Robert J. Nelson: Lawyer with Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP

Robert J. Nelson

Robert has played a leading role in the firm’s tobacco, aviation, motor vehicle, defective products and qui tam (whistleblower) litigation over the past 16 years, taking on many of the world’s largest corporations and holding them accountable.

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Experience & Credentials

Practice Areas

  • False Claims Act
  • Personal Injury and Mass Torts
  • Aviation Accidents
  • Defective Products
  • Environmental Litigation
University London School of Economics, General Course, Graded First, 1980-1981; Cornell University, A.B., cum laude, 1982 Honors: College Scholar Honors Program; Honors: Order of the Coif; Honors: Root-Tilden Scholarship Program
Law SchoolNew York University School of Law, J.D., cum laude, 1987; Law Review: New York University Law Review, Articles Editor
Admitted1987, California; 2001, New York; 1999, District of Columbia; 1998, U.S. Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit; 1995, U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit; 1988, U.S. District Court, Central District of California; 2006, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California; 1988, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California; U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York; U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York; U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio; U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio; U.S. District Court, Middle District of Tennessee

Professional Associations and Memberships

•American Association for Justice
•American Bar Association
•American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California
•Bar Association of San Francisco
•Bar of the District of Columbia
•Consumer Attorneys of California
•Fight for Justice Campaign
•Human Rights Watch California Committee North
•New York State Bar Association
•RE-volv, Board Member
•San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association
•State Bar of California


Holding Corporations Accountable

Robert J. Nelson has played a leading role in the firm's False Claims Act (whistleblower law), automotive, aviation, defective products, mass torts, tobacco, and consumer fraud cases, taking on many of the world's largest corporations and holding them accountable. He has served as court-appointed Lead or Co-Lead Counsel in numerous state and federal coordinated proceedings, as well as in more than 30 class actions.

Robert was lead trial counsel in a wrongful death action involving a defect in Chrysler vehicles that resulted in a punitive damage verdict of $50 million against the company. For his work on the case, Robert received the prestigious California Lawyer Attorney of the Year (CLAY) award. The victory against Chrysler was one of the year's largest personal injury verdicts, ” California Lawyer noted, and “was the first park-to-reverse case against Chrysler in 25 years to make it to trial.”

Robert chairs Lieff Cabraser's False Claims Act practice group and has spearheaded whistleblower suits that have resulted in settlements totaling over $180 million and changed industry practices. In 2013, Robert served as lead trial counsel in litigation against Sutter Health, one of California's largest healthcare providers, for false billing of anesthesia services. The case settled for $46 million, a record amount under the Insurance Frauds Prevention Act.

In 2010, Robert accomplished the extremely rare feat of receiving a second CLAY award. He was recognized for his work as lead trial counsel in obtaining a $78.5 million whistleblower settlement against the University of Phoenix. The settlement is believed to be among the largest ever achieved under the False Claims Act in a case in which the U.S. Department of Justice did not intervene.

In the 1990s, Robert played a lead role in the lawsuits against tobacco companies brought by public agencies and states, which resulted in a settlement valued at more than $200 billion, the largest legal settlement ever. He also served as a lead counsel in six class actions that netted more than $80 million for homeowners who had defective ABS plumbing pipe installed in their homes.

Much of Robert's current caseload involves working closely with government officials throughout the country, investigating cases in which federal and state governments are being defrauded. These cases often involve Medicare and Medicaid fraud, but the investigations extend into literally all areas in which the government plays a role. Robert currently has whistleblower cases filed under seal in the Northern District of California, the Central District of California, the Eastern District of California, the Middle District of Tennessee, and the Southern District of New York.

Robert is a frequent lecturer on class action practice, as well as subject areas such as product liability and whistleblower cases. Before joining Lieff Cabraser in 1994, Robert was an Assistant Federal Public Defender for the Northern District of California for five years, where he tried numerous cases. Prior to that and immediately following law school, Robert served as a judicial clerk for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Published Works

•False Claims Roundtable, California Lawyer, June 2010, June 2011, April 2012, January 2013, August 2014
•Product Liability Roundtable, California Lawyer, December 2007, July 2009, June 2010
•Co-Author, Class Action Treatment of Punitive Damages Issues after Philip Morris v. Williams: We Can Get There From Here, 2 Charleston Law Review 2, 2008
•Contributing Author, California Class Actions Practice and Procedures (Elizabeth J. Cabraser editor in chief, 2003)
•“The Importance of Privilege Logs, The Practical Litigator, ALI-ABA Publication, Vol. II, No. 2, March 2000
•“To Infer or Not to Infer a Discriminatory Purpose: Rethinking Equal Protection Doctrine, ” 61 New York University Law Review 334, 1986

Honors and Awards

•Selected for inclusion by peers in The Best Lawyers in America in fields of Personal Injury Litigation - Plaintiffs and Product Liability Litigation - Plaintiffs, 2012 - 2016
• California Litigation Star, Benchmark Litigation, 2013 - 2015
• Consumer Attorney of the Year Finalist, Consumer Attorneys of California, 2007, 2010 & 2014-2015
• Super Lawyer for Northern California, Super Lawyers, 2004 - 2014
•Legal 500 recommended lawyer, 2013 - Present
• Lawdragon Finalist, Lawdragon, 2009 - 2011
• California Lawyer Attorney of the Year (CLAY) Award, California Lawyer, 2008 & 2010
• San Francisco Trial Lawyer of the Year Finalist, San Francisco Trial Lawyers' Association, 2007

Past Employment Positions

•Judge Stephen Reinhardt, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Law Clerk, 1987 - 1988
•Northern District of California, Assistant Federal Public Defender, 1988 - 1993
•University of California-Hastings College of the Law, Legal Research and Writing Instructor (Part-time position), 1989 - 1991

In the News

•August 26, 2015
Lieff Cabraser Attorneys Recognized as Consumer Attorney of the Year Finalists
•April 6, 2015
Lieff Cabraser Achieves Two of Nation's Largest 2014 Jury Verdicts
•February 27, 2015
$68 Million Settlement Approved in Office Depot False Claims Act Suit
•January 23, 2015
Law360 Recognizes Lieff Cabraser with its Product Liability Group of Year Award
•September 25, 2014
Why California Proposition 46 Will Save Patient Lives and Cut Health Care Costs

Reported CasesCurrent Cases; Sutter Anesthesia Billing; State Street False Claims
Profile Visibility
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Office Information

Robert J. Nelson

275 Battery Street, 29th Floor
San FranciscoCA 94111-3339


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