The Mass Tort and Class Actions Group has decades of experience in litigating a variety of complex mass tort and class action matters. We have been active on a national scale, serving as counsel for many diverse entities. We coordinate discovery, develop overall litigation and settlement strategy, and coordinate the activities of local counsel around the country. Additionally, we perform internal investigations of facts, document review, employee and ex-employee interviews and site/product histories, as well as developing and managing document libraries with comprehensive litigation support, targeting favorable laws, providing regulatory advice, and developing experts.
Our mass tort practice includes the defense of claims for exposures to asbestos-containing products, silica, benzene, chromated copper arsenate, NORM, mold, mercury, lead, phenylpropanolamine, organic solvents, polyvinyl chloride, as well as a variety of other agents. Our clients include manufacturers, oil and energy related entities, railroads, premise owners, executive officers and distributors. We have extensive experience in state and federal courts litigating cases under state law, general maritime law, Jones Act, FELA and CERCLA.
Our experience in asbestos litigation is particularly extensive. Since the inception of the litigation in Louisiana, we have been at the forefront of the defense effort. We have defended a wide range of asbestos-containing products including insulation, refractory, gaskets, packing, brake and other friction materials, as well as premise owners and executive officers. We have been lead counsel in thousands of lawsuits and tried numerous cases to verdict in Louisiana and in other states, successfully obtaining defense verdicts in pleural, asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma claims. As a result, we have participated in most Louisiana appeals of significance relating to asbestos and other occupational exposures.
Over the years, we have acquired an extensive expert and fact deposition and trial testimony bank. We also have a large library of a variety of literature involving occupational diseases. We maintain product information which encompasses numerous manufacturers and distributors and every major and most minor sites in Louisiana. We also have a library of case law, motions, memoranda, and other pleadings concerning recurrent issues which permits us to present a cost-effective, vigorous defense.
Through our vast experience, we can provide significant cost savings to clients as we have no learning curve in developing defense strategies and we are able to access data bases, medical materials, medical experts, toxicology experts, and industrial hygiene experts. Additionally, due to the representation of numerous clients, we have developed a cost effective strategy with the use of joint representation agreements.
The firm has extensive experience in defending corporate clients in class action litigation. We have acted as counsel in numerous class action cases in federal and state courts throughout the country. We are equally adept at opposing class certification to the highest court of appeal and settling class actions to minimize exposure when circumstances warrant. Because the class certification decision generally occurs early on in the case, it is imperative for a class action defendant to gain a competitive advantage over the opponent early on. It is our philosophy to immediately minimize the risks presented by a class action filing by removing to federal court, filing dispositive motions, and/or striking class action allegations. In all cases, we develop a plan of action with the client, and then work to implement the plan of action in all out effort to serve the client‘s best interests.
We have particular expertise in functioning as national coordinating counsel in situations involving duplicative or “copycat“ class action filings in multiple jurisdictions. Our experience with repetitive class action filings and other large class actions has allowed us to acquire and gain technical expertise in case-management technology. We regularly employ top of the line database technology to our class action cases to compile evidence on class members, manage class discovery and pleadings, and minimize administrative expense to the client. The database technology we use is compatible with that used by most clients to maintain records and other law firms that represent co-defendants in class actions cases so that work and case organization is streamlined. We employ several legal assistants with extensive experience in relevant database technology.
Our class action experience includes the following:
Employment and Labor Class Actions
Consumer Class Actions
Products Liability Class Actions
Environmental Contamination Class Actions
Mass Tort Class Actions and Others.
The class action practice area is comprised of an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who have expertise in class action procedure and the substantive areas of law presented by the cases.
RECENT REPRESENTATIVE CASES
BP Oil Spill Litigation
This mass-tort litigation arises out of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Frilot is one of the law firms representing one of the major companies involved in the case.
Chinese Drywall Litigation
This litigation involves thousands of property owners who repaired their homes following Hurricane Katrina using Chinese drywall. In early 2009, Frilot L.L.C. was retained to represent the German manufacturers of the drywall involved in this litigation. In addition, Frilot's Mass Tort & Class Actions Leader, Kerry Miller, was appointed Defense Liaison Counsel by Judge Eldon E. Fallon. As Defense Liaison Counsel, Mr. Miller is responsible for carrying out the administrative functions of the defense, and for the coordination of the defendant groups, including brokers, drywall suppliers, distributors, and manufacturers.
Castellanos-Contreras v. Decatur Hotels, LLC, 559 F.3d 332 (5th Cir. 2009)
In a matter of first impression, the Fifth Circuit sitting en banc found that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) did not require New Orleans hotelier Decatur Hotels to reimburse H-2B workers for their inbound travel, visa and recruitment expenses (Castellanos-Contreras v. Decatur Hotels, No. 07-30942). In reaching this decision, the Court declined to give retroactive effect to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)’s 2009 interpretive bulletin which would have required these reimbursements. Leslie Ehret led the Frilot team which included Joe Mole and Suzanne Risey in the successful defense of Decatur Hotels in this case.
Frilot L.L.C. has carved a niche practice in representing defendants in MDL, mass tort/class action, and complex litigation proceedings and have been involved in leadership roles in several major cases in Louisiana and nationally in recent years. The proceedings set forth below are illustrative of Frilot's experience and expertise in class action/mass tort and complex litigation matters:
Ancar v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc., et al., 2008 WL 2951794 (E.D. La. 2008)
Denial of class certification based upon varying degrees of possible injuries to approximately 6,600 plaintiffs during fire at Murphy refinery in 2003;
FEMA Trailer Formaldehyde Products Liability Litigation (MDL #1873), 07-1873 (E.D. La. 2007)
Mass tort MDL in which plaintiffs claim that trailers supplied by FEMA following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita emitted dangerous levels of formaldehyde. Frilot is defending one of the largest Individual Assistance/Technical Assistance Contractors);
Murphy Oil Corporation Katrina-related environmental class actions
Turner v. Murphy Oil U.S.A. Inc., 234 F.R.D. 597 (E.D.La 2006)
Shortly after Hurricane Katrina devastated southeast Louisiana, an oil tank on Murphy Oil USA, Inc.’s (“Murphy”) refinery property released approximately 25,000 barrels of oil. Twenty-eight class action suits were filed against Murphy shortly after the spill. After these class actions were consolidated, the lawyers representing the plaintiff class billed the case as the largest environmental case since the Exxon Valdez spill (a case with a total exposure of over $6 billion). Frilot oversaw a voluntary settlement program on Murphy’s behalf which ultimately became a class action settlement. Through this program, Murphy settled with over 2700 property owners, dramatically decreasing the potential cost of litigation. Claims offices were established in Metairie, Mandeville, Baton Rouge and Houston less than 2 months after Katrina struck, and more than 20 firm employees worked at these offices resolving claims, making findings, capturing findings in a database and reported these findings.
Abadie, et al v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, et al
The firm’s Mass Tort Group successfully tried and appealed the cumulated claims of 129 plaintiffs claiming asbestos related personal injuries. This was the largest group of asbestos personal injury plaintiffs ever to proceed to verdict in the State of Louisiana.
In re: Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, case no. 05-4182 (E.D. La. 2005)
In this mass tort litigation, the firm represents individuals and entities for damages due to the failure of the New Orleans levee system during Hurricane Katrina.
In re: Leblanc, case no. 05-1664 (E.D. La. 2005) (Class action cases in which plaintiffs alleged exposure to toxic fumes released from a transportation facility. Cases were dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(c) motion);
In re: Kirby Inland Marine, L.P., case no. 04-611 (M.D. La. 2004)
The firm represented the defendant in a series of class actions claims related to benzene exposure. The firm won several motions limiting the size of the class, and cases were ultimately settled on terms favorable to the client.
Marianne S. James, et al v. John N. Kent, DDS, et al., case no. 03-0504 (La. 4/25/03)
Frilot L.L.C. successfully defended the State of Louisiana, LSU Dental School, in litigation involving TMJ implants. This complex medical device litigation has involved both defense of a national class action and over 650 individual cases. This lawsuit, filed as a national class action, in which plaintiffs accused LSU of hiding the results of earlier studies of the Teflon-coated jaw implant that ruined their health, was dismissed by an Orleans Parish Judge.
Lizana, et al. v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours Corp., et al., case no. 02-376 (Miss. 2002)
This mass tort case involved thousands of claims of alleged exposure to PCBs and dioxins. The firm represented Waste Management.
Riley, et al v. Norfolk Southern, et al., case no. 02-8256 (C.D.C. La. 2002)
Judge Giarusso denied class certification in a case involving the release of chlorine gas from a Vulcan Materials Co. tank car. These cases were brought in 2002 by a group of well known and very aggressive plaintiffs’lawyers who signed up thousands of individuals to make claims. The court agreed with the arguments and evidence made by the firm’s attorneys and found that the area of potential exposure was only one to two blocks rather than several miles as argued by the plaintiffs’ lawyers and their experts.
Ardoin, et al. v. Stine Lumber Co., et al., case no. 01-2610 (W.D. La. 2001)
Class action alleging that copper chromated arsenic (CCA) from treated lumber leached into the surrounding soil and environment. Class certification was denied by the court because commonality, typicality and adequacy of representations requirements were not met. The firm represented the largest manufacturer of lumber treated with CCA.
Benoit ex rel. Hebert v. Nintendo of America, Inc. , case no. 01-674 (W.D. La. 2001)
Class actions alleging that defendant’s video games caused seizures. The case was dismissed with payments made to no one except minimal trust funds monies to two children.
In re: Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) Products Liability Litigation (MDL #1407), 01-1407 (W.D. Wash. 2001)
MDL case in which plaintiffs alleged PPA contained within the diet drug Dexatrim caused strokes. Frilot represented one of the diet drug manufacturers.
Byone v. Monsanto, case no. 01-30058 (W.D. La. 2001)
This was the first class action filed involving transgenic properties in soybeans. Class certification was denied. Subsequently won summary judgment dismissing the individual claims for fraudulent and tortious misrepresentation. Result upheld on appeal. Attorney Kerry Miller was was interviewed by New York Times following class action denial.
In re Harvey Term, case no. 01-8708 (La. 2001)
Trial court, denied class certification for approximately 500 plaintiffs who were allegedly exposed to NORM released into the environment due to pipe cleaning operations. The firm represented Chevron.
Paul Heilman, et al v. Perfection., case no. 99-0679 (W.D. Mo. 2000)
As national counsel for the top five manufacturers of water heaters, comprising almost 100% of that industry, the firm successfully settled one of the largest class action settlements ever on behalf of the U.S. water heater industry. The water heater companies were named in approximately 23 separate state and federal class action lawsuits throughout the country involving a defective component part provided by a third party supplier to the industry. As counsel for the water heater industry, Frilot successfully consolidated and settled these claims in a national class action suit involving more than 14,000,000 class members.
Ford v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc., et al., 703 So.2d 542 (La. 1997)
The firm was lead counsel in this case and successfully defeated class claims brought against petroleum refineries. In doing so, Frilot lawyers persuaded the Louisiana Supreme Court to adopt federal class action precepts for Louisiana state class actions.
This Group has also tried and appealed numerous other cumulated actions, involving plaintiffs seeking recovery for both malignant and non-malignant asbestos related diseases. In each instance, Frilot L.L.C. was at the forefront of the litigation. See, for example, In Re Asbestos, et al, 726 So.2d 926 (La. 4th Cir. 1988). We defended a major manufacturer in Louisiana’s seminal medical monitoring class action: Bourgeois v. A.P. Green Industries, Inc., et al, 716 So.2d 355 (La. 1998) and Bourgeois, et al v. A.P. Green Industries, Inc., et al, 783 So.2d 1251 (La. 2001).
High Risk Mesothelioma Claims
The firm has obtained excellent results, including defense verdicts, dismissals by way of motions for summary judgment, and reversals on appeal, of numerous high risk mesothelioma claims. See, for example, Charles Coates, et al v. Owens-Corning, et al, CA 90-1448 (U.S.D.C., E.D La. 1990), Held v. Avondale Industries, Inc., 96-CA-0546 (La. App. 4th Cir. 1997), John N. Vail, et al c/w George Killingsworth, et al v. Owens-Corning, 98-CA-1383 c/w 98-CA-1384 (La. App. 1st Cir. 2000), June Swindler, et al v. Owens-Corning, et al, CA-96-10482, Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana, Samuel Heron, Jr., et al v. Asbestos Corporation Limited, et al, Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, 2002-10182.
Commitment to Diversity
Frilot L.L.C. is committed to fostering a working environment that promotes diversity. The firm believes that diversity of experience, diversity in clients and diversity in the courtroom makes us a more powerful legal resource. We recruit, retain and advance qualified individuals of all backgrounds and cultural influences. This diversity makes for a richer environment which promotes creative thinking and innovative client solutions.
While we are encouraged by what we have accomplished in our pursuit of diversity, the firm strives to strengthen and advance our commitment to attract and retain women and minorities. Recognizing that recruitment is only one facet of our overall commitment to diversity, we are also focused in our efforts to develop and sustain a work environment that empowers all people, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or background, to perform to the best of their abilities.
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