September 14, 2021 – Los Angeles, California - - Law360 has announced that Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman is one of only five law firms in California to receive the California Powerhouse award for 2021. As one of the leading legal publications in the United States, Law360 recognizes law firms in California and seven other states for its Regional Powerhouse series. These law firms must have a strong regional presence, working on important matters within their home state.
Regional Powerhouse winners are chosen based on two factors: the law firm’s presence in the state and the strength of the matters the firm handled in the state during the relevant time period. The legal publication recognized Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman attorneys based on the following achievements over the last year:
- $10.9 billion in settlements with Monsanto/Bayer AG (Roundup Cancer Litigation)
- Appellate win in Johnson v. Monsanto (Roundup Cancer Litigation)
- First Amendment case settlement against Mayor of Irvine
In its profile article, Law360 says Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman “possesses a David v. Goliath-sized slingshot while seeking justice for everyday citizens it believes were harmed or killed through corporate wrongdoing.”
"There's a quote that we have on the wall at the firm that says, 'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has," Michael L. Baum, senior managing shareholder of Baum Hedlund, told Law360, referring to the Margaret Mead quote. "That's a theme that runs through our firm and I think is what our cases are about."
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman was one of the select few law firms in the country to negotiate a settlement with Bayer AG to resolve many thousands of pending Roundup cancer lawsuits. Each of the law firms completed separate agreements, which added up to a total of $10.9 billion. Baum Hedlund’s resolution resolved all of its Roundup cases pending in any jurisdiction, including California and the federal multi-district litigation.
R. Brent Wisner helped negotiate the firm’s settlement. He previously served on the trial teams in all three Roundup trials in California: Johnson v. Monsanto Co., Hardeman v. Monsanto Co., and Pilliod et al. v. Monsanto Co. In Johnson and Pilliod, Mr. Wisner was co-lead trial counsel. He delivered the opening statements and closing arguments, presented most of the scientific evidence, and cross-examined many of Monsanto’s experts in both cases.
The jury in Johnson returned a $289.2 million verdict. In Pilliod, the jury returned a $2.055 billion verdict, which was later reduced to $86.7 million.
Appellate Win for Dewayne “Lee” Johnson
Johnson v. Monsanto, the first Roundup cancer trial, alleged exposure to Roundup caused the plaintiff, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, to develop cancer. The trial took place in the Superior Court for the County of San Francisco in 2018. The jury found that Monsanto failed to adequately warn of its weed killer’s potential dangers and that its products had a design defect. Mr. Johnson, a California resident, was awarded $289 million in damages.
Monsanto appealed the verdict to the California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District to reverse the judgment based on preemption, or the Court should reverse and remand for a new trial. If the Court declined a new trial, Monsanto held that future noneconomic damages should be reduced to $1.5 million and punitive damages should be struck down.
The Court upheld the verdict, finding that Monsanto is liable on the failure-to-warn claims because of substantial evidence showing Roundup’s risks were “known or knowable” to Monsanto.
The Appeals Court also found that Mr. Johnson is entitled to punitive damages commensurate with the reduction of future noneconomic damages. The total damages, however, were reduced to $20.5 million.
In March of 2021, Bayer decided it would not appeal to the Supreme Court, which ended the litigation.
Lamar West v. Christina Shea, Former Mayor of Irvine
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman reached a settlement agreement in December of 2020 on behalf of plaintiff Lamar West in a First Amendment case against former Irvine, California Mayor Christina Shea.
The lawsuit stemmed from events that came after George Floyd's death and the nationwide protests that followed. Shea, who was Mayor of Irvine at the time, wrote a controversial post on her Facebook profile saying she received several emails from the Black Lives Matter movement. The emails asked Shea to cut public safety funding and allocate funds to community programs for combatting homelessness, among other issues.
Shea’s post, which was later deleted, said, “…If you are coming into Irvine to promote an agenda, and protest for lesser public safety protection, best you turn around and find another city to compromise."
Mr. West and others posted critical responses to Shea’s post. Shea proceeded to block West and others from posting on her profile. When Shea refused to unblock West and the others, Baum Hedlund lawyers sent a demand letter explaining that Shea could not censor West's viewpoint as she had created a public forum on her Facebook profile. Shea did not respond to the letter, did not unblock Mr. West, and only modified her public profile with the description "this is not a government page." Baum Hedlund filed a civil rights lawsuit on West’s behalf.
Shea filed a motion to dismiss, which U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney denied, finding that “[g]overnmental viewpoint discrimination has long been prohibited by the First Amendment." Judge Carney’s decision was the first on this issue in the Central District of California. There was a similar order out of the Eastern District of California prior to our case.
The City of Irvine paid a sum of money to Mr. West on Mayor Shea’s behalf to settle allegations that she violated West's First Amendment rights and committed viewpoint discrimination and censorship.
“It was an honor to represent Lamar West in this important case, which should serve as a strong warning that elected officials cannot censor dissenting voices on the internet,” said attorney Pedram Esfandiary after the settlement announcement.
Looking to the Future
In addition to the firm’s achievements over the last year, Law360 highlighted the legal work the firm is currently involved with, including the California wildfire litigation stemming from the Woolsey Fire and the Camp Fire. As of this writing, the firm has settled several Camp Fire cases and two dozen Woolsey cases, including a wrongful-death case.
Veteran trial attorney Ronald L. M. Goldman told Law360 he is encouraged by the Camp Fire settlements thus far, but noted that clients are still trying to put their lives back together after such a tragedy. "Many of our clients are desperate,” Mr. Goldman said. “Many of them are still living in makeshift facilities because they just have no money because everything they had burned up. Such a huge tragedy up there. It's heartbreaking in every sense."
Law360 also highlighted Baum Hedlund’s role in the Zantac litigation. The firm represents thousands of people throughout the country who allege Zantac (ranitidine) contains a cancer-causing chemical at dangerously high levels. Zantac lawsuits allege the drug makers knowingly concealed the cancer link from consumers. R. Brent Wisner, who is on the Plaintiffs’ leadership in the consolidated California state court cases (known as the “Ranitidine Product Cases” Judicial Council Coordinated Proceedings 5150), noted that the first Zantac trial is scheduled for October of 2021.
The law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman has resolved thousands of cases worldwide across a wide variety of practice areas. Since opening our doors in 1973, the firm has obtained more than $4 billion in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients. Some of these legal victories helped bring about lasting change to protect consumers from harmful drugs, medical devices and other products.With a proven track record handling transportation accident cases, pharmaceutical drug litigation, product liability cases, whistleblower claims, and class actions, Baum Hedlund has earned a reputation as a powerful force against corporate interests that show more concern for their bottom line than the lives of its consumers.