Class Actions and Mass Torts
From Early Dismissals Through Precedent-Setting Victories at Trial
Munger, Tolles & Olson is known for delivering innovative legal strategies and extraordinary results in class action litigation. We routinely obtain dismissals of class actions at the pleading stage or denials of class certification, and if a matter should proceed to trial, we are equally adept at defending and trying certified class actions – often being substituted in as trial counsel following certification.
We represent a wide range of clients, including:
- Abbott Laboratories
- AbbVie, Inc.
- American Standard
- BNSF Railway
- Halyard Health Inc.
- Juul Labs, Inc.
- MGM Resorts International
- National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
- Occidental Chemical
- Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E)
- Philip Morris USA
- Plains All American Pipeline
- Quanex Corporation
- Shea Homes
- Shell Oil
- Snap, Inc.
- Solvay Pharmaceuticals
- Sotera Health
- Southern California Edison (SCE)
- Takeda Pharmaceuticals
- TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co.)
- Universal City Studios, Inc.
- Wells Fargo
Clients turn to our group when the case presents important, difficult issues. Ours is not a commodity practice. In addition to smarts and hard work, our team brings creativity and the ability to try a case, a rarity amongst the consumer class action bar.
What distinguishes Munger, Tolles & Olson from competitors is our deep, high-stakes trial experience. Our team has successfully tried myriad cases to verdict, and our attorneys have a national reputation for guiding clients through seemingly insurmountable crises.
Key representations include:
- Juul Labs, Inc. in state and federal courts. There are over a thousand suits, including consumer class actions, suits by public entity plaintiffs such as school boards and suits by individuals alleging personal injury.
- Mattel in a class action, filed in the District of Northern California, alleging that a number of operators of YouTube channels aimed at children have collected personal information from users under the age of 13.
- PG&E on high-stakes cases challenging PG&E’s alleged role in California’s historic wildfires, including a criminal investigation into the Kincade fire, the largest fire of the 2019 fire season.
- Plains All American Pipeline in multiple civil lawsuits arising from the release of crude oil from a pipeline near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County in May 2015. We defeated certification of two classes, and reached settlements with two other classes in the Central District of California. One additional class claim is pending.
- MGM Resorts International in obtaining a favorable settlement arising from the Oct. 1, 2017 mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas.
- National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in a putative class action brought by three former track and field athletes alleging failure to protect student-athletes from sexual abuse. MTO filed a successful motion to dismiss in the Northern District of California.
- Wells Fargo in numerous cases that spring from the opening of unauthorized accounts by Wells Fargo personnel – one of the biggest and most high profile challenges the bank has faced. MTO negotiated a $142 million class action settlement resolving customers’ civil claims.
- Universal City Studios, Inc., a subsidiary of NBCUniversal, in a class action lawsuit alleging that plaintiffs were deceived into renting the motion picture “Yesterday” because the trailer included an actor who did not appear in the film.
- Chevron in obtaining a favorable settlement of a class action lawsuit brought by San Francisco Herring Association and individual herring fishers arising from a spill of diesel fuel from Chevron’s Richmond refinery.
- Snap, Inc., in more than a dozen pending lawsuits claiming injuries from alleged “addiction” to social media.
- Representing a national pharmacy chain in an appeal of an adverse verdict on a public nuisance theory of liability in In re National Prescription Opiate Litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio and the Sixth Circuit.
- Google, LLC/YouTube as lead counsel in a class action brought on behalf of a class of all persons who performed content moderation work for YouTube in the United States at any time up until the present.
- Intel in obtaining a settlement in a certified class action brought on behalf of several million purchasers of computers containing the first version of the Pentium 4 processor alleging violations of the Unfair Competition Law.
- Philip Morris USA in winning a trial victory in a massive class action spanning more than 16 years involving the marketing of Marlboro Lights cigarettes. The case was named by the Daily Journal as a “Top Defense Verdict.”
Detailed examples of how Munger, Tolles & Olson has guided its clients through complex matters follow:
- Real Risk to a Flagship Product
Client: Juul Labs
We currently represent Juul Labs in various pending matters to provide strategic and legal advice and, where appropriate, to enter appearances and actively litigate matters in connection with various civil actions alleging a variety of claims, including consumer protection. There are over a thousand suits, including consumer class actions, by public entity plaintiffs such as school boards and suits by individuals alleging personal injury. The class actions allege unfair competition, product defects and myriad other claims.
Prior to our work with Juul, Philip Morris USA turned to our team to help shape California law on the measure of damages in unfair protection cases, and our lawyers delivered, securing a trial court win in an appellate case that is viewed as business-friendly—a rarity in the state. This victory was recognized by the Daily Journal as a Top Defense Verdict.
Press Coverage: Juul Is Fighting to Keep Its E-Cigarettes on the U.S. Market
- Defense Against a Novel Class-Wide Effort
Client: Plains All American Pipeline
Plains All American Pipeline is the owner and operator of a pipeline in Santa Barbara County that failed and spilled oil into the Pacific Ocean near Refugio State Beach.
Munger, Tolles & Olson was hired 2016 to take over defense of the civil cases, numbering over a dozen lawsuits in state and federal court. On the civil side, we defeated certification of classes of tourist businesses and individuals and businesses working in the offshore oil industry and settled claims brought by classes of property owners and fish industry plaintiffs. On the criminal side, we defended Plains in a four-month criminal trial in Santa Barbara state court on claims brought jointly by the state attorney general’s office and the Santa Barbara County district attorney’s office. Thirty counts were dismissed before trial, and we avoided conviction on the counts charging Plains with a “knowing” discharge of oil. Plains ultimately paid an approximately $3 million criminal fine.
Counsel for the fish industry and property owner plaintiffs in the federal class action filed claims before the criminal court, as have counsel representing oil industry workers whose class action in the federal lawsuit was decertified. In a novel effort, these plaintiffs, with support from the State of California, asked the criminal court to award restitution on a class-wide basis, in amounts totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. In a series of orders, the court rejected the class-wide claims brought by the fish industry class members, and over one hundred million dollars of claims by individual oil industry plaintiffs. Out of over $700 million in initial claims, the court ultimately awarded less than $200,000 in restitution.
Both the State and the plaintiffs have appealed, and Munger, Tolles & Olson is handling the appeal.
Press Coverage: Ninth Circuit Cancels Oil Industry Class In Pipeline Spill Suit