Top US trial lawyer teams up with barristers to target group actions


Lanier: Misuse of power is not just an American phenomenon

Two barristers have joined forces with a top American civil trial lawyer to launch a group action law firm that aims to replicate his success in the US over here.

Manchester-based Lanier Longstaff Hedar & Roberts (LLHR) brings together Mark Lanier, founder of Texas-based The Lanier Law Firm, and its chief operating officer Kevin Roberts, with Tom Longstaff and Duncan Hedar, both of leading Northern set Exchange Chambers.

The new firm, an alternative business structure licensed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, said it expected to announce its first case within the next month. It is already recruiting with the aim of having around 15 staff by the end of its first year.

Among Mr Lanier’s successful verdicts in the US are $9bn over pharmaceutical companies concealing cancer risks associated with the diabetes drug Actos, $1.5bn over metal-on-metal hip implants, and $4.7bn for 22 women and their families who alleged that decades of daily use of Johnson & Johnson’s asbestos-laden talcum powder products caused the women’s ovarian cancer.

He is currently representing 16 states in the US in suing Google over anti-competitive practices.

Mr Longstaff and Mr Hedar are both former solicitors who worked together at Linklaters before transferring to the Bar.

Mr Longstaff said: “We see group litigation as a huge growth area in the UK, where many large companies have long got away with harming consumers.

“It is only in recent years that it has become easier to bring cases on behalf of groups of people in the UK and the English legal profession has much to learn from the US in terms of how to run such cases effectively.

“Mark has had huge success in court and received countless accolades for his work. Through creating one of the leading pro-consumer law firms in America, he has learnt a huge amount about the market, how to structure and grow this type of firm, and the business processes needed to bring these cases successfully.”

Longstaff: Huge growth area

Mr Hedar added: “Mark Lanier has worked on many ground-breaking cases in the US. Through this unique collaboration, we will explore whether those cases that have been brought successfully in the US could be replicated here.

“We expect that many can be, meaning companies will no longer be able to escape responsibility for their actions.”

LLHR’s website identifies four general areas of interest – business and competition litigation, financial mis-selling, environmental claims and defective equipment – and two specific ones: Johnson & Johnson talcum powder and vehicle emissions.

Mr Lanier said: “We see the UK as an emerging market for the work we do. The same injustices that we’ve seen in the US have affected people in the UK too and so we want to provide the same representation. The misuse of power is certainly not just an American phenomenon.”

Mr Roberts continued: “This is a growing area of legal practice in the UK but many firms have swerved certain cases, such as product liability and pharmaceuticals, because they require significant know-how and resource to run. Lanier Longstaff Hedar & Roberts will have both.

“This is a great opportunity for us to combine my and Mark’s knowledge of the business of class actions with Tom and Duncan’s legal expertise and understanding of the UK market.”

Mr Longstaff added that the firm would provide opportunities for lawyers in the North of England who were keen to work on group litigation, without having to move to London.

There has been a growing number of specialist group actions law firms from other countries moving into England and Wales. Hausfeld blazed a trail in 2009 but has been joined more recently by the likes of fellow US firms Milberg, Keller Lenkner and Hagens Berman, as well as Anglo-Brazilian firm Pogust Goodhead (formerly PGMBM) and Australian firm Phi Finney McDonald.




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