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In The News

Phillips Lytle Earns Prestigious National First-Tier Ranking for Its Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions – Defendants Practice  More

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Press Releases

Phillips Lytle Among Highest Ranked Law Firms in Buffalo with Seven Top Listed Practice Areas in The Best Lawyers In America© 2018  More

Sixty Eight Phillips Lytle LLP Attorneys Named to the 2017 Upstate New York Super Lawyers® List  More

Phillips Lytle LLP Listed Among 2017 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms”  More

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Speaking Engagements

“Class Action Settlements: Hot Topics in 2016 and Beyond,” The Knowledge Group Webcast, October 2016  More

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“GUEST COLUMN: Class actions on rise in WNY,” Buffalo Law Journal, October 2014  More

“Recent U.S. Supreme Court Decisions Favor Express Class Arbitration Waivers,” Phillips Lytle Class Action Client Update, August 2013  More

“U.S. Supreme Court Raises Standards For Class Certification,” Phillips Lytle Class Action Client Update, May 2013  More

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Class Action

Phillips Lytle has represented clients in dozens of class actions in multi-district, statewide and national litigation. In defending against class actions, we are known for opposing class certification, obtaining decertification and achieving early dismissal, where possible. We team with legal departments and senior management to implement strategies that complement our clients’ business objectives.

Our clients include corporations, financial institutions and consumers, whom we represent in the prosecution and defense of claims relating to securities, environmental, employment, tax, products liability, consumer finance, and other areas of law. Our success in class action litigation is due in part to our tradition of learning the client's business well enough to devise legal strategies that fit the company's business objectives.

Defeating the Class Action

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 possible impact of class action litigation right from the start.

Prevention and Early Dismissal

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 of the case early on and by devising strategies leading to dismissal, or forcing 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 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

Products Liability/Mass Tort Class Actions

Phillips Lytle’s expertise in products liability, chemical exposure and toxic tort litigation has contributed to our selection as national, regional and statewide counsel in lawsuits involving numerous plaintiffs. Examples include:

  • Defending a class action suit brought by over 40,000 members that arose from compliance actions by governmental agencies
  • Defending a client against efforts to certify a series of class actions brought in Michigan State Court
  • Representing clients sued in alleged asbestos disease cases including multi-district litigation
  • Defending a major automotive manufacturer in multi-district litigation involving truck wheels
  • Defending major manufacturers of industrial chemicals in a medical monitoring class action

Business and Commercial Class Actions

Our attorneys have represented financial institutions and numerous other businesses in a wide range of class actions. Examples include:

  • Defending a global financial institution in obtaining a defense verdict at trial on claims brought by a class of a borrower's former employees seeking unpaid wages and benefits
  • Defending a client in a class action pertaining to oil and gas royalties
  • Defending 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. An appeal is pending.
  • Defending global financial institutions in mortgage and brokerage account termination charges
  • Defending business clients in employee and retiree benefits class actions
  • As an example of a case where we represented claimants, we obtained a favorable result on the merits in a tax challenge action, after class certification, in City of Buffalo v. Wysocki, 112 Misc. 2d 543 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Erie County 1982), aff’d, 110 A.D.2d 1052 (4th Dep’t 1985)
  • Obtained summary judgment dismissing a purported class action brought under the FDCPA and New York’s General Business Law against a financial institution and its law firm
  • Defending a Japanese pharmaceutical company in the “vitamins” litigation, which at the time was one of the largest price fixing cases ever brought. 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.
  • Representing a financial institution in the massive multi-district litigation stemming from the unsuccessful 2007 leveraged buy-out of the Tribune Company.

Labor & Employment Collective and Class Actions

Phillips Lytle’s Labor and Employment attorneys handle a wide range of federal and state wage and hour matters, including advice and counseling on compliance issues, and 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 Labor Law. Examples include:

  • Representing a large financial institution in an FLSA federal collective action/state class action for off-the-clock claims
  • Representing a client in a federal collective action/state class action for an improper classification claim
  • Representing an independent agency of the federal government as receiver of a defunct financial institution in a collective and class action alleging employees were improperly classified as overtime exempt employees

Securities Class Actions

Phillips Lytle is well poised to handle the complex, and often volatile, matters surrounding securities class action cases through our 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 the federal and state securities laws. Examples include:

  • Defending a brokerage firm against the largest class action case filed in Western New York involving NASD and SEC claims
  • With respect to plaintiffs’ class actions, the firm has prosecuted statewide and national securities class actions, including a claim representing over 100,000 mortgage holders in a RESPA violation claim that resulted in a favorable settlement
  • Defending a financial institution and its affiliates against statutory and common law claims seeking in excess $40 billion in damages stemming from the fall of Enron Corp., including a federal securities class action and over 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 as well as advising the bank in connection with responding to related subpoenas issued by the SEC.
  • Defending 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. There also were related investigations by the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission.

Environmental Class Actions

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 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 the state and the nation. Our clients are from numerous industries and businesses, and many of them are FORTUNE 500 companies. Examples include:

  • Defending a class action lawsuit brought on by employees of a chemical plant who alleged exposure to a potentially harmful chemical
  • Phillips Lytle defended Occidental 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 from 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, Phillips Lytle successfully resolved all claims without proceeding to trial.
  • Personal injury and property damage claims brought about by numerous residents against a number of local industrial and commercial defendants who succeeded in defending the claims and achieved a resolution before trial (Hosmer v. Honeywell, et al.)

The firm collaborates with its clients to pursue results that are in the best interests of the client. Accordingly, we work closely with legal departments and senior management to devise strategies that meet business objectives. We 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.

Courtroom Experience

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 experience includes working with manufacturers, distributors, sellers and vendors in many industries and classifications:

  • Agriculture
  • Antitrust
  • Asbestos
  • Banking, consumer credit and commercial
  • Collections and receivables management (FDCPA)
  • Energy
  • Environmental
  • ERISA/Employee benefits
  • Labor relations and employment
  • Land use rights
  • Life and disability insurance
  • Medical device and pharmaceutical litigation
  • Products liability
  • Securities
  • Tax refunds
  • Transportation 

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® 2017 list.

Click here to view Phillips Lytle's profile on the U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers® website.

Kenneth A. Manning

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