The class action device used by the plaintiffs’ bar has become a recurring threat to corporate America. Nowhere is this more evident than in the consumer law area. During the past decade, plaintiffs’ firms have become better organized and financed. Some of the largest and most successful plaintiffs’ firms in the country have begun focusing on consumer class action.
Deeper pockets mean plaintiffs can hire better experts or simply outlast their corporate opponents. What was always a high-stakes game has now turned into a formidable challenge.
King & Spalding has one of the largest and most experienced consumer class action defense teams in the United States. We have earned a reputation for capably and repeatedly defeating class certification. When the dispute moves beyond this stage, clients rely on us to manage to satisfactory conclusion nationwide and multi-jurisdictional class actions—whether in court or through the settlement process. The sheer volume of class actions the firm has favorably handled gives us a well-stocked arsenal of knowledge on plaintiffs’ strategies. King & Spalding litigators have successfully handled literally hundreds of high-stake class actions in both federal and state courts all over America. We are particularly at home in the courts where the national class action plaintiffs’ bar have begun to focus their suits: California, New York, Florida, Illinois, Texas and West Virginia.
Defeat of Class Certification
From the outset, our clients’ goal is to defeat class certification. We begin by ensuring that the forum is as favorable to the defendant as possible through removal to federal court or, if that is not possible, through motions to transfer. Next, we seek early dismissal of the class petition. When dismissal is not an option, we utilize a number of tactics to defeat class certification, including employing an aggressive approach to discovery. We often aim to limit or bifurcate discovery, postponing expensive merits discovery until after the certification phase. The firm has also developed excellent working relationships with experts, such as statisticians, economists and law professors, who can be invaluable in defeating class certification.
Creative Resolution Strategies
Recognizing that the defense of class actions will be costly and time-intensive for our clients, we work with clients to candidly evaluate whether a global resolution of the dispute before trial would be in the client’s best interest. Our extensive experience allows us to counsel clients on creative settlement strategies that will allow them to eliminate a class of problems for the least amount of money. Such strategies include injunctive relief for future practices, creative forms of value to the class, and possible modifications in business practice. We guide clients on how and when to propose and implement these strategies.
For example, we defended The Coca-Cola Company in a consumer class action that alleged mislabeling regarding the percentage of Vitamin C contained in the company’s orange drink product and sought economic damages. The case was settled through a creative use of coupons for members of the class and some preventive measures on behalf of the company. In another nationwide settlement for an insurance company, we created a remedy that included discounts off future premiums and injunctive relief. The only cash payment was court-approved lawyers’ fees.
Class Action Litigation
When negotiation and advocacy cannot resolve a dispute, however, the firm’s seasoned trial lawyers aggressively defend our clients in court. We plan our defense strategy in tandem with our clients. In recent years, King & Spalding lawyers have taken class action lawsuits all the way through trial, judgment and appeals. One case involving a dispute between The Coca-Cola Company and its bottlers lasted for thirteen years and resulted in a zero recovery for the plaintiffs. While, of course, not all cases end this successfully, plaintiffs know that King & Spalding lawyers are willing and able to go the distance—a fact they must consider when evaluating the value of their cases.
Because we have successfully opposed all of the leading plaintiffs’ firms either in or out-of-court, we are well-acquainted with their tactics. We also routinely, and successfully, challenge their experts’ testimony under Daubert and Frye.
To successfully defeat consumer class action cases at all stages, clients turn to King & Spalding. We set our sights on the end result and then draw on deep experience, a thorough knowledge of plaintiffs’ tactics, and innovative thinking to get our clients there.
From the outset, we partner with clients to integrate their business and legal strategies. To avoid costly discovery, we strive to determine as early as possible whether a case should be tried, working with clients and experts to make a reasonable assessment of each case based on the merits. If a trial is in the client’s best interest, we map out a strategy that combines advocacy and technical expertise. We also implement efficient, effective procedures for managing discovery, including technology, alternative staffing, off-site and lower cost production facilities. We also work closely with each client to assess its insurance policies so that our litigation strategy is eligible for maximum potential coverage.
The firm has teams of class action lawyers in Atlanta, Houston, New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C., and regularly appears for clients in class action lawsuits throughout the United States.
"Corporations involved in high stakes disputes need trial lawyers who know their own business and make it their business to better understand their client’s business. The ideal trial lawyer is passionate in the courtroom and seeks solutions in the boardroom, recognizing the soundest legal strategy embraces a deep understanding of business principles. At heart, the best trial lawyers are tireless advocates—in mind, they are problem solvers. These enduring qualities define the King & Spalding litigation practice."
— Hon. Griffin B. Bell, former Attorney General of the United States, United States Circuit Judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and King & Spalding litigation partner.