In recent years, class actions have been widely criticized. While much of this criticism is politically motivated, unfortunately some lawyers have overreached, abusing the class action device, and unscrupulous corporations have tried to restrict the legal rights of deserving victims through inappropriate settlements. Still, class actions remain invaluable, oftentimes offering the only effective means of obtaining justice for large groups who have been injured but whose damages do not justify individual lawsuits.
Our experience in major class actions is longstanding. More than a decade ago, the National Law Journal referred to us as "one of Atlanta’s leading firms in high-profile, class action litigation." Our lawyers routinely serve as lead counsel and as members of court-appointed steering committees in significant cases. As a result of the firm’s expertise, our lawyers are frequently asked to lecture about class actions and publish articles in the field.
Here are some examples of class actions in which firm lawyers have been involved:
- Our firm represented a class of all those in the United States whose homes were covered with hardboard siding prone to rotting and deterioration. A jury determined the siding was defective under the laws of nearly 40 states. On the verge of a second trial to determine damages, the case settled. To date, homeowners have recovered nearly $1 billion to cover replacement costs.
- Several physicians and medical associations retained our firm to sue the country's major HMOs for billing abuses. The cases became part of In re Managed Care Litigation, one of the most complex federal multi-district proceedings in history. After a national class of doctors was certified to pursue RICO fraud claims, settlements were reached providing relief valued at several billion dollars. The American Medical Association told the national media that the first settlement would “raise the bar for the entire health insurance industry on fair and open business practices."
- After a leading manufacturer of agricultural chemicals allegedly violated the antitrust laws by fixing prices, a nationwide class of farmers that we represented sued to recover the amount of the overcharges. Soon after the federal appellate court ruled the farmers had a valid claim, the case settled.
- A small business owner whose group health insurance premiums were dramatically raised asked us for help. Our investigation concluded that the insurer had violated Georgia law and breached the terms of its policies. A class action to recover damages on behalf of all those impacted was settled.
- Our firm served on the executive committee of the Castano Litigation Group, which in 1994 launched a nationwide class action on behalf of the country's smokers against the major cigarette manufacturers. While ultimately a federal appellate court declined to allow the case to proceed as a class action, it paved the way for the historic settlement between industry and the states.
- Employees of a major manufacturer asked us for help after their pension plan was terminated and its assets allegedly were wrongfully distributed. We brought a class action on their behalf under ERISA, the federal law governing pension plans. The case was settled on the verge of trial and the employees received a supplemental distribution.
- We represented families with claims arising from the Tri-State Crematory tragedy. Funeral homes sent the bodies of the families’ loved ones for cremation at Tri-State, which dumped many of the bodies on its property and otherwise mishandled the remains. After a class was certified, the case settled.
- Our firm served as plaintiffs’ co-lead counsel in a federal multi-district proceeding asserting that a large insurer was violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act during its underwriting process. The parties reached a pre-trial settlement that provided relief to a national class of approximately 12 million people.