What are some of the department’s most satisfying successes of the past year and why? It’s been a tremendously satisfying year for Dechert. After sustained success in 2018, with high-profile court wins for Pfizer in the Zoloft and Lipitor cases, and for State Farm in a breach of contract matter against Connecticut homeowners, we maintained momentum with a run of notable successes over the ensuing 12 months. In September 2019, as national defense counsel for Purdue Pharma, we spearheaded the first proposed comprehensive global resolution of all state and federal cases against a defendant in the Opioid Litigation. As multiple state attorneys general and hundreds of counties and municipalities brought lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, Purdue was facing 2,800 cases relating to its prescription pain medication, OxyContin. Just weeks ahead of the first trial, the company announced a tentative landmark settlement valued at $10 billion to $12 billion and supported by 24 state AGs, five U.S. territories, and the lead plaintiff’s counsel. Consistent with the proposed settlement, Purdue filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with the intent of ultimately transitioning its assets into a new public trust operating for public benefit. As a result, Purdue was severed from the first MDL trial and the cases against it stayed. The bankruptcy court has since enjoined all opioid-related litigation against Purdue until October 2020. The team also scored important victories for long-time client Pfizer in litigation relating to its top-selling statin, Lipitor. After securing dismissal of the MDL in June 2018, we obtained key judgments in Michigan and Missouri state courts, and, more recently in the Southern District of New York, where a federal judge found all claims barred by federal preemption and by New York’s three-year statute of limitations. We also secured dismissal for Saint-Gobain in litigation relating to the tragic fire at London’s Grenfell Tower in 2017. A number of UK residents and their estates brought an action in Pennsylvania, alleging that Saint-Gobain, and other U.S. companies, manufactured and supplied products that caused or contributed to the fire. SaintGobain secured an order of dismissal in March 2020 due to its lack of involvement in the fire or products at issue.
A prospective client in crisis calls and asks why your team should be retained. What is your answer? Dechert’s 70-lawyer PLMT group has a reputation for developing new defense strategies and for moving the law. Co-leads Mark Cheffo and Sheila Birnbaum are regarded by the bench and bar as national experts who can creatively resolve the most complex cases. What sets Dechert apart is its unusually deep bench of senior litigators who have each built up a deep knowledge of plaintiffs’ playbooks and a network of close relationships with the judges, experts, and other stakeholders who impact outcomes in this space. The team has won many landmark cases in state and federal appellate courts—including in the U.S. Supreme Court—and has a lengthy track record of securing dismissals of entire MDLs before the trial of any case.
What traits do you respect most in opposing firms and lawyers? At Dechert, we believe that we have earned the trust and confidence of courts and the respect of opposing counsel for keeping our word, acting in a professional manner, and remaining courteous even under pressure. We respect all those who behave in a similar manner and count ourselves fortunate in enjoying good working relationships with those who occupy leadership roles for plaintiffs in many product liability cases.
What is the firm doing to ensure that future generations of litigators are ready to take the helm? Dechert’s culture of success is built around leadership and training. Junior lawyers attend regular seminars on procedural and substantive topics, while also participating in outside programs to learn from others in the field. Young attorneys are invited to court proceedings and client meetings at an early stage, and are expected to take depositions and argue motions in court much earlier than elsewhere.
Responses prepared by Hayden Coleman and Rachel Passaretti-Wu, partners at the firm.