Arthur Bryant

  • June 13, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on the Public Justice Blog.

    by Arthur Bryant, Chairman, Public Justice

    Throughout America, government officials and corporate wrongdoers are working to shut down access to the courts and limit or eliminate class actions. Why? Because the courts are often the only place they can be held accountable. And, when they are hurting, cheating or violating the rights of large numbers of people, class actions are often the only thing their victims can use to get justice.

    This year’s four finalists for Public Justice’s nationally-prestigious Trial Lawyer of the Year Award make that clear. In each case, government officials or corporate wrongdoers were breaking the law and hurting the poor and the powerless – prisoners, minorities, low-income consumers or the disabled. In each case, lawsuits were the only way to make them stop. And, in each case, unlike in many past years, a class action was essential for justice to be done.

    The Trial Lawyer of the Year Award is given annually to the lawyers who made the greatest contribution to the public good by trying or settling a case. This year’s finalists, who brought the cases listed below, will be honored—and the winner will be announced—on Monday, July 24, at Public Justice’s Awards Dinner & Gala at the Fairmont Copley Park in Boston. If you want to understand why access to the courts and class actions are so important, just read the case summaries below.

    For additional details on each case, and the complete legal teams behind these impressive, impactful victories, click here.

  • December 12, 2016
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on The Legal Examiner.

    by Arthur Bryant, Chairman of Public Justice

    The federal government says that court secrecy is preventing it from protecting consumers. To stop that, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission just adopted a formal Litigation Guidance and Recommended Best Practices for Protective Orders and Settlement Agreements in Private Civil Litigation, published in the Federal Register on Dec. 2, 2016. The Guidance urges all judges, plaintiffs, defendants and lawyers, as well as parties wishing to submit amicus briefs, to ensure that every protective and secrecy order and agreement “specifically allows for disclosure” to the “CPSC and other government public health and safety agencies.”

    The CPSC Guidance is an enormously important step forward for consumer protection that could reduce injuries and save lives nationwide. Judges need to make sure all protective and secrecy orders and agreements comply with it. Everyone should follow it. As the deadly, growing series of examples—from Remington rifles to Takata airbags to GM ignition switches—proves, court secrecy injures and kills.

    The danger is real—and avoidable. The Guidance specifically notes that “safety information related to dangerous playground equipment, collapsible cribs, and all-terrain vehicle defects was kept from the CPSC by protective orders in private litigation.” It cites protective orders in current cases involving allegedly defective propane heaters, wheelbarrows, markers, multimeter devices, office chairs and gas cans that prevent the CPSC from learning the truth. There are undoubtedly many more.

    Recognizing that fact, the CPSC advises parties currently negotiating “or already subject to” confidentiality provisions  to “use this Litigation Guidance and the CPSC’s standing as a public-health authority” to create an exception to them ensuring that information can be reported to the CPSC and other relevant agencies. It even provides draft language that could be used.

  • November 14, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Arthur Bryant, Chairman, Public Justice

    While everyone waits to see how the election changes the Supreme Court, one thing is clear: workers’ rights hang in the balance. The Court is soon going to have to decide whether employers can use mandatory arbitration clauses in employment contracts to ban—and eliminate—workers’ collective and class actions.

    Four cases now up for review raise that question. All involve employees claiming they were cheated out of overtime pay—and employers arguing they cannot be sued because mandatory arbitration clauses in their employment agreements prohibit collective and class actions.

    Two federal circuits held employers can ban those actions. Two ruled they cannot. If the Court does not review any of these decisions, more are on the way. Suits raising the question are pending in five more federal courts of appeal.

    The four cases now before the Court show the arguments and the issues.

    In National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc., the NLRB says the Fifth Circuit made an enormous mistake when it held the employer could use its mandatory arbitration clause to bar all workers at over 1,000 stores in 21 states from pursuing collective actions against it under the Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions in federal and state court. The clause says each worker has to proceed individually and alone.

    The NLRB insists that violates section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which gives employees “the right to…engage in…concerted activities for the purpose of…mutual aid and protection.” The Supreme Court previously said these “concerted activities” include actions pursued in “administrative and judicial forums.” Because the NLRB is charged with enforcing America’s labor laws, its interpretation is entitled to substantial deference. That interpretation stresses the importance of what is at stake: “the right to engage in collective action – including collective legal action – is the core substantive statutory right protected by the NLRA and the foundation on which the Act and Federal labor policy rest.”

  • June 15, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Arthur Bryant, Chairman, Public Justice

    *This post originally appeared on Public Justice's blog

    When corporations or the government value money over lives and safety, injure people, or discriminate against them, the courts are where they can be held accountable. But corporate and government wrongdoers don’t want to be held accountable.

    That’s why, for decades, they’ve been waging a massive propaganda campaign to demonize trial lawyers, litigation, juries, and our system of justice. They’re trying to poison public perception by attaching toxic adjectives to everything that could make them pay. They attack “greedy” trial lawyers, “frivolous” lawsuits, “runaway” juries, and “jackpot” justice— and call our legal system a “lottery”—because they don’t want justice to be done.

    Each year, Public Justice counters this self-serving, corporate PR campaign by making sure people know the truth. We recognize the lawyers who made the greatest contribution to the public good by trying or settling a case as finalists for our nationally-prestigious Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.  This year’s finalists, listed alphabetically by case name below, will be honored—and the winner will be announced—at Public Justice’s 34th Annual Gala & Awards Dinner on Sunday, July 24, at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.  Their cases show what trial lawyers and lawsuits can do — and why they’re really being attacked.

    Andrews v. Lawrence Livermore National Security

    In 2008, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was taken over by a private company, Lawrence Livermore National Security (LLNS), controlled by the Bechtel Corporation and the University of California. LLNS promised to save the federal government $50 million annually. To do so, it then fired more than 400 of the lab’s most senior workers, including many top scientists and researchers. It gave them one hour to pack up their belongings and return their badges before they were “perp-walked” out of the lab.

    Gary Gwilliam and his team at Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer and Omar Habbas of Habbas & Associates would not let this stand. They sued on behalf of 130 workers, litigated for more than seven years, and won a $2,728,327 jury verdict for breach of contract and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing for five test plaintiffs. They then negotiated a $37.25 million settlement for 129 of the 130 plaintiffs—the equivalent of over three years’ salary for each. When the defendants insisted that the settlement be confidential, the plaintiffs’ counsel refused—because the public had a right to know the disastrous effects of the government’s attempt to privatize a national lab.

  • February 3, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Michael A. Caddell, lead counsel, Caddell & Chapman; Arthur Bryant, chairman, Public Justice 

    *This post originally appeard on Public Justice Blog.  

    Over 320,000 homes completely re-plumbed, repaired, and inspected at no cost to the homeowner. A 96% homeowner satisfaction rate. Over $1.14 billion spent in settlement, with 92% paid directly to homeowner relief and only 8% consumed by administrative costs and attorneys fees. Fifteen years of court-supervised administration without a single instance of court intervention.

    Sound too good to be true? That is the power of a really good consumer class action–in this case the Polybutylene (PB) plumbing class action spearheaded by Public Justice in 1993 and achieving settlement in 1995.

    The story begins much earlier. In the 1970s, Shell Oil Company and Hoechst Celanese were exploring uses for plastic by-products of their petrochemical refining processes. One such by-product for Shell was Polybutylene, while Celanese had a somewhat similar by-product, acetal, marketed as Celcon. Because of their differences at the chemical level, the polybutylene resin generated by Shell was sold to pipe manufacturers for extrusion as home plumbing pipe, and Celcon was marketed by Celanese as a raw material for manufacturing fittings for plastic plumbing systems.

    From 1978 until 1995, several million homes were plumbed with polybutylene, touted as “the best thing since sliced bread.” PB pipe was cheap to create, cheap to install, and believed to be extremely resistant to traditional wear and tear, unaffected by corrosion, and easy to maintain and replace.