care. She does excellent work. We are thankful to have Janice with us!
Janice and her children moved from Princeton, New Jersey, to Montgomery 18 years ago to be closer to family. Her son, Phillip, is a graduate of Sewanee, The University of the South, and is currently a graduate student at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. Her daughter, Shelby, is a third-generation University of South Alabama graduate. Shelby recently moved home and is working part-time as an animator. Janice enjoys being home close to family and says she is blessed to spend time with them as much as possible. She also shares that she has a house full of rescue cats!
When asked what her favorite thing is about working at Beasley Allen, Janice said, “I really enjoy talking to clients and letting them know we are here to help!” She added, “I like that we work as a team, helping and supporting each other.”
Janice has an important job. She does excellent work and is a definite asset to the firm.
Larry Golston, who joined Beasley Allen in 2000, currently practices in our firm’s Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section, handling whistleblower, retaliation, wage and hour, sexual harassment, employment discrimination, business fraud, and class action claims. Larry has devoted his career to seeking justice for individuals and small businesses who have been negligently or intentionally harmed by wrongdoers.
After discussing a well-known civil rights case with a prominent Alabama lawyer, Larry decided to practice law. He says:
One of my strongest motivators for becoming an attorney comes from having the opportunity to meet and have a conversation with Attorney Arthur D. Shores while in college. Learning about the legal battle Mr. Shores and his co-counsel (Thurgood Marshall) endured in assisting Autherine Lucy (their client) to integrate into the University of Alabama inspired me to pursue a career as a lawyer.
Larry says his favorite part of being a lawyer is helping those who need it most. He enjoys taking client’s case and building the most successful cases possible. That requires skill, experience and hard work and a good support staff.
During his time at Beasley Allen, Larry has secured millions of dollars for his clients, including a $30 million settlement for a client when U.S. Investigations Services, Inc. violated the False Claims Act. He also obtained $14.7 million for a client who uncovered and reported an illegal kickback and false billing scheme that defrauded the Alabama Organ Center and taxpayers. Most recently, Larry and other members of the firm’s Whistleblower Litigation Team secured $4.6 million in damages against the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority after whistleblowers alleged that the agency knew it was making false claims to federal transportation officials.
Larry says he appreciates the opportunity to be at Beasley Allen. When asked what makes the firm unique, he says: “The integrity of the people who work here – especially the leadership.”
Larry is a member of several national and local professional associations, including the American Association for Justice, the American Bar Association, and the Federal Bar Association. He has served as President of the Alabama Lawyers Association, Capital City Bar Association, and Montgomery County Bar Association. He has also served as Chairman of the Adams-Shores Caucus of the Alabama Association for Justice.
A Martindale-Hubbell AV Rated lawyer, Larry, has been named to the Lawdragon
500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers list and has been selected to the Best Lawyers in America. In 2012, Larry earned the firm’s Fraud Section Lawyer of the Year award.
Time permitting, Larry occasionally volunteers to coach youth football and basketball. He has spoken to grade and high school students about the law, the judicial branch of government, and the importance of post-secondary education.
Larry is a tremendously talented lawyer, a definite asset to the firm, and we are blessed to have him at Beasley Allen.
Michelle Smith works in the firm’s Personal Injury and Products Liability Section as a Paralegal to Beasley Allen’s Lead Products Liability lawyer, Greg Allen. She works with clients to answer discovery, draft pleadings, and obtain medical records and various case-related documents. As a Paralegal, she also does research and works along with experts.
Michelle joined the firm in 2021 and has been a tremendous asset! We are thankful to have someone like Michelle, who is hard-working and dedicated to the clients!
Michelle and her husband, John, have been married for 20 years. They have two daughters, Kelsie (25) and Alyssa (21). The Smiths reside in Hoover, Alabama, along with their sweet weimaraners, Michelle describes as “rescues,” Stella (4) and Cane (3). Michelle says she enjoys volunteering on the board of Weimaraner Rescue of the South, a breed-specific non-profit.
Besides her very busy volunteer work and coordinating fundraising events, she loves spending time with their intakes and getting to know the specific needs for a successful forever home! Michelle is also a court-appointed special advocate for Children of Shelby County and a member of the Board of Directors, which she says is one of her most privileged volunteer duties.
When asked what her favorite thing is about working at Beasley Allen, Michelle replied:
The first is the honor of working for one of the founding partners, dedicated to helping people who have been hurt or wronged through no fault of their own. The second is the true work-family feeling shared among everyone, no matter who they are.
We are truly blessed to have Michelle with the firm. She does excellent work and is a hard-working, dedicated paralegal. The role of a paralegal is very important to the success of a case. Michelle is a definite asset!
Beasley Allen Atlanta Office Has Top Settlement In CaseMetrix’s ‘Top 10 In 2022’ List
CaseMetrix has recognized a case handled by the Personal Injury & Products Liability lawyers in our Atlanta office to be the top settlement in its “Top 10 Premises Liability, Products Liability & Medical Malpractice Settlements in 2022” survey. The data provider reviewed all the case settlements it received for 2022 to develop the top 10 list.
CaseMetrix says it is the leading provider of personal injury settlement and verdict data in the Southeastern United States. The Beasley Allen case recognized by the group resulted in a $45 million settlement for a client in Georgia. The case was handled by Chris Glover, Managing Attorney in our Atlanta office, and the firm’s Alyssa Baskam, along with Darren Penn of Penn Law, LLC, as co-counsel.
The settlement was reached for a 9-year-old boy crushed in an automobile crash and paralyzed. During their investigation, the lawyers discovered evidence that an illegal lift kit was installed on the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited that crashed into the rear of our client’s vehicle. The illegal component contributed to the child’s injuries, including paraplegia. Pro Comp, the illegal lift kit maker, denied it made the part.
Through substantial discovery and with Chris actually spending hours underneath the Jeep, the lawyer found a vehicle part with Pro Comp’s serial number and connected the illegal lift kit to Pro Comp. Obviously, that was a crucial development in the case. The legal team reached a $36 million settlement with Pro Comp and prior settlements totaling $9 million with other defendants, resulting in the $45 million settlement.
Last year, CaseMetrix recognized three of Chris Glover’s cases among the Top 10 Motor Vehicle Settlements in 2021. The 2021 report covered Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.
LaBarron Boone Welcomes Gov. Kay Ivey To Address The Montgomery Chamber Of Commerce
Beasley Allen lawyer LaBarron Boone, President of the Board of Directors for the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, welcomed Gov. Kay Ivey to the Chamber’s annual Alabama Update breakfast last month, one day before she signed into law her “Game Plan Legislation.” This legislation was a package of bills designed to secure Alabama’s economic future and keep our state moving forward. Gov. Ivey had this to say:
I want to thank the Montgomery Chamber for all you do to make the River Region one of the best places to live in Alabama. The pace of new job growth in the Montgomery area just last year alone has been staggering.
Montgomery County topped the list in new job creation with more than 15,000 jobs in 2022. Gov. Ivey likened the success of the state’s industrial scouts “bringing in many star performers who continue to score points with job expansions” to Alabama Coach Nick Saban’s legendary recruitment. Before launching into a recap of “The Game Plan Legislation,” Gov. Ivey said:
Now folks, here I am, an Auburn grad using an Alabama sports metaphor. Don’t take that lightly.
The legislation is designed to strengthen the state’s competitiveness for job-creating projects that add economic vitality to families and communities across the state.
Gov. Ivey signed the legislation into law with overwhelming bi-partisan support from the state legislature on April 20, the day after addressing the Chamber.
LaBarron had this to say about the economic success of the region and state:
It is an honor to serve as the Chamber’s President at a time when the River Region — and Alabama as a whole — are thriving. We have so much more work to do. Having a solid bipartisan game plan in place is a great start. Everyone agrees that bringing in more high-paying jobs and improving the quality of life for all citizens in the Capitol City and the State of Alabama is a good thing. And that is what we are doing with a laser focus.
All of us at Beasley Allen are highly pleased to have LaBarron leading the Chamber of Commerce this year. We want Montgomery, as the Capitol City, to be a shining light for all to see!
Gibson Vance Reappointed To Troy University Board Of Trustees
Gibson Vance has been reappointed to the Troy University Board of Trustees and will continue serving as the Board’s President Pro Tempore. He was first appointed to the Board in 2012 and was elected President Pro Tempore in 2019.
Gibson has continuously supported his alma mater since graduating in 1987. In addition to serving on the Board of Trustees for over a decade, he and his wife Kate have provided endowments and scholarships to help Troy University students with everything from unexpected financial hardships to study abroad expenses.
Most recently, the Vances endowed the Vance Student Emergency Fund in 2020 to allow students facing emergencies to remain enrolled in courses, even if they cannot afford them.
Previously, Gibson and Kate established the “Kate and Gibson Vance Study Abroad Scholarship” that offset certain student costs for scholarship recipients studying abroad.
In 2017, Gibson established an endowment to the College of Arts and Sciences, which launched the Gibson Vance Distinguished Lecturer Series. I had the privilege of participating as the first speaker in the series.
Gibson is also a Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law graduate. He joined Beasley Allen in 2000 and practices in the firm’s Personal Injury & Products Liability and the Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Sections. Gibson has obtained multiple large verdicts for his clients and is involved in numerous professional associations, often serving in an officer’s role. He currently serves as President of the Alabama State Bar.
Troy University recognized Gibson as Distinguished Alumni of the Year in 2018. Among other accolades, Gibson has been selected to The National Trial Lawyer’s: Top 100 list and has been named to the Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers lists for consecutive years. He was recognized as Best Lawyers 2022 “Lawyer of the Year” for Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs in Montgomery. He also received the Alabama State Bar President’s Award in 2020 and 2022.
FAVORITE BIBLE VERSES
A lawyer and a staff employee featured this month share their favorite Bible verses in this issue.
Larry Golston offers three of his favorite verses. The first two, he says, offer constant reminders that God is faithful and keeps his promises.
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19
Larry says that Psalm 23 is also one of his favorite pieces of scripture “because it reminds me that in good times or bad times, peace or danger, abundance or scarcity, God is good. It reminds me that God is trustworthy.” He specifically notes the first six verses below.
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell[f] in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:1-6
Larry also shared that a couple of verses in Galatians are some of his favorite. He says:
The verses perfectly sum up the true nature and character of Jesus, and they therefore serve as the roadmap in how we should live our lives as members of the Kingdom and joint-heirs with Christ.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
Janice Davis shares two of her favorite verses, and she says they remind her that no matter what she is dealing with, God is with her.
Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
Nobody Is Above The Law – Not Even Fox News
The recent settlement by Fox News should tell all Americans that nobody, including this powerful news media outlet and the rich and powerful, is above the law in our country. If you kept up with the developments in the defamation case filed by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News, you were probably shocked to learn that the public was being fed outright lies and false information during news programs.
Sadly, it was revealed that both the bosses at Fox News and the individuals hosting the programs knew the cable network was providing false information on a daily basis to their huge audiences.
There is another defamation lawsuit against Fox News filed by Smartmatic, another voting technology company that will clearly show why nobody can be elevated to a status that puts them above the law in America.
Hopefully, these developments will cause the American people to realize how important the Rule of Law is in this country and that nobody is above the law.
Law Day 2023 In America – The Home Of The Free And The Brave – Is On May 1
On May 1, the American people celebrate Law Day. This year’s Law Day theme is “Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility, and Collaboration.” It’s critically important that trust in our institutions, respect for one another, and the willingness of all people to collaborate to address the challenges that face our nation be rebuilt. Let’s take a look at the three components and see how they complement each other.
- The first component, civics, focuses on the principles shaping our democratic system. Civics centers around understanding how the government functions and the role each citizen plays in upholding a democratic society.
- The second element, civility, underscores the need for respectful and courteous public discourse. This is essential for fostering healthy debate and bridging gaps between differing opinions.
- The final aspect of the theme, collaboration, emphasizes the importance of working together across different sectors. It highlights that legal professionals, government officials, and citizens can unite to address shared challenges and achieve common goals.
It’s important to recognize that these three cornerstones are fundamental pillars of democracy. By promoting each of them, Law Day 2023 encourages each American citizen to identify ways to promote these values within their communities and daily lives.
Being a lawyer, I realize that lawyers should use this opportunity to reflect on our own understanding and engagement with civics, civility, and collaboration. We have many opportunities to do all that is necessary to promote these values in our professional lives. Reflect on how you celebrate Law Day.
OUR MONTHLY REMINDERS
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chron 7:14
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.
The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.
Rep. John Lewis speaking on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 1, 2020
Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part.
Rep. John Lewis on movement building in Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America
The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.
Bryan Stevenson, 2019
I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country….corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.
U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864
It’s Time For More Than Thoughts And Prayers
I wrote last month on the subject of mass murders in America. I feel compelled to do a follow-up in this issue of the Report. That’s because of what happened in Alabama last month. The mass murders that took place at a 16-year-old girl’s birthday party in Dadeville have received national attention. Four teenagers were killed, and 32 others were injured when at least six shooters fired their handguns into the crowd of teenagers attending the party. This was a tragic ending to what had been a festive occasion.
How much more will it take before our political leaders will do more than just issue news releases with “thoughts and prayers” each time mass murders occur?
There have been more than 11,500 people killed in gun violence so far in America this year. That is an average of about 115 deaths each day. As of April 1, there have been 146 mass shootings in our country. Think about that – 146 mass shootings over a period of three months – in America!
What more will it take for our leaders to stand up to the NRA and the gun manufacturers and pass badly needed gun reform measures? That would include banning assault rifles (designed for the military to kill human beings) and enacting laws requiring background checks and other needed measures to keep guns out of the hands of bad folks. This legislation is long overdue.
On a personal note, I have hunted and owned guns since I was 16 years old. I have never needed an assault rifle as a hunting gun. Nor have I had any need for a handgun that would be shot as an automatic weapon. I have owned a number of handguns, rifles and shotguns – and still do – and for years, I have had a permit issued by a sheriff, and I still do.
I respect the Second Amendment (which was enacted to make sure we had a strong militia in America). I have never had any fear of the government coming after my guns. Neither should any law-abiding citizen in America have that fear.
It’s a sad state of affairs when parents must now be concerned when their children attend school, Sunday school, picnics, sporting events, movies and even birthday parties!! That concern is because of the mass murders which have become commonplace in America. But when you think about it – no parent in a country that claims to be “a nation under God” should ever have to worry about their child being murdered in school or at a birthday party or any other event.
Why is it that the United States is virtually the only nation in the world where mass murders by shooters with unregistered guns are happening?
We must pray for all of the families who have lost their children in all of the mass murders that have happened this year, and especially for the families and survivors of the Dadeville tragedy. I also pray that our political leaders will get involved on the side of the American people who are saying, “Enough is enough.” All of us also need to stand up to the NRA and their money and let our leaders know that, without any doubt, the mass murders must be stopped. We can respect the Second Amendment and still enact reasonable gun reforms. Let’s put the welfare of second graders over the Second Amendment for a change!