Barze Taylor Noles Lowther is a Birmingham-based litigation shop recognized for notable strengths in the insurance, commercial, and products liability sectors. The firm is home to preeminent litigators including
founding partners Bruce Barze, Spencer Taylor, and Todd Lowther whose combined experience and favorable results have led to the firm’s high-ranking designation.
Bruce Barze manages a national practice dedicated to business, insurance, and product liability matters. He served as lead counsel to Alembic Pharmaceuticals in a suit that alleged breach of contract, intentional interference with contract, fraud, and deceptive trade practices related to the marketing and sale of generic Modafinil in the US. The case was favorably resolved following extensive motion practice and discovery. Spencer Taylor is active in insurance, business and environmental litigation. He currently serves as lead counsel to Southeastern Cheese Corporation in defense of a declaratory judgment action in which the insurer seeks to rescind an existing pollution liability policy for alleged environmental contamination claims brought by 40 plaintiffs. Fellow founding partner James Noles is a leading environmental law and regulation specialist who is instrumental on the aforementioned Southeastern Cheese Corporation. Todd Lowther is a new addition to the list this year. He is recognized for his insurance coverage, product liability defense, and commercial litigation practice. Lowther served as lead counsel to Schwing America in a product liability case arising out of an accident that occurred on a construction jobsite allegedly related to the design of Schwing America’s hydraulic system for its boom pump. After over a year of litigation, the plaintiff agreed to voluntarily dismiss the client from the lawsuit and proceeded solely against another entity.
Headquartered in Birmingham, Bradley has emerged as a dominant player in the legal services industry in the Southeast, boasting an ever-expanding network of offices throughout the region (in Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida and Washington, DC, as well as its native Alabama.) The firm has doubled down on its surge into Texas as well; most recently the firm lured a celebrated local “trial lawyer extraordinaire,” Richard “Dick” Sayles, to the firm’s Dallas office. Sayles, an all-purpose commercial litigator who once headed his own litigation boutique, Sayles Werbner, is viewed by all as a particularly auspicious addition. “With that hire, Bradley certainly made a splash in Texas,” testifies one local peer. “That is basically kicking the doors open, yelling ‘Hey Dallas, we’re here!’ Dick Sayles was one of those people who owned the city when I was a young local lawyer, and he continues to do amazing things.” As a bonus, the firm also scored Sayles’ son, Robert Sayles, a noted future star. The elder Sayles is representing JPMorgan Chase in a $220 million qui tam action arising out of mortgage modification program.
In the firm’s flagship Birmingham office, Mike Pennington is lead counsel defending Ocwen and PHH in four class action and over a dozen individual cases alleging that convenience fees charged for use of optional same-day telephone and online payment and processing methods violate the FDCPA and various state laws. The cases are pending in Florida, California and New Jersey. A prior similar class action in Alabama was settled and received final approval in 2019. Pennington was also, along with Scott Smith and Leigh Anne Hodge, retained as ERISA class-action counsel to defend BBVA against challenges to its 401(k) defined contribution plan. The lawsuit putatively covers all participants in the BBVA 401(k) plan nationwide and seeks over $40 million in damages. Specifically, the suit claims BBVA violated its fiduciary duties to plan participants by including a money market fund in its plan and by failing to control the costs and expenses of several actively managed mutual funds and target date funds in the plan. Beyond commercial litigation, “Bradley’s life sciences team is nationally known,” according to a peer. Tripp Haston, Kim Martin and Lindsey Boney have represented Bayer in multiple Xarelto litigation matters. A mass tort litigation recently settled for $775 million in the aggregate, after six bellwether trials, all of which were defense wins. Seasoned partner David Hymer is noted for his nationwide representation of CVS in the opioid litigation. In the Montgomery, Alabama office, Charles “Chuck” Stewart has an ongoing relationship with Textron and is representing this client in a case filed by a plaintiff that was rendered crippled by a golf cart.
In the firm’s Nashville office, Lela Hollabaugh serves as Tennessee counsel for Amazon.com, in a $30 million product liability litigation against it arising from the sale of hoverboards by third-party sellers on the Amazon Marketplace. The allegations in the complaint seek to hold Amazon liable as a seller of the products that are sold by others on its Marketplace.
Christian & Small is a Birmingham-based boutique with additional offices in Jackson, Mississippi, and the Alabama Gulf Coast. The regionally based team of practitioners has developed a global practice that serves regional, national, and international clients.
John Johnson heads the insurance coverage and extra contractual practice where he is active in contract and tort litigation, specifically bad faith, breach of contract, fraud and extra-contractual damages cases. He recently obtained summary judgment in favor of a property insurer on contract and bad faith claims following the denial of benefits for property damage unrelated to the hurricane upon which the insured based his claim. Founding partner Richard Smith is recognized for his corporate litigation expertise in the financial services, healthcare, and construction sectors. Smith represents a trustee in one of the largest corporate Chapter 7 liquidations in the Northern District of Alabama. Deborah Smith serves as the firm’s managing partner. Her practice is dedicated to post-judgment, appellate, and commercial litigation. Smith is recognized as one of Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation for 2020, along with fellow partners Sharon Stuart and LaBella McCallum. Stuart is a founding partner of the firm. She is recognized for her complex commercial and insurance litigation practice where she routinely handles pharmaceutical and medical device products liability matters as national, regional or local counsel. Stuart is also active in business tort claims, contract disputes, commercial and insurance fraud and bad faith suits, and wrongful death cases, along with class action lawsuits. Following the settlement of a class action matter involving the Alabama state employee’s pension plan, Stuart tried and won on appeal the contractual indemnity claim of a co-defendant seeking over $1 million in legal fees. McCallum is a skilled litigator dedicated to professional liability, products liability, liquor liability and coverage cases. She is also active in medical malpractice disputes against healthcare providers, and in handling trucking and aviation matters. Dan Sparks heads the creditor and lender rights practice group. His practice is devoted to bankruptcy and business litigation involving creditors’ rights, consumer finance, lender liability, commercial contracts, and injunctive relief. He represents clients in all aspects of commercial litigation, loan workouts, restructurings and closings, asset recovery, foreclosure, and adversary proceedings in bankruptcy. Michael Vercher chairs the insurance practice group. His practice includes representing clients in mass tort, workplace exposure, construction, transportation, product liability, premises liability, breach of contract and fraud litigation. Vercher was part of the lead counsel team that obtained a unanimous decision issued by the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals in a case that was filed by the Washington County Education Association along with its President and two other employees of the Washington County Board of Education attempting to block the opening of Woodland Preparatory School.
Cunningham Bounds is a renowned plaintiff’s shop that was founded in 1958. Headquartered in Mobile, the personal injury firm has developed a niche in the general commercial, product liability, and class-action spaces due to efforts on varying multimillion and multibillion-dollar disputes.
Lucy Tufts and Steve Olen are lead counsel representing a trustee in a post-judgment collection and civil contempt proceeding. The two trial lawyers filed and prosecuted this litigation as well as all appeals and ancillary litigation associated with the case. David Cain is active in numerous medical malpractice, wrongful death, product liability, and catastrophic personal injury disputes. Cain is a leading trial lawyer who is recognized for favorable results obtained in multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements. Toby Brown and George Finkbohner are part of the lead counsel team in a wrongful death suit that alleges defendants breached their duty to provide reasonably proper and adequate non-medical home care to the client and therefore caused his injuries and death.
Hare Wynn Newell & Newton has been serving the South since 1890. With offices in Birmingham as well as Lexington, Kentucky, the firm has developed a reputation for handling personal injury and other complex litigation matters.
Shay Samples is part of the lead trial team representing a client who became septic from toxic megacolon, a surgical emergency, which was allegedly not timely diagnosed or treated. The patient died as a consequence of the alleged medical negligence of the nurses, a hospitalist and a surgeon. This resulted in one of the largest settlements in a medical malpractice case in the history of the county. Fellow partner Leon Ashford was active in a medical malpractice suit on behalf of a woman who underwent surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham medical center, developed signs of infection days after, and was transported back to UAB directly into a room, resulting in respiratory distress and death. The settlement resulted in changes on transfer of patients who are septic, including not allowing a direct admit to a room. These patients must now be triaged in the emergency room. Ralph Cook is a seasoned trial lawyer who also spent significant time as a trial judge, district court judge, circuit court judge, and as a family court judge. Cook is active in catastrophic injury, vehicle accidents, wrongful death, and contract disputes.
Lightfoot Franklin & White is a prominent defense litigation firm founded in 1990. With offices in Birmingham and Houston, Texas, the firm has established roots in litigation, compliance and investigations matters. In January 2020, the Houston law firm of Levinthal Wilkins merged into Lightfoot, adding two partners and an associate to Lightfoot’s growing Houston office.
Managing partner Melody Eagan is specialized in high-stakes catastrophic injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, product liability and appellate actions. Her trial experience involves serving as lead counsel for product manufacturers in high-stakes catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases across the Southeast, including jury trials in Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. Eagan has overseen hundreds of cases in 25 years of legal practice. She currently serves as co-lead counsel to Leigh Corfman in a case that alleges repeated and malicious defamation by Republican candidate for Senate and Judge Roy Moore. The defendants answered the complaint with several motions to dismiss, all of which were denied after extensive briefing by the parties. The case is in discovery with the client seeking a trial date in 2020. A trial-tested lawyer, Lana Olson focuses her practice on business litigation, contractual disputes, catastrophic injury cases and mass torts. She represents clients ranging from small, family-owned businesses to Fortune 100 corporations. She was lead counsel defending American Home Shield Corporation (AHS) in a dispute that began when approximately 90 former and present customers initiated arbitration proceedings against the home warranty company claiming breaches of contract, bad faith failures to pay, and violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. The firm secured a greater-than-75% win rate and, because of that result, the claimants' attorneys agreed to settle all remaining cases for less than 20% of their initial settlement demand. As the firm’s hiring partner, Haley Cox is skilled in disputes that arise out of claims of personal injury, medical malpractice, and fraud. She has been responsible for hundreds of cases in 13.5 years, and she has overseen global and complex resolutions in a variety of disputes. Cox, along with Eagan and Olson, have been recognized on Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation list for 2020.
Johnny Johnson is a founding partner of the firm. He has spent more than 30 years defending companies against environmental and mass tort litigation, including class actions and individual toxic tort lawsuits. He represented the city of Jackson, Mississippi in a suit against international company Siemens, along with several local subcontractors, bringing claims for fraud, declaratory judgment, and breach of contract. The suit sought more than $225 million in damages for a water meter and billing system designed and installed by Siemens and its subcontractors that failed, costing the city more than $20 million a year. Less than ten months after filing suit, Siemens agreed to pay the city $89.8 million to settle the case. As a result, the city was essentially reimbursed the full amount of the contract price while retaining the equipment installed, including the water treatment plant and sewer line repairs. Harlan Prater is active in high-stakes civil trials, and has developed an expertise in product liability, pharmaceutical, medical device, environmental and business litigation. Prater also frequently represents clients in consumer fraud, antitrust and patent actions. Enrique Gimenez is active in product liability and commercial litigation, as well as in collegiate sports law. Both Prater and Gimenez are currently representing BP Exploration and BP America Production in ongoing personal injury actions arising out of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Prater and founding partner Christian King are members of the trial team representing 3M Company in a series of class actions, mass actions, and single-plaintiff actions alleging that historical operations at the client’s manufacturing facility in Decatur, Alabama, have allegedly contaminated the local environment. The various cases assert claims for personal injury, property damage, and violations of federal environmental law.
Headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, Bradley has grown into a leading legal institution throughout the Southeastern US, enjoying increased market share through an ever-expanding footprint and a strategic recruiting process that has allowed it to go from strength to strength. Offering a broad range of services on offer even in the litigation capacity, Bradley has also emerged as a prominent contender in the labor and employment practice, representing several management-side key players in the region as clients.
Birmingham’s John Smith represents regional grocery chain Winn-Dixie against claims that a plaintiff was terminated from her position because of her pregnancy. The plaintiff took a leave of absence in order to have a baby and called the store manager about returning to work. There was conflicting evidence about these communications and the plaintiff’s desire to return to work. The grocery store concluded that she did not want to return and ended her employment. The case was tried in front of a jury, which returned a verdict in favor of Winn-Dixie. The verdict was affirmed at the 11th Circuit.