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.
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
Personal Injury Litigation - Plaintiffs, Product Liability Litigation - Plaintiffs, Best Lawyers, 2012 - 2015
Consumer Attorney of the Year Finalist, Consumer Attorneys of California, 2007, 2010 & 2014
California Litigation Star, Benchmark Plaintiff, 2013 - 2014
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
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
August 21, 2014
17 Lieff Cabraser Attorneys Listed in 2015 Best Lawyers America
August 15, 2014
Abuse and Fraud by Private Correctional Service Contractors Reported