Significant Cases and Verdicts
Litigation against the Tobacco Industry
Castano Tobacco Litigation. The Castano Tobacco Litigation involved a team of 65 law firms from throughout the United States that came together to battle the tobacco industry in 1993. The case of Castano v. American Tobacco Company, et al., in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana was filed as a nationwide class-action on behalf of all addicted smokers. It was originally certified by the District Court, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decertified the class, finding that the laws of the 50 states varied so significantly that a national class action was inappropriate. The day after this Fifth Circuit ruling, the Castano attorneys filed suit against all major cigarette companies in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans. See Scott, et al. v. the American Tobacco Company, et al. Shortly thereafter dozens of other class action were filed by Castano attorneys in other states.
Attorneys from the Leger firm played key roles on the Castano team.
Louisiana Attorney General Litigation. Around the same time, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed suit on behalf of his state against the tobacco industry. Louisiana Attorney General Richard Ieyoub retained outside private counsel, including Russ Herman and Walter Leger. Louisiana was among the first states to file suit, assuming a major leadership role in the national effort.
Davis/Ellis California Litigation. Among the state cases led by members of the Castano group was the Davis/Ellis California Tobacco Litigation, advanced on behalf of the Governor of the State of California, Grey Davis, after the Attorney General had originally declined to file. As the Castano team made progress, the Attorney General finally joined forces.
The Master Settlement Agreement. As a result of the combined forces of the Attorneys General groups and the Castano group, the major tobacco companies and the 45 states that filed suit negotiated a Master Settlement Agreement. The settlement was valued in excess of $246 billion, believed to be the largest litigation settlement in history.
The nationwide settlement provided for a payment of approximately $4.6 billion to the State of Louisiana and approximately $27 billion to the State of California, states represented by Leger & Shaw attorneys were intimately involved in the negotiations and the litigation that led up to those negotiations.
Work performed by the Castano group under the leadership of Leger lawyers, among others, involved the discovery of literally millions of pages of documents, including documents from previous litigation against the tobacco industry.
Involvement of Leger & Shaw. Leger Firm members staffed the Administrative Committee, the Discovery Committee, the Law Committee, the Science Committee, and Leger was in charge of document discovery and what was called the "document boot camp." Leger’s team of dozens of lawyers and paralegals received and reviewed tens of thousands of documents comprising millions of pages, and, objectively coded, subjectively coded, and organized them for the purposes of trial. This all took place before extensive computer programming and digital organization became useful. In fact, this group developed programs which are being used today. Leger was also a member of what was referred to as the "Addiction Team," a small task force of attorneys who developed and located the first litigation experts on tobacco addiction and researched the peer reviewed scientific literature on the subject. Eventually, the team was the first to take and defend depositions of experts on the science of addiction, much of which would be used in later litigation and will be applicable to the opioid litigation.
The Scott Case. The day immediately following the decertification of the nationwide Castano class action, members of the Castano group, including Leger, filed the Scott class action in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans. Scott was a class action filed on behalf of all Louisiana smokers seeking medical monitoring and/or medical assistance for the cessation of addictive smoking. Walter Leger was a Trial Team captain, and chaired the Expert Committee. The jury trial (believed to be the longest jury trial in Louisiana history) lasted three years from the time of jury selection to the final verdict of approximately $600 million. The tobacco companies unsuccessfully appealed the case through the state court system and sought certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, which was denied. Ultimately, the hundreds of millions of dollars of proceeds from this verdict funded the Louisiana Smoking Cessation Trust, administered in New Orleans.
BP/DEEPWATER HORIZON Oil Spill Litigation
. . . one of the largest, most complicated cases in the history of the United States judicial system. As the largest oil spill in the history of this country, the BP Oil Spill impacted the entire Gulf Coast and beyond. Hundreds of thousands of lawsuits were filed, and hundreds of thousands of settlement claims were resolved through a one-of-a-kind settlement program which, again, proved to be one of the most successful in judicial history. To date, BP has paid or issued eligibility notices of more than $13 billion to individuals and businesses.
As co-lead counsel, Mr. Herman serves as Liaison Counsel, on the Executive Committee, and the Plaintiff Steering Committee. As a member of the Trial Team, Mr. Leger litigated and tried the Phase 1 liability trial.
Leger firm attorneys assisted other Common Benefit Attorneys in preparing for depositions, accumulating exhibits, and making witness outlines and exhibit binders, for both the Phase One and Phase Two Trials; assisted in the preparation and organization of deposition summaries and two-page summaries of all depositions; read and summarized almost seventy-five expert reports; were responsible for tracking of all of the trial exhibits, data entry into database; bates numbering, cleaning and redacting; and assisting in logging all admitted information regarding when every exhibit was used and by whom.
Leger attorneys worked on multiple “Evidence Outlines” compiling, organizing, and indexing evidence against the three major defendants for use in the Phase One and Phase Two Trials as well as marshalling these exhibits from more than 70 million pages of documents. These materials were revised in contemplation of a “Trial Package,” which several attorneys had inquired about for eventual potential use in unresolved (and potentially un-tried) cases, as well as an eye toward potential relevance in the Oil Pollution Act (“OPA”) Test Cases.
Not only have Herman and co-lead counsel managed the largest, most complicated litigation in United States history to unqualified success, but Leger & Shaw has done so in record time. The BP Oil Spill litigation has been substantially completed within approximately seven and half years. While the settlement program is in its final stages, the remaining litigation is a mere fraction of the hundreds of thousands of lawsuits that were filed and pending through 2012.
Leger was Special Counsel to the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee and was a member of the Phase I and Phase II Trial Team. The trial took over 300 depositions, of which Leger attorneys participated in dozens. Leger firm lawyers were heavily involved in document review, document discovery, liability and expert depositions, and retaining and development of technical experts. Leger was involved in drafting and development the 125 page Master Complaint filed on behalf of all local governments. Leger was called upon to coordinate local government strategy and communications.
Leger chaired and headed the Louisiana Coastal Parish Local Government Coalition. The Leger Firm was involved in the representation of most of the local governments severely affected by the spill. This group was made up of dozens of local governments, including parishes, cities, municipalities, school boards, sheriffs, and numerous local recreation districts, fire districts, water districts, levee districts, flood authorities, and other Louisiana political subdivisions.
In connection with this local government leadership, after the liability trial, the Court asked Leger to negotiate a settlement plan on behalf of all of the local governments. There were hundreds from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Under his leadership early in the case, most local governments joined in the use of similar damage models and shared economic experts. As a result, a favorable settlement was negotiated on behalf of the local governments totaling nearly $400 million, payable immediately. Orleans Parish and related entities’ recovery exceeded $80 million. Additional local government settlements were entered into and negotiated for other city, parish and metropolitan New Orleans local governments exceeding $150,000 million.
In all, members of the Proposing Herman, Leger, and Fayard law firms were involved in $13 billion in settlement payments and 420,000 claims processed with eligibility notices handed out to nearly 175,000 claimants. Nearly $400 million of payments were negotiated on behalf of local governments across the coast.
Other Significant Cases Involving Complex Litigation, Commercial Litigation, or Pharmaceutical Litigation
Attorneys with the Leger firm have held leadership roles in many of the most successful national mass tort and class action cases throughout the United States, including but not limited to the BP Oil Spill and Big Tobacco litigations. In association with these and other litigations, Leger & Shaw has been at the cutting edge of e-discovery, document management, and claims preparation. Attorneys with the Leger firm were appointed by the Federal Judge to serve as co-lead counsel for plaintiffs in the M/V BRIGHT FIELD Litigation, in which numerous local businesses and governmental entities suffered property damage and loss of income when a Chinese vessel slammed into the New Orleans Riverwalk and associated properties. As evidenced by this leadership, Leger & Shaw is more than capable of providing the manpower necessary, including consistent, timely responses to the needs of [POLITICAL SUBDIVISION]. One or more attorneys capable of providing legal advice and/or attending necessary functions/committee meetings will always be available to the client.
The following is a sample of just some of the significant cases in which these firms have been involved:
- In re: BRIGHTFIELD, No. 96-4099 (E.D. La.), the Leger firm served as co-lead counsel for Plaintiffs in a consolidated complex litigation including personal injury, property damage, and business losses resulting from the allision of the M/V BRIGHT FIELD with the Riverwalk Shopping Center in New Orleans. Over $150 million was recovered.
- Dumas v. Angus Chemical Company, No. 92-1707, Fourth Judicial District Court, Parish of Ouachita, State of Louisiana, Leger firm members served as class counsel attorneys in a massive explosion at a nitromethane plant in Sterlington, Louisiana that resulted in a recovery of over $85,000,000.
- In Re: Silicone Gel Breast Implant Product Liability Litigation, MDL-926 (N.D. Ala.), Leger attorneys played lead roles in this nationwide mass joinder and class-action, as leaders in the Discovery Committee, Science Committee, Expert Development Committee, as State Liaison Counsel, and in connection with settlements. Efforts resulted in a nationwide settlement of $14 billion.
- Spitzfadden v. Dow Corning, et al., No 92-2589, C.D.C, Parish of Orleans—Louisiana Breast Implant Class-Action, Leger served as class counsel. Leger was Bristol-Myers Trial Team Captain, Discovery Committee chairman, and litigation coordinator in this class action against medical product manufacturers on behalf of 5,000 Louisiana plaintiffs in settlement negotiated for $150 million.
- In Re: Panacryl Sutures, MDL-1959, (U.S.D.C., M.D.N.C.), Leger attorneys served on the plaintiffs steering committee, discovery committee, deposition committee, science committee, settlement committee, and trial team in this consolidated multidistrict litigation matter that involved defective surgical products.