With origins in the Southeast, a region the firm still maintains its largest footprint in, Nelson Mullins has since expanded strategically and found success in terms of geographic reach, market share and distribution of talent. In the product liability space, the firm has even staked itself a national presence, with several trial luminaries taking the lead on high-stakes cases for a “who’s who” of pharmaceutical industry household names.
One of the most buzz-worthy and undeniably successful expansions the firm has made of late was its 2019 entry into the Baltimore market, a move which netted the firm 30 partners from a more local firm. One of these, Michael Brown, is viewed by all Baltimore peers familiar with him as a substantial coup. Brown, a trial lawyer who is particularly in demand in the product liability arena, receives resounding praise. “The biggest news in Baltimore right now is Nelson Mullins getting started here, and by recruiting Michael Brown, they made a grand entrance. They are getting into product liability in a big way,” insists one local peer. Another confides, “One of our partners actually just left us to go work for Michael Brown! But I can’t blame them, because it’s a great opportunity. Michael is dynamite and has a direct line to J&J, who he now does a lot of work for.” Brown’s successes for this particular client, especially regarding its talc litigation, have made headlines and won him acclaim. However, Brown’s acumen is not limited to product liability. He worked with fellow Baltimore partner Michael Blumenfeld, who acts as lead partner on a commercial matter for Westminster Properties stemming from a 2017 property contract dispute in which five current and former tenants of Westminster-managed properties filed a putative class action lawsuit seeking to certify a class of tenants who have allegedly been charged improper and/or excessive fees related to the late payment and/or non-payment of rent. The court dismissed the class action motion, after which the plaintiffs proceeded with individual claims. Deborah St. Lawrence Thompson, who is on the lead counsel in defense of thousands of asbestos-related personal injury and wrongful death cases, is also recognized for her work in complex disputes around the country, with notable strengths in the commercial, mass tort, product liability, toxic torts, and labor and employment areas.
Another of the firm’s trial aces with a flair for product liability, David Dukes in the Columbia, South Carolina office plays a prominent role in Bayer’s defense of its anticoagulant medication Xarelto (rivaroxaban) against claims that it caused excessive bleeding. After victories in the first 2 MDL bellwether trials in early 2017, Dukes and his team has been on the trial team for every Xarelto defense verdict, of which there have been a series. Dukes and his team was also instrumental in the workup of approximately 75 cases pending in the MDL and Philadelphia Court of Common Please litigations during the latter half of 2018 through global resolution of the Xarelto litigation in early 2019.
Mark Clouatre, the managing partner of the firm’s Denver office, has been particularly active in commercial litigation. Clouatre represented FCA in a matter involving the bankruptcy proceedings of three FCA dealerships located in Gallup, New Mexico, Holbrook, Arizona, and Winslow, Arizona. These dealerships filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2019. Additionally, the dealer principals are being prosecuted by the Federal Trade Commission for potentially falsifying consumer loan documents. In the bankruptcy proceedings, FCA learned that the dealerships had been selling vehicles “out of trust,” or selling vehicles without paying back their floor plan lenders. The dealerships had also engaged in “double flooring” for a number of vehicles, receiving loan funds from two different floor plan lenders for the same vehicle. The bankruptcy court eventually entered an order prohibiting the dealerships from using their cash collateral, forcing the dealerships to discontinue business operations. In light of the bankruptcy, the abrupt end of the dealership’s business, the issues with the dealer’s floor plan lenders, and the FTC lawsuit, FCA was forced to seek termination of its dealership agreements with the dealerships through the bankruptcy proceedings. FCA was successfully able to obtain an order from the bankruptcy court granting the termination, enabling FCA to protect its business interests and to move forward with finding a business solution to its lack of representation in these important market
Whiteford Taylor Preston has deep roots in litigation, dating back to its inception in 1933. “The firm is outstanding regarding its expertise, efficiency, responsiveness and strategic thinking,” a client lauds about the firm. Another client highlights its bankruptcy practice, saying Whiteford Taylor Preston is “my go-to bankruptcy litigation firm,” characterizing the group as “highly efficient, incredibly responsive” and displaying “cutting-edge awareness of specialized bankruptcy-related issues.” In addition to its strong bankruptcy practice, the firm also handles business, product liability, intellectual property, labor and employment, construction, real estate, e-discovery, health care, administrative law and regulatory litigation.
While the firm operates from a network of 16 offices, it is best known for its footprint in Maryland, particularly in Baltimore, where it hosts its highest concentration of litigation talent. Kevin Hroblak is the subject of much praise from clients and serves as co-chair of the firm’s litigation department. An authority in bankruptcy and general commercial litigation, Hroblak is currently representing mineral rights owners of over 143 million tons of coal reserves in West Virginia in claims arising out of the breach of a coal mining lease against the largest privately held coal mining company in the US. The lawsuit, valued at $42 million, sought accrued and lost royalty damages, transfer of mining permits and specific performance for sale or lease of surface rights, and other monetary damages. A week-long trial in the District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia was completed in April 2019. Hroblak also represents a party in a $10 million suit for breach of contract and related causes of action arising from the purchase and liquidation of numerous nursing homes and senior care facilities contained within the two individuals' investment venture. The initial trial took place in January 2019 in the Circuit Court for Fairfax County to recover damages due to non-payment of the defendant's share of the partnership debts. The initial case was nonsuited under Virginia rules during trial, and the subsequent case was scheduled to be filed in April 2019. The matter was refiled in the Maryland District Court, where discovery is proceeding. Another frequently mentioned all-purpose commercial partner and fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, William Ryan, represented Landry’s in commercial litigation against a subsidiary of Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation, a commercial property/shopping center owner, obtaining a verdict in Landry’s favor following two-week trial in Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland and defending subsequent appeal before Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, which affirmed in part and remanded in part the verdict in December 2019. Ryan and Paul Nussbaum represented an SEC Receiver in prosecuting professional liability claims relating to eight public bond offerings for the acquisition and operation of eight assisted living facilities located in Georgia and Alabama. The matter concluded in February 2020 following the US District Court’s approval of a $10 million settlement secured by the team and then recommended by the SEC. Ryan and Aaron Casagrande are currently defending USALCO in the multi-district litigation, consolidated in the District Court of New Jersey, consisting of multiple class-action and individual lawsuits brought against numerous suppliers of water treatment chemicals in various federal courts by direct and indirect purchasers of liquid aluminum sulfate, alleging violations of federal antitrust and numerous state laws, as well as separate state court qui tam actions currently pending in Illinois and Virginia.