Practice/Industry Group Overview
Keller and Heckman's nationally-recognized litigation practice is led by nationally recognized trial counsel. Our lawyers, many of whom also have scientific and technical backgrounds, have worked in private industry, at state and federal agencies, at consulting firms, and in academia. Keller and Heckman's trial attorneys recently secured one of the "Top Defense Verdicts in California." With over 25 Ph.D. and graduate-level scientists and technical specialists resident at the firm, our litigators blend their defense capabilities with our scientific and regulatory expertise, mapping out the most advantageous strategy for our clients, whether focusing on early dismissal, securing a favorable settlement, or aggressively defending the case in court. These multi-disciplinary teams allow our clients to benefit from the depth and breadth of our resources.
We litigate cases across the United States before federal and state courts for domestic and international companies. We represent the interests of clients from a wide range of industries, including food, drugs (prescription, generic, over-the-counter, dietary supplements, and homeopathic); medical devices; cosmetics; consumer products; semiconductors; chemicals; and telecommunications. We defend our clients in class and mass tort actions, as well as in single plaintiff cases, and serve as national trial coordination counsel in a number of other matters. We also represent clients before administrative and industry-sanctioned bodies, and in alternative dispute resolution forums, including arbitrations and mediations.
Some of our specific areas of expertise are outlined below.
Commercial Litigation. Our attorneys represent companies—from multi-national corporations to small businesses—in a full range of commercial litigation. Representative claims include: breach of contract; mergers and acquisitions; trade secrets disputes, including cases involving protection of computer software and confidentiality clause enforcement; intellectual property, including patent infringement, trademark and copyright matters; consumer actions, such as class action and private attorneys general suits; insurance claims; and franchise disputes.
Food Litigation. Our comprehensive and extensive food and drug practice is one of the largest in the world. Keller and Heckman's litigation group is uniquely positioned to represent companies in product liability litigation involving food and drugs through its integrated team of litigators, in-house scientists, regulatory attorneys, and technical specialists. We have successfully defended companies in the food and drug industry against consumer protection class action claims brought under California's unfair trade practices laws. These often allege false or misleading labeling or advertising of foods, cosmetics, over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements, and homeopathic products. We have handled lawsuits alleging that claims involving probiotics, "natural" ingredients, or "clinically-proven" results are misleading. We have also handled cases alleging lack of efficacy, lack of substantiation, and failure to disclose. Representative statutes addressed in consumer class action lawsuits include:
- Unfair competition statutes such as California's Unfair Competition Law (Business & Professions Code § 17200 and similar laws in every state and the District of Columbia based on allegations of unfair competition or false advertising actions. These are patterned after Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.
- Deceptive, false, and misleading advertising laws, such as California's Business & Professions Code § 17500, and similar statutes proscribing advertising that contains false, deceptive, or misleading statements related to the sale of goods. These statutes have been adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia.
- Consumer Legal Remedies Act, California Civil Code § 1750, which establishes a remedy for unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts in the sale of goods to a consumer. CLRA violations commonly alleged against food and drug companies include "representing that goods have characteristics, ingredients, benefits or qualities that they do not have," and "representing that goods are of a particular standard, quality, or grade."
- Breach of express and implied warranties under state and federal laws, including the federal Magnuson-Moss Act.
In our Food Litigation practice we also defend food manufacturers in lawsuits alleging food contamination, defending grocery retailers and wholesalers in consumer-driven disputes, including retail price labeling practices and requirements, and defending clients against claims of non-functional slack-fill alleged to be misleading due to empty space left in a package for other reasons.
Advertising and Unfair Competition. In addition to the above Food Litigation unfair advertising practice, we have prevailed in landmark Lanham Act litigation, the federal false advertising statute. Our litigation experience includes representing clients in competitor and regulatory agency enforcement actions at the federal, state, and local levels.
Products Liability/Personal Injury Defense. We represent manufacturers, distributors, and trade associations in product liability litigation in both state and federal courts. We serve as national Coordination Counsel for a Fortune 100 distributor of brand and generic pharmaceuticals defending bodily injury lawsuits in state and federal courts nationwide involving Reglan/metoclopramide and Pradaxa. We have also represented numerous clients in medical device products liability actions involving devices such as breast implants, hips, knees, mesh, contraceptives, TMJ, and drug delivery devices.
Environmental and Toxic Tort Litigation. Our litigators represent companies and trade associations in a broad range of environmental and toxic tort litigation matters involving environmental exposures and contamination, alleged toxic exposures through consumer products, enforcement actions by federal and state agencies, appellate work, internal company audits and investigations, and insurance counseling and coverage issues. Our clients benefit from our expert technical staff, especially in complex cases where toxicity and other scientific issues are involved.
Administrative Actions. Keller and Heckman represents clients from a wide range of industries before numerous federal regulatory bodies. Our comprehensive experience with matters related to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act (FDCA) includes helping clients with disputes involving product seizures, recalls, claims of bodily injury and property damage, and packaging and labeling issues. Similarly, we serve clients under investigation and in enforcement actions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) involving environmental and chemical regulatory statutes, by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for false advertising claims, by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) arising from workplace safety issues, and by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in registration revocations.
Employment Litigation. Our attorneys represent employers against charges of employment contract breaches, discrimination, improper termination, and workplace injury.
- Successfully represented a semiconductor equipment supplier against allegations of breach of contract, lack of good faith and fair dealing, fraud, and unfair competition. The plaintiff had sought approximately $200 million in damages. The defense verdict was selected as one of the Top Defense Verdicts of 2010 by the San Francisco Daily Journal.
- Successfully defended a California grocery retailer in a state court lawsuit and on appeal. The lawsuit was filed by three Union for Food and Commercial Worker-employed plaintiffs alleging that the retailer violated the Rosenthal Roberti Item Pricing Act.
- Represented a major food manufacturer against another major food manufacturer in a Lanham Act false advertising suit involving express comparative claims.
- Successfully represented a supplier of component parts for a consumer product in breach of contract and breach of warranty claims arising from a nationwide CPSC recall.
- Successfully resolved California Unfair Competition claims (17200) against manufacturers of dietary supplements, foods, cosmetics, and homeopathic medicine products.
- Successfully obtained a pre-judgment attachment in the amount of $45 million in breach of contract action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of a non-U.S. based technology company.
- Counsel for a specialty chemical manufacturer in a $50 million action filed by a municipality alleging that chemicals, including DDT, were disposed of at a former manufacturing plant and contaminated or threatened to contaminate public drinking water supplies.
- National coordination counsel for a trade association defending welding fume bodily injury lawsuits in state and federal courts across the country.
- Defended a major apparel manufacturer in a FTC investigation of alleged labeling violations. The case was closed by the FTC without action.
- Successfully obtained summary judgment in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in a business defamation claim that led to new management obtaining control of a non-U.S. based software company.
- Favorably settled action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleging breach of earnout provision of stock purchase agreement after preliminary injunction hearing.
- Favorably settled purported three state class actions alleging product liability and contract claims in state court.
- Obtained defense verdict in a state superior court action alleging product liability and breach of contract claims.