The National Law Journal (NLJ) has recognized the law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman as Elite Trial Lawyers in multiple years across several areas of practice.
NLJ and American Lawyer Media honor law firms and attorneys as Elite Trial Lawyers for their cutting-edge legal work on behalf of plaintiffs in practice areas ranging from mass torts to securities litigation. Each year, the editors and reporters from both organizations review hundreds of submissions to select the finalists for their Elite Trial Lawyers list.
2020 Elite Trial Lawyers Award Finalist – Mass Torts
For the second consecutive year, Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman was honored as a finalist for the Elite Trial Lawyers award in the Mass Torts category.
The firm received the recognition based on its work in the Monsanto Roundup litigation. Thousands of people from across the United States have filed lawsuits against Monsanto (now Bayer) alleging that exposure to Roundup weed killer causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).
In 2019, Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman vice president R. Brent Wisner served as co-lead trial counsel in the case of Pilliod et al. v. Monsanto Co. The firm’s managing partner, Michael L. Baum, and attorney Pedram Esfandiary served on the trial team. Pilliod et al. v. Monsanto Co. was the third Monsanto Roundup cancer lawsuit to go before a jury.
On May 13, 2019, after approximately seven weeks of trial proceedings, the jury returned a verdict of $2.055 billion in favor of Alva and Alberta Pilliod, a husband and wife who developed NHL after using Roundup for years. The Pilliod verdict was the ninth-largest personal injury jury verdict in U.S. history.
“The jury saw for themselves internal company documents demonstrating that, from day one, Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe,” said R. Brent Wisner at a press conference following the verdict. “Instead of investing in sound science, they invested millions in attacking science that threatened their business agenda.”
2019 Elite Trial Lawyers Award Winner – Mass Torts
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman won the 2019 Elite Trial Lawyers award in the Mass Torts category for its work in two of the first cases in the Monsanto Roundup litigation.
Johnson v. Monsanto Co. was the first Roundup lawsuit to proceed to trial. Plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson alleged that exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicides caused him to develop terminal non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman vice president R. Brent Wisner served as co-lead trial counsel for Mr. Johnson, delivering the opening and closing statements. Michael L. Baum and Pedram Esfandiary served on the trial team.
After five weeks of trial proceedings, the jury returned a $289.25 million verdict for Mr. Johnson on August 10, 2018. It was the second-highest jury verdict in the state of California and the third highest in the nation for the year. Months later, the judge overseeing the Johnson trial reduced the verdict to $78.5 million.
Months after the Johnson trial, Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman attorneys assisted the trial team in the case of Hardeman v. Monsanto Co., the second Roundup cancer lawsuit case to go before a jury. Like Mr. Johnson, plaintiff Edwin Hardeman filed suit against Monsanto, alleging his cancer was caused by exposure to Roundup weed killer.
At trial, R. Brent Wisner presented one of the critical fact witnesses, Dr. Christopher Portier. He also cross-examined many of the corporate witnesses. Michael Baum and a team working under him presented and prepared experts, corporate testimony, and documents. Attorney Pedram Esfandiary also served on the Hardeman trial team.
Aimee Wagstaff from the law firm of Andrus Wagstaff and Jennifer Moore of Moore Law Group served as co-lead trial counsel for Mr. Hardeman.
In February of 2019, after roughly a month of trial proceedings, the jury unanimously found that exposure to Roundup significantly contributed to Mr. Hardeman’s cancer and awarded him $80 million. The judge overseeing the trial later reduced the verdict to $25.2 million.
2018 Elite Trial Lawyers Award Winner – Pharmaceutical Litigation
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman won the 2018 Elite Trial Lawyers award in the Pharmaceutical Litigation category based on the firm’s work in a high-profile case against GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
The firm represented plaintiff Wendy Dolin, whose husband, prominent Chicago attorney Stewart Dolin, committed suicide while under the influence of generic paroxetine, an antidepressant sold under the brand name Paxil.
Mr. Dolin, who was happily married and financially secure, abruptly left work early on the afternoon of July 15, 2010, and jumped in front of a moving train.
In her lawsuit, Wendy Dolin alleged GSK failed to warn consumers and the medical community about the increased risk of suicide among adults over the age of 24 taking Paxil. At the time of his death, Stewart Dolin was 57 years old.
On April 20, 2017, after five weeks of trial, an Illinois jury found GSK negligent for failing to place a suicide warning in the paroxetine label. According to the jury, that failure resulted in Stewart Dolin’s death. The jury awarded Wendy Dolin $3 million in damages.
The verdict was a significant legal victory for Wendy Dolin and consumers of generic medications – this was the first time a jury held a brand name drug manufacturer responsible for the death of a person taking a generic version of a drug.
GSK appealed the jury verdict before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. While the Seventh Circuit did not address whether or not a brand-name manufacturer can be held liable for an injury when a patient ingests a generic drug, the court did rule in GSK’s favor on federal preemption grounds.
On Dec. 19, 2018, Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman submitted a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on Wendy Dolin’s behalf. The Supreme Court did not take up the case.
2018 Elite Trial Lawyers Award Finalist – Consumer Protection
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman earned second-place finalist for 2018 Elite Trial Lawyer honors in the practice area of consumer protection, based on the firm’s work in Selke, et al. v. Germanwings GMBH, et al.
In 2015, Americans Yvonne and Emily Selke boarded Germanwings Flight 9525, a flight that was supposed to take passengers from Barcelona, Spain to Düsseldorf, Germany. Tragically, co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locked the flight captain out of the cockpit and steered the aircraft into a drastic descent. Yvonne, Emily, and 148 other people aboard the airliner experienced extreme terror as the plane crashed into mountainous terrain, killing everyone on board.
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman represented the surviving members of the Selke family in their lawsuit against Germanwings and other defendants. Germanwings filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming lack of personal jurisdiction over it in the state of Virginia on the grounds that it was a German corporation with no office in the United States, it had never flown its planes into the United States, and that tickets for the ill-fated flight were not codeshare tickets with United Airlines, as alleged in the Selke’s lawsuit.
But in July of 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee ruled that the “Court has personal jurisdiction over Germanwings because the airline purposely availed itself of Virginia by transacting business in the Commonwealth through its agent, United. This business activity resulted in the sale of tickets that gave rise to Plaintiffs’ cause of action.”
“Given the tide of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have restricted personal jurisdiction, this decision should serve as a ray of sunshine to the plaintiffs’ community, especially in international plane crash cases,” the firm wrote in a press release following the ruling. “Our case shows that if American residents are killed while flying overseas, their families can still bring an action against a foreign airline in America.”