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Berger Montague Named 2018 Elite Trial Lawyers by The National Law Journal

DATE: December 10, 2018

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 10, 2018 – Berger Montague is proud to announce that the firm has been named 2018 Elite Trial Lawyers by The National Law Journal in two award categories: “Environmental Protection” for the firm’s work in Cook v. Rockwell International Corporation and “Privacy/Data Breach” for the firm’s work in Beckett v. Aetna, Inc., et al. The firm was also recognized as finalists in two additional categories: “Pharmaceutical Litigation” and “Racial Discrimination.”

The winners were announced at the Elite Trial Lawyers Ceremony on October 5, 2018, at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Managing Shareholder Shanon J. Carson attended on behalf of the firm.

Editors and reporters from The National Law Journal and its parent company, ALM, reviewed more than 300 submissions across 23 categories to select its winners. The nomination criteria included that a firm score at least one significant plaintiffs win between January 1, 2017, and April 30, 2018, and possess an impressive record of success within the past three to five years.

In Cook v. Rockwell International Corporation, Berger Montague served as lead class counsel and lead trial counsel. This is one of the longest-running cases in the United States, filed in 1990 and granted final settlement approval on April 28, 2017. Plaintiffs alleged that Rocky Flats, a former nuclear weapons facility formerly operated by Dow Chemical Co. and Rockwell International Corp., dispersed plutonium and contaminated 30 square miles of property around the facility, causing a diminution in property values.

On February 14, 2006, Berger Montague won a jury verdict on behalf of thousands of class members. Compensatory damages as found by the jury were $177 million. Judgment in the case was entered by the Court in June 2008, including interest and punitive damages. Recognizing this tremendous achievement, the Public Justice Foundation awarded its 2009 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award to Berger Montague’s trial team. However, the entire judgment was reversed and vacated on appeal, including the punitive damages.

After remand to the District Court following an unsuccessful petition for certiorari, the District Court dismissed the entire case. In 2015, on a second appeal to the Tenth Circuit, the Court of Appeals found that plaintiffs’ state law nuisance cause of action was not preempted by the federal Price-Anderson Act, and that plaintiffs could pursue a state law nuisance judgment based on the existing verdict. This was a precedent-setting decision written by now-Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Thanks to Berger Montague’s tireless efforts litigating this case over 27 years, a proposed class settlement for $375 million was reached on May 19, 2016. The settlement received final approval on April 28, 2017. The settlement will return to class members recoveries greater than the compensatory damages found by the jury in 2006, even after fees and costs to class counsel.

Beckett v. Aetna, Inc., et al. involved a massive privacy breach in which insurance company Aetna violated thousands of its customers’ privacy rights by exposing their highly private and confidential information regarding prescriptions for HIV medication.

On August 28, 2017, Berger Montague, along with the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and the Legal Action Center, filed a class action lawsuit against Aetna in Pennsylvania federal court.

The lawsuit alleged that Aetna sent a notice regarding HIV medication with a large-window envelope, exposing the highly confidential information for about 12,000 Aetna customers in 24 states. Information regarding the recipient’s HIV medication was clearly visible through the envelope’s large transparent window, revealing customers’ private and personal information to family, roommates, friends, neighbors, landlords, mail carriers, and even complete strangers.

Aetna’s actions were alleged to violate federal and state privacy laws, and Aetna was accused of exposing people living with HIV to potential discrimination. The lawsuit demanded that Aetna cease the practice, reform its mailing procedures, and pay damages, including punitive damages to class members.

On January 17, 2018, a $17 million settlement was reached in the class action.

Berger Montague is a growing national law firm headquartered in Philadelphia with additional offices in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. The firm litigates complex civil cases and class actions in federal and state courts throughout the United States and employs over 60 attorneys and a large team of support professionals. Berger Montague has played lead roles in major cases for over 48 years, resulting in recoveries of over $30 billion for its clients.

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