Dispute resolution
Bradley Arant Boult Cummings

With a vast network of offices spanning every corner of the Southeast, Bradley has continued to uphold its status as a dominant player in the legal services industry within the region. While the firm has expanded its reach, its Birmingham headquarters houses the largest concentration of litigators. The firm’s nationwide prominence stems from its esteemed product liability practice, in which they have carved out a particular niche in handling matters for the life sciences industry. The firm is additionally well known for their commercial and appellate practices.

The firm’s Birmingham office features national practice area stars in product liability, Tripp Haston and Leigh Ann Hodge. Haston is chair of the life sciences practice, and currently handling a shareholder class action defending PRA Health Sciences in Delaware Chancery Court. Hodge leads the litigation practice group and is the lead counsel representing Fresenius Medical Care in five separate matters. Three of the matters are medical malpractice cases. In one case, Hodge successfully obtained a favorable ruling to remove the case to federal court. The plaintiff filed a motion to remand in response. Hodge is also handling a premises personal injury case, as well as a mass tort product liability matter, serving as national coordinating counsel. The matters involved include a multi-district litigation (MDL) in the District of Massachusetts; consolidated state court proceedings in Missouri and Massachusetts; and various individual-plaintiff lawsuits in both state and tribal courts. Hodge is currently also involved in another case with fellow national practice area star Craig Mayfield of the Tampa office leading the defense. Mayfield represents Prometheus Labs in a product liability action pending in the joint consolidated case program in Los Angeles, California. The plaintiffs allege improper warning labels on Allopurinol/Zyloprim in certain genotypes. Beyond the life sciences industry, Mayfield is also handling a product liability matter for home appliance manufacturer, Electrolux Home Products. He defends the company in cases throughout the Southeast in connection with property damage or personal injury. Birmingham's Lindsey Boney and Huntsville’s Kimberly Martin secured a victory for Pfizer in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In July 2021, the appeals court upheld the dismissal of a product liability lawsuit arising from the Cordarone/amiodarone litigation. Boney successfully argued the case before the Ninth Circuit. Nashville-based Lela Hollabaugh has recently served as lead trial counsel for clients in the energy and life sciences industries. Representing Avectus Healthcare Solutions, she obtained a summary judgment win, affirmed by the Sixth Circuit in a putative class action alleging the client unlawfully practiced in law.

Outside of the product liability space, Birmingham’s David Hymer heads the team serving as co-lead nationwide counsel representing CVS in several high-profile opioid cases. The team is currently handling three of the five bellwether cases related to the pending MDL proceeding in the Northern District of Ohio. Charles Stewart of the Montgomery office is known for his practice’s mix of business, product liability and employment litigation. He defends helicopter manufacturer MD Helicopters in a False Case Act lawsuit alleging that the client fraudulently persuaded the US Army to award contracts for the case of its helicopters and other services through the Foreign Military Sales program. The plaintiffs initially sought more than $1 billion, however, after the court granted a partial summary judgment win, the plaintiffs reduced their damages claim to more than $100 million. In the Jackson, Mississippi office, Alex Purvis has carved a niche practice in the Southeast region, focusing on commercial policyholder insurance coverage litigation. He currently has a related case in which he represents Sanderson Farms in a matter arising from an environmental case litigated in Georgia. Sanderson Farms filed a lawsuit against Allied World, alleging it failed to reimburse the client sufficiently for defense fees in connection with the Georgia case. In Texas, Richard “Dick” Sayles of the Dallas office continues to showcase his all-purpose commercial litigation skills. In one of several cases, he is defending clients in a putative class action filed by a stockholder, on behalf of a company, who alleges that the defendants looted millions of dollars from the company.

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 often serves as regional counsel to Fortune 500 companies on a wide range of matters, including catastrophic injury and bet-the-company litigation. 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 sixth consecutive year at the Benchmark Litigation awards in 2022. An appreciative client confirms, “Lightfoot is handling a high-profile parallel state and federal investigation that we are involved in. They are attentive, responsive, and help think through complicated issues. Their work product is excellent.” A local peer asserts, “Lightfoot isn’t the biggest firm in Alabama but they certainly have the biggest reputation for litigation, on the defense side anyway.” It is also noted that “Lightfoot is diverse in its scope. There are other great litigation firms in Alabama but they tend to focus more on one industry, like insurance or healthcare. Lightfoot goes well beyond that.They have really developed relationships nationally, with major national clients. In fact, I think only a small percentage of their cases lately have been in Alabama!” 
     Exemplifying this testimonial, Jack Sharman has been appointed by the Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney as special counsel to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office in an investigation into certain activities in the state by former President Donald Trump after the 2020 election. The investigation is currently focused on a call between then-President Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump pressured Raffensperger to investigate alleged fraud that would overturn Georgia’s presidential election results. Sharman also represents the Office of the Secretary of State in discussions with the Congressional committee investigating the January 6 riot at the US Capitol. “Jack is intelligent, responsive, level-headed, and creative,” extols a client. “He's an excellent counselor and good at dealing with opposing sides professionally.” Demonstrating the firm’s growing clout with national clients, Michael Bell and Chandler Bailey represent GM in a complex 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 and claim over $60 million in non-punitive damages. Trial was set for July 2022.Lee Hollis is defending GE Healthcare, the manufacturers of an anesthesia machine, in a suit brought by the family of a minor patient at the University of Florida Health Jacksonville who suffered from hypoxia and sustained a significant brain injury while under anesthesia. After the incident, it became clear that a preparatory test on the machine was not performed and the anesthesia resident conducting the procedure was unfamiliar with the equipment, resulting in the incident. The mistake by the resident was apparent to the attending physician and the hospital. The attending physician committed suicide in the wake of the incident, and the hospital reached a settlement with the family of the patient. The family of the patient has now sued GE Healthcare, seeking nearly $7 million in damages. In a novel prosecutorial role, Ashby Pate served as lead prosecutor for the State of Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission in a widely publicized judicial ethics trial of Judge Nakita Blocton. Charges filed by Pate in May of 2021 include complaints concerning multiple rules of judicial ethics, including delayed ruling on cases involving disfavored lawyers, working under the influence of medication in her chambers that cause erratic behavior, forcing staffers to take diet pills, and using fake social media accounts to harass people with cases before her. After a three-day trial, Alabama’s Court of the Judiciary handed down the harshest sanction available – removal from the bench and taxing of costs. Lightfoot has succeeded in its growth and recruiting strategy as well, with an impressive showing of new future stars in this edition. One of these, Rachel Lary, is touted as, “really the point person day-to-day on the GM litigation, managing it in eight states. She also has an interesting estate litigation practice.” 

Labor and employment
Bradley Arant Boult Cummings

Bradley’s labor and employment team enjoys a reputation as among the most capable in the practice area throughoutthe jurisdictions of Alabamawhere the firm initially established its market presenceand Tennessee.  

Labor and employment mainstayT. Matthew Miller of the firm’s Birmingham stronghold displays an expertise that runs the gamut of labor and employment claims, representing both local companies and larger, national corporations. Millerrecently obtained a summary judgment ruling on behalf of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, successfully defeating a federal suit brought by federal employee plaintiffs who brought claims regarding Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Act payments, alleging that the payments were paid to another party rather than the plaintiffs themselves.  

Matthew Lonergaof Bradley’s Nashville office has also enjoyed recent dispute success,defending the City of Clarksville against a suit brought by a former employee who, under Tennessee’s Disability Act,brought claims of wrongful termination after it was found by her doctor that she was no longer physically able to carry out the duties of her employment. Lonergan and the team achieved a summary judgment ruling in the City’s favor, which was upheld by the appellate circuit. Also from the firm’s Nashville office, Chuck Mataycurrently serves as lead counsel to Clarksville Health System in a suit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the behalf of a healthcare employee.  

Maynard Cooper & Gale

This year, Maynard Cooper & Gale expanded its reach well beyond its Birmingham, Alabama roots, adding offices in Atlanta, Des Moines and Orlando. While the firm’s footprint continues to expand, the largest concentration of litigators is spread throughout its Alabama outfits.  

     The firm’s litigation expertise spans several areas of litigation. On the appellate front, the go-to lawyer John Neiman recently represented Protective Life Corporation in two separate actions.One is currently pending cert at the Kentucky Supreme Court after the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal in favor of the client. The other matter went to the California Supreme Court and concerns the extent of the state’s 2013 statute that imposes a graceperiod and notice requirements for life insurance policies. The matter was remanded to the Court of Appeals and Neiman continues to lead the litigation.Mobile-based partner Jaime Betbeze represented Waste Management Mobile Bay in a PFAS-based lawsuit that was one of the first jury trials in the Southeast. Betbeze defended the company against trespass and conversion claims. The plaintiff, The Solid Waste Authority of the City of Mobile, sought damages nearing $70 million, yet the jury awarded significantly less, roughly $3 million. While a versatile commercial litigator, Betbeze specializes in admiralty, transportation and construction litigationInsurance litigation specialist Michael Mulvaney defended Life Insurance Company of North America in a matter alleging breach of contract and bad faith claims related to life insurance and long-term disability insurance policies. Mulvaney succeeded in the motion for summary judgment on the bad faith claim, and trial occurred in May 2021 on the breach of contract claims, resulting in a jury verdict in favor of the client on the life insurance-related breach of contract claim. While the jury found in favor of the plaintiff on the long-term disability-related claim, they awarded damages of about $160,000 – a fraction of the $14 million in damages the plaintiff originally sought. The case continues at the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Mulvaney represents several clients with Edward “Ted” Holt, chair of the insurance and financial services group. Mulvaney and Holt are currently handling three separate putative class actions filed against three different life insurance companies in which plaintiffs allege violations of the lapse notice statute. The cases arose out of the California Supreme Court ruling that the state’s lapse notice statutes apply retroactively to policies issued prior. Thomas Butler has diverse experience in litigation involving insurance, class-action defense and Employee Retirement Income Security Act, among others. In an insurance matter, he represents American United Life Insurance Company in an insurance-related breach of contract lawsuit. The plaintiff alleges the client failed to properly carry out a Section 1035 policy exchange. The matter considers the extent and nature of Mississippi law as it relates to the “free look” provision in life insurance policies. Product liability group chair John Earnhardt defended Acuren Inspection in consolidated cases against 27 insurance companies and Enterprise Gas, alleging negligence after a 2016 explosion of a repaired heat exchanger at a Mississippi natural gas cryogenic facility of Enterprise. The plaintiffs sought damages for property damage and economic loss totaling about $80 million. Earnhardt secured a complete dismissal based on a lack of personal jurisdiction since the testing services occurred in Indiana. Featured on the Top 250 Women in Litigation list, Angel West assisted the team representing Principal Securities in a closely watched matter involving the question of who broker-dealers must arbitrate against under the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority(FINRA) rulesdefinition of “customer”. The clients filed a lawsuit to enjoin arbitration after the defendants filed a statement of claim before FINRA. The team was successful, and the defendants appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the decision, opining that they were not considered “customers” under the rule.  

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.