Dispute resolution
Bradley Arant Boult Cummings

Bradley is a long-time leader in the southeast of the country, with roughly half of its force dedicated to litigation. The firm’s headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama has the largest concentration of its litigators, trailed by its Jackson, Mississippi and Nashville, Tennessee offices. Bradley’s acclaimed product liability practice garnered it national recognition, and is still a prized practice, along with commercial and appellate litigation, which have risen to prominence as well.

     The firm has several lawyers who have mastered the art of handling mass torts and multidistrict litigation. Product liability expert David Hymer has been the co-lead counsel defending CVS Health in a series of opioid-epidemic lawsuits nationwide.  He has been leading the team on five bellwether cases related to the MDL proceeding pending in the Northern District of Ohio. Hymer's team is responsible for overseeing document production efforts across all cases. Lindsey Boney has recently been leading clients in the life sciences industry through multidistrict litigation. Boney and fellow expert in product liability cases Kim Martin were lead counsel to Wyeth (whose parent company is Pfizer) in a case alleging that it engaged in off-label promotion of its prescription medicine amiodarone. Boney led oral argument before the First District of the California Court of Appeal, which published an opinion of its affirmed dismissal.

     Martin, partner in the Huntsville office, and Birmingham partner Leigh Anne Hodge are both nationally recognized as product liability authorities. Along with Jackson, Mississippi partners Will Manuel and Margaret Cupples, they lead the teams in the high-profile 3M multidistrict litigation regarding its allegedly defective earplugs. Manuel and Cupples are leading teams in the MDL consolidated in the Northern District of Florida, where they have been handling depositions and discovery. Cupples serves as national writing counsel for the team. Martin and Hodge have been leading the Case Specific Expert Team, which has been supervising a team of more than 20 of the firm’s lawyers to handle expert reports and depositions, including coordinating with ENT experts for plaintiffs across the 121 cases the team is responsible for handling in Waves 1 and 2. Martin, Hodge, and Manuel specialize in other areas in addition to product liability. Martin’s practice also includes white-collar crime and False Claims Act litigation, in which she recently obtained a dismissal in a case. Hodge serves as the firm’s co-chair of the litigation group and has developed expertise in handling matters on behalf of the healthcare industry. She recently handled a number of cases on behalf of Fresenius, litigating an array of matters from product liability mass tort to medical malpractice lawsuits. She is additionally lead on ERISA [DJ1] cases, currently handling a case on behalf of MetLife. Manuel represents an accounting firm, Horne, in a bankruptcy-related case alleging professional liability claims after farmers sold grain to the now-insolvent grain dealer Express Grain Terminals (EGT). Owing to EGT’s bankruptcy, declared after the sale, the farmers were not paid or were drastically underpaid and have since filed lawsuits against the client and the company’s bank.

     Birmingham partner Anne Marie Seibel has maintained a nationwide practice that involves class actions and multi-plaintiff commercial disputes. As of late, she has been defending Priceline against lawsuits challenging the tax services provided by online travel companies like Priceline. After the pandemic, two cases were filed, framed as False Claims Act lawsuits. Seibel removed one to federal court, and one remains in state court, involving issues of first impression for the Nevada False Claims Act. Seibel secured a summary judgment ruling in the federal court case.

Christian & Small

The boutique operation of Christian & Small finds its roots and central leadership in Birmingham, with additional Mobile metro area and Jackson, Mississippi offices. Capable in a broad variety of litigation capacities, the firm’s team represents local, national, and international institutions and corporations from a diversity of sectors in disputes throughout the Southeast. The firm’s practitioners are frequently involved in the commercial and insurance spheres, as well as in a wide variety of liability matters.

Michael Vercher of the Birmingham stronghold is among the firm’s founding members and represents both insurers and the insured in complex proceedings relating to mass tort claims, workplace exposure, product liability, premises liability, construction, transportation, and a variety of other matters. Vercher currently provides defense representation to commercial motor carrier RM Logistics and one of the drivers in the company’s employ against a suit which alleges that the driver’s negligence was the cause of a multi-vehicle collision resulting in the closure of Interstate 65.

Among Vercher’s fellow Birmingham-based founding partners, Richard Smith has developed a practice which underscores complex matters arising in the financial services, healthcare, and construction sectors. Smith currently represents design and engineering firm Stantec in three separate defective design suits filed by plaintiffs including the State of Alabama Department of Transportation, arising in relation to a recent $23 million bridge project on which the company was retained to provide several engineering services.

Heading the firm’s bankruptcy and restructuring group from Birmingham, Daniel Sparks currently represents Nelson Brothers, Inc. as a member of the official committee of unsecured creditors of Cloud Peak Energy on Cloud Peak’s $600 million, widely spectated Chapter 11 case.

Benchmark continues to recognize the involvement of other key firm practitioners, including founding partner Sharon Stuart and insurance coverage and extra contractual practice head John Johnson, as well as newly recognizing Todd Weston as a litigation star as of this year. Weston is active in a variety of practice areas, chiefly those of insurance, construction, employment, and product liability.

Lightfoot Franklin & White

Lightfoot Franklin & White is an Alabama-headquartered litigation boutique with offices in Birmingham and Houston, Texas. The firm’s standing has been cemented by unanimous peer and client review – in keeping with this, Lightfoot was the recipient of the "Alabama Firm of the Year" award for the seventh consecutive year at the Benchmark Litigation awards in 2023, a remarkable honor. An appreciative client confirms, “Lightfoot has a number of attorneys that I trust. The legal analysis and writing is top notch, and they have excellent trial lawyers.” While the firm is addressed as “the top litigation shop in [Alabama],” its reputation extends beyond the state’s borders, with additional admirers throughout the Southeast region and clients retaining the firm for national-level appointments.
     While the firm’s offerings are diverse, product liability has been a notable standout, with a pronounced level of work in this particular practice. Lee Hollis is representing Numotion against claims of strict product liability, negligence, fraud and deceptive trade practice claims related to Numotion’s marketing and allegations that Numotion failed to use pressure mapping to detect a potential issue in the seat sling of the plaintiff’s wheelchair. The plaintiff alleges breach of the standard of care occurred when a seat cushion was delivered without an assistive technology professional, eventually resulting in development of a pressure sore. Additionally, plaintiffs assert Numotion fraudulently concealed and misrepresented its capabilities to prevent these types of injuries and also engaged in related deceptive trade practices. Hollis and his team are preparing to try this case in the fall of 2023. Jack Sharman defended the former sales manager for Pilgrim’s Pride in a criminal price-fixing trial in federal court in Colorado. The DoJ alleged that the defendants, along with others, conspired to restrain trade by rigging bids and fixing prices for broiler chicken products in violation of the Sherman Act. In August 2022, the DoJ moved to dismiss all price-fixing claims against the firm’s individual client. Melody Eagan and Adam Peck represented Emerson Electric against claims of negligence and strict product liability, relating to a terminal connector’s design and warnings. The claims originate from a 2019 incident in which a repairman sustained first- and second-degree burns while servicing a rooftop HVAC unit equipped with a terminal connector manufactured by the client. After product and lab exams proved the Emerson’s part was not defective in design or manufacture and rather was just a victim of the motor failure of the compressor, the client was dismissed with prejudice. Chandler Bailey, serving as lead defense counsel, defended GM in a wrongful-death and catastrophic-injury case against claims of defective design arising from an accident that occurred involving five federal agents in a 2013 Chevrolet 15-passenger van. One federal agent died after being removed from the van and the others sustained various orthopedic injuries. Plaintiffs allege the van was defective because it did not come equipped with Forward Collision Alert and/or Automatic Emergency Braking. Bailey presented evidence that the vehicle was safe as designed and manufactured and secured summary judgment on behalf of its client. In August 2022, the court agreed and held that the vehicle was not dangerous or defective as a matter of law. A client weighs in on Bailey’s behalf, addressing him as “an outstanding, young trial attorney and very smart.”

Labor and employment
Starnes Davis Florie

Starnes Davis Florie is an Alabama based full-service  firm with a strong reputation for trial experience in all areas of litigation, including labor and employment. The practice is comprised of lawyers who focus exclusively on labor and employment disputes, ranging from labor issues to wage-and-hour claims.

Chairing the firm’s practice group is Trip Umbach who has recently navigated a family dispute that involved employment issues, as the daughters filed a lawsuit against their father and the client, Jones Utility. The matter originally involved alleged discrimination claims and additionally a “pay-to-play” bribery scheme after the plaintiffs joined forces with a competitor. Umbach filed counterclaims and the disputes are ongoing. He has also handled cases alleging discrimination and retaliation, as well as restrictive covenant disputes. Alfred Perkins is active in litigation representing Alabama Municipal Insurance Corporation in a case against a former account executive. The plaintiff alleges several claims including, gender discrimination, violations of the Equal Pay Act and retaliation.