Phillips Lytle has extensive class action litigation experience representing clients in dozens of multi-district, statewide and national cases. In defending against class actions, we are known for strategic opposition to class certification, obtaining decertification, and achieving early dismissal, wherever possible. We team with legal departments and senior management to develop and execute strategies that complement our clients’ business objectives.
Our clients include corporations, financial institutions and consumers, and we prosecute and defend claims in areas of law including securities, environment, employment, tax, product liability, and consumer finance. Our success in class action litigation is sustained by our tradition of using our knowledge of clients’ businesses to devise legal strategies that advance their objectives.
Class actions can be devastating to a company’s business. Plaintiffs can number in the thousands, negative press can tarnish a corporation’s image and depress stock prices, and jury awards can threaten the financial strength of the organization. Moreover, plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees are based on the size of the recovery, as well as the time and money spent on the case. This formula can turn a single class action victory into a significant event, thereby inspiring the devotion of extraordinary resources toward winning a case.
Lawsuits of this magnitude require experienced attorneys with proven methods of minimizing the potential impact of class action litigation right from the start.
Phillips Lytle has significant experience opposing class status, decertifying previously certified class actions and seeking early dismissal as effective means of defeating class action lawsuits.
We achieve results by uncovering the vulnerabilities in the case early on and devise strategies that lead to dismissal, force the plaintiffs to reevaluate the matter, or reduce their demands. Examples include:
- Successfully resisted class certification involving claims of personal injury and property damage brought by nearby residents of a large landfill. (Ezzo v. Dupont, et al.)
- After a manufacturer was sued by a group of factory workers for alleged on-the-job exposure injuries, we successfully worked with local counsel to show that the alleged injuries were not caused by the same set of circumstances and that a workable definition of the class could not be sustained, thereby defeating class certification. (Bock v. Cincinnati Milacron, Inc., et al.)
- Successfully represented a utility client in the early dismissal of an action involving gas storage wells prior to class certification. (Webster v. National Fuel Gas)
- Successfully opposed certification in an agricultural products case brought on by a purported statewide class of farmers. (Morgan v. A.O. Smith Corp.)
- Worked with other firms to defeat cases initially certified as nationwide class actions such as Ilhardt v. A.O. Smith Corp.
- Successfully resisted many purported Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) class actions by challenging the appropriateness of class representatives, class counsel and/or the claims for class treatment, and by asserting arbitration clauses in the underlying credit agreements.
Phillips Lytle’s expertise in product liability and chemical exposure and toxic tort litigation has contributed to our selection as national, regional and statewide counsel in lawsuits involving numerous plaintiffs. Examples include:
- Defended a class action suit brought by more than 40,000 members that arose from compliance actions by governmental agencies.
- Defended a client against efforts to certify a series of class actions brought in Michigan State Court.
- Represented clients sued in alleged asbestos disease cases, including multi-district litigation.
- Defended a major automotive manufacturer in multi-district litigation involving truck wheels.
- Defended major manufacturers of industrial chemicals in a medical monitoring class action.
Our attorneys have represented financial institutions and numerous other businesses in a wide range of class actions. Examples include:
- Served as co-lead counsel in a consumer class action venued in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey. The class action alleged that defending provisions contained in form agreements utilized in leasing self-storage properties violated New Jersey consumer statutes.
- Defended a global financial institution in obtaining a defense verdict at trial on claims brought by a class of the borrower's former employees seeking unpaid wages and benefits.
- Defended a client in a class action pertaining to oil and gas royalties.
- Defended a client against a class action in the Western District of New York brought on by 200 physicians on behalf of a purported class of 14,000. We successfully moved for summary judgment. The case was affirmed on appeal.
- Defended global financial institutions in mortgage and brokerage account termination charges.
- Defended business clients in employee and retiree benefits class actions.
- Obtained summary judgment dismissing a purported class action brought under The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and New York General Business Law against a financial institution and its law firm.
- Defended a Japanese pharmaceutical company in “vitamins” litigation, which was one of the largest price-fixing cases ever brought at the time. Following the class settlement, approximately 75% of the market, based on value, opted out. These cases were consolidated for pre-trial purposes in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia.
- Represented a financial institution in massive multi-district litigation stemming from the unsuccessful 2007 leveraged buyout of the Tribune Company.
- Represented claimants and obtained a favorable result on the merits in a tax challenge action, after class certification, in City of Buffalo v. Wysocki.
Phillips Lytle’s Labor & Employment attorneys handle a wide range of state and federal wage and hour matters – from advice and counseling on compliance issues, to defending clients in individual, collective and class actions.
We have defended both off-the-clock and misclassification class and collective actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York State Labor Law. Examples include:
- Defended an employer in a wage and hour class action alleging that outside sales persons were misclassified as independent contractors.
- Represented an independent agency of the federal government as receiver of a defunct financial institution in a collective and class action alleging employees were, among other things, not properly classified and/or compensated for hours worked.
- Represented a health care provider in a collective and class action alleging violations of state and federal wage and hour law related to overtime, off-the-clock work, compensatory time, meal periods, unpaid compensation and failure to provide required notices.
- Represented a franchisor and its franchisees in a collective and class action alleging violations of state and federal wage and hour law related to overtime, employee uniforms, delivery fees, expense reimbursements, spread of hours pay, and failure to provide required wage and hour notices.
Phillips Lytle is well positioned to handle the complex and often volatile matters surrounding securities class action cases. Our Class Action Litigation Team has extensive experience representing defendants and, in some instances, plaintiffs in securities-related lawsuits and arbitration proceedings.
Matters defended by our attorneys include actions brought under Rule 10b-5 and other provisions of state and federal securities laws. Examples include:
- Defended a brokerage firm against the largest class action case filed in Western New York involving the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) claims.
- Defended a financial institution and its affiliates against statutory and common law claims seeking in excess of $40 billion in damages stemming from the fall of Enron Corp., including a federal securities class action and more than two dozen other related cases that were consolidated in the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division for pretrial purposes; five additional cases in the state courts of Texas, California and Iowa; and an adversary proceeding in the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. We also advised the bank on responding to related subpoenas issued by the SEC.
- Defended an international food provider in a federal securities class action stemming from the restatement of its financial statements after the discovery of an accounting fraud at one of its U.S. subsidiaries. Related investigations were conducted by the Department of Justice and the SEC.
- With respect to plaintiffs’ class actions, the firm has prosecuted statewide and national securities class actions, including a claim representing more than 100,000 mortgage holders in a Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) violation claim that resulted in a favorable settlement.
Phillips Lytle is a national leader in environmental law. Our environmental experience dates back to the advent of water pollution legislation in 1970, the enactment of waste management laws of 1976, and the landfill cleanup laws of 1980.
Our rich history of progressive environmental representation has enabled our Environmental Practice to evolve into one of the most sophisticated practices in New York State and the nation. Our clients come from numerous industries and businesses, and many of them are FORTUNE 500 companies. Our experience in this area includes:
- Defended a class action lawsuit brought on by employees of a chemical plant who alleged exposure to a potentially harmful chemical.
- Defended Hooker Chemical Company (now Occidental Chemical Corporation) in personal injury and property damage claims brought on by more than 1,000 residents and former residents of Love Canal and Hyde Park Landfill. Plaintiffs sought, on more than one occasion, to obtain certification of a personal injury class who claimed to have suffered, or to have an increased risk of suffering, personal injuries due to alleged exposure to chemical discharges from both sites. Phillips Lytle successfully resisted multiple motions for class certification. After conducting discovery, developing expert analysis and engaging in motion practice, including obtaining a “Lone Pine” order requiring plaintiffs to produce sufficient proof to establish a prima facie case of exposure and causation, we successfully resolved all claims without proceeding to trial.
- Defended numerous local industrial and commercial companies against personal injury and property damage claims brought about by numerous residents and achieved a resolution before trial. (Hosmer v. Honeywell, et al.)
- Defended personal injury, property damage, and medical monitoring class claims brought by neighbors to a landfill against several companies who were alleged to have disposed of waste at the landfill.
We collaborate with our clients to pursue results that are in their best interest. Accordingly, we work closely with legal departments and senior management to devise strategies that meet business objectives, and employ these strategies based on the unique facts of each case.
We also understand business. We see our clients’ legal issues as either barriers or opportunities to their business goals, and counsel them with those goals in mind. Just one example of this was our ability to ask detailed engineering questions, which led us to work with the client to make design improvements that were welcomed by the marketplace, avoided governmental enforcement proceedings, and headed off inevitable products liability and class action litigation. Our engineering insight and knowledge of the client’s business, as well as the litigation risks, reduced their exposure to further liability.
Winning in court comes largely from experience. Our success comes from knowing the judicial system and understanding how jurors think. Our attorneys develop a commanding knowledge of the facts and work with our clients to use the details of the case to counter plaintiffs’ claims in the courtroom.
Our class action litigation experience includes work with manufacturers, distributors, sellers and vendors in many industries and classifications, including:
- Banking, consumer credit and commercial
- Collections and receivables management (FDCPA)
- ERISA/Employee benefits
- Labor relations and employment
- Land use rights
- Life and disability insurance
- Medical device and pharmaceutical litigation
- Product liability
- Tax refunds
Phillips Lytle is proud to be recognized by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers® with a National First-Tier ranking for its Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions – Defendants practice on the Best Law Firms® 2018 list.
Click here to view Phillips Lytle's profile on the U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers® website.