Product liability litigation regularly involves the highest stakes in cases of extreme complexity. Faced with such franchise-threatening matters, the world’s leading corporations trust Paul, Weiss to lead them to victory. Our superior ability to establish a winning, long-term strategy, our unique skill at breaking down and presenting complicated material, and our vaunted trial prowess make us counsel of choice in many of the most important product liability lawsuits.
Paul, Weiss prevailed in a high-stakes False Claims Act damages lawsuit against our client, JM Eagle, when a judge issued a judgment as a matter of law and dismissed the case.
JM Eagle, one of the world’s largest makers of plastic pipes, was sued by dozens of municipalities and water districts claiming its pipes were defective and that the company had falsely represented that they met industry standards. Paul, Weiss was retained in 2014, after the company, looking to different counsel, was found liable on False Claims Act claims by a jury in the “liability” phase of trial. Plaintiffs’ claims involved thousands of contracts and over $1 billion in lost value.
Our lawyers successfully repositioned the case and obtained rulings that the liability finding applied only to the five exemplar plaintiffs; that the plaintiffs could not seek damages for immediate replacement of all pipe because there was no imminent risk of failure; and that damages could only be awarded based upon the physical properties of the plaintiffs’ pipe. A bellwether jury trial on the exemplars’ $58 million damage claim (supported by a sophisticated engineering model) started trial in the fall of 2018. Paul, Weiss, led by David Bernick and Jaren Janghorbani, challenged all aspects of plaintiffs’ case, including plaintiffs’ understanding of the contract provisions and industry standards that predicated their liability theory. The team presented evidence that there was nothing wrong with the pipe at issue, that hard science showed the pipe would not fail prematurely, and that no damages had occurred. At the conclusion of the trial, the court ruled that the plaintiffs could not claim the construction costs associated with any future pipe failure, and limited recovery to the cost of the pipe, which was, at most, $1.2 to $2.1 million—a tiny fraction of the $58 million (before trebling) that plaintiffs had claimed for just these five plaintiffs.
After five days, the jury deadlocked over all the questions they were asked to decide—including the threshold question of whether there was any deficiency in the physical properties of the plaintiffs’ pipe—and the court declared a mistrial. Subsequently, Paul, Weiss moved for judgment as a matter of law.
In a dramatic ruling rejecting damages entirely, the court granted the motion, holding that the plaintiffs had failed to provide any evidence at trial from which a jury could make a finding of an award of actual losses that would not be “erroneous as a matter of law,” “totally unfounded” or “purely speculative.” The court bolstered this determination with an extensive Daubert analysis, ultimately finding that the testimony of Plaintiffs’ key experts was barred.
The team was led by litigation partners David Bernick and Jaren Janghorbani.