Akerman has developed into one of the most comprehensive legal shops on the East Coast, particularly in the Southeast region, where it is one of the area’s dominant players. Clients cheer the “strategy, timeliness and responsiveness” of the firm’s litigation team. One specifies, “They provide great strategy in an environmental toxic tort case and product liability matters. They provide excellent advice and [they] staff matters appropriately.”
While its reputation and client base has grown well beyond its original Florida stronghold, the Sunshine State is still where many of its key litigators reign supreme. Tallahassee’s Kathi Giddings, a renowned appellate practitioner (and consistent repeat appearance in Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation) was part of a team that triumphed on behalf of Florigrown, a local player in the budding medical cannabis industry, (and, one could argue, the local industry itself) when she successfully challenged the Florida Department of Health’s and the Legislature's efforts to subject all licensed medical marijuana businesses in the state to mandatory full vertical integration, meaning that each licensee is solely responsible for all aspects of the medical marijuana supply chain, from the time that it originates as a seed until the time it is sold or delivered to the patient, as well as the state’s imposition of a strict limit on the number of medical marijuana businesses operators in the state. This integration effectively shuts out new entrants. Florigrown retained Akerman in late 2017 to assist in its stalled application for a medical marijuana license and In July 2019, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal issued a decision upholding all key aspects of a temporary injunction. The Florida Supreme Court was due to conduct oral argument via remote videoconference in May 2020. Miami’s Michael Marsh, a celebrated commercial litigator, represented Meritor, a manufacturer of automobile components for military suppliers, trucks, and trailers, and several of its subsidiaries, in a product liability and wrongful death action filed by the estate of a man killed after a braking system of a semi-tractor trailer truck allegedly malfunctioned and broke apart, striking the man while driving on a highway. The estate alleged that Meritor manufactured the braking system, which was comprised of a purportedly defective brake shoe and brake drum. The estate demanded damages in excess of $19 million dollars. Without the actual truck driver having gone MIA, the plaintiff could not prove causation and thus agreed to dismiss the claims against Meritor with prejudice. Marsh also represents E-Alternative Solutions, a company that sells vaping devices and cartridges, in a dispute with a supplier in Delaware Chancery Court. The lawsuit includes claims for fraud, breach of contract, breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, and declaratory relief. The supplier alleges that the client intentionally sought to limit sales of the products that they supplied and preferred a separate line of products that the client also distributed. Stephen Hurlbut, domiciled in the Tyson’s Corner, Virginia office and is known as an authority in construction litigation, is counsel for CDJV in proceedings against the Navy pending before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA). The case involves claims against the Navy for damages and additional compensation of $13.5 million that the client claims are owed as a result of changes and differing site conditions associated with a contract for Airfield Vegetation Conversion and Clear Zone Restoration at Naval Air Station Boca Chica in Key West, Florida. The case is still in the discovery stage and is now scheduled to commence in January 2021.Brian Fraser, who recently joined the firm from Richards Kibbe & Orbe, provides an augmentation to the firm’s New York office. Fraser represents the designated certificate holder under a securitized trust of commercial mortgages in a case in which the plaintiff owner of a $60 million office tower in Memphis has sued the trustee, the servicer and special servicer to the trusts alleging that the defendants conspired to deprive it of the right to refinance and has obtained an injunction against a foreclosure sale in Tennessee.
Hunton Andrews Kurth, the product of a recent merger between two prominent firms (the Southeast institution Hunton & Williams and the Texas-centric Andrews Kurth), with the combined entity bringing together each firm’s strengths in a complementary fashion and doubles down on its comprehensive coverage regionally. Clients cheer the firm’s “expertise in our area and consistent excellence in client service and communications exceeded expectations,” calling out the individual lawyers’ “thorough, responsive and concise work product,” and testifying that they are “always available”.
Hunton’s concentration of litigation talent in its Richmond office is particularly notable. Mike Shebelskie garners praise from well beyond Virginia and is noted nationally for his presence in high-stakes matters often containing an environmental element, an area in which Hunton & Williams was particularly well versed. Shebelskie has cases with Elbert Lin, another Richmond partner who has been particularly visible as of late. Lin argued for Maui County at the Supreme Court in a case exploring the parameters of the Clean Water Act, Lin triumphed in a favorable decision that was rendered in April 2020. “This is a milestone,” claims a peer. “It’s time to recognize Elbert Lin!” Another environmental litigator (and leader of the practice) based in the DC office, Deidre Duncan led a team that won a significant victory for Mosaic Fertilizer in the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in a suit challenging the federal authorizations and reviews issued for Mosaic’s South Pasture Extension mine under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Clean Water Act (CWA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA.)The underlying suit, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups, raised more than a dozen claims under NEPA, CWA and ESA. The Hunton team defeated those claims in the district court in November 2018, and the environmental groups appealed. In a comprehensive opinion, a divided panel of the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision and, in doing so, established important precedent governing the scope of NEPA reviews.
Kelly Sandill in the firm’s Houston office led an all-female firm team that scored a milestone win in a hotly contested lawsuit for the Houston Police Officers’ Union when, in May 2019 after months of litigation, a Harris County District Court Judge awarded summary judgment in the client’s favor by ruling that Proposition B, which was a City Charter Amendment passed by the voters that tied firefighter pay to police pay, was preempted by Texas state law and unconstitutional. The ruling follows a year’s worth of contentious debate surrounding Proposition B and the financial effect on the City of Houston and Houston police officers. In the Miami office, all-purpose commercial litigator Sam Danon continues to be viewed as “a force,” with one local peer elaborating, “Sam is very savvy – he’s a native Spanish speaker, which you need to be around here, but Sam is particularly good at using this to his advantage not only in litigation but for building business.”
The firm’s geographic footprint is not limited to the South. Partners in the firm’s Boston office Harry Manion and Martin Gaynor led a team that won a June 2019 jury verdict of more than $20 million against the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center over dredging related to construction of a marine terminal.
The national labor and employment team of Hunton Andrews Kurth are active in employment, wage and hour, labor relations and public accessibility cases. Their expertise stems from routinely representing clients in class, collective, and mass actions, as well as in high-profile, high-risk matters in federal and state courts. In addition, practitioners at the firm are noted for serving as counsel for clients in hearings before enforcement agencies, mediations, and arbitrations.
The Richmond office houses a group of labor and employment lawyers who routinely represent employers in a wide range of disputes. Ryan Glasgow is active in wage and hour class and collective actions, in defeating class certification, whistleblower claims, Fair Credit Reporting Act class actions, ERISA actions, immigration litigation, single- and multi-plaintiff discrimination and harassment litigation, and prosecution and defense of breach of contract and restrictive covenant litigation. Fellow partner Kurt Larkin negotiated numerous area master collective bargaining agreements around the country. He is also active in advising clients in union organizing campaigns. Gregory Robertson has handled representation and decertification elections for employers, including numerous campaigns of 500 to 5,000 employees. Robertson, who has four decades of experience under his belt, currently serves as counsel to the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.