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class action

The Firm’s class action practice is national in scope.  We defend class actions in a wide range of contexts, including securities, insurance, antitrust, consumer protection, property loss, and product liability claims.  Our attorneys combine substantive expertise with a deep understanding of the unique problems raised by class action cases.  We work with our clients to develop focused case plans, seek early resolution where possible, make every effort to defeat class certification, and assemble efficient trial teams that present complex issues simply and persuasively. 

Our clients include financial institutions, brokerage firms, insurance companies, other Fortune 500 companies, and individual directors and officers.  

Here are some of our representations in class action litigation across the country:

  • In a series of four nationwide consumer class actions brought against AEGON/Transamerica companies in state and federal courts in Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky alleging abusive practices and misrepresentations in the sale of universal and variable universal life policies, defeated class certification, secured dismissal, and obtained summary judgment in our clients’ favor.
  • We currently represent subsidiaries of The Progressive Corporation in coordinated class action cases in different states alleging that Progressive and other automobile insurers named as defendants do not provide statutorily-mandated discounts for cars equipped with certain passive “antitheft” devices.  In one such case brought in federal district court in Minnesota, Conrad O’Brien’s legal team took the lead in drafting defendants’ joint motion to dismiss the complaint, and argued the motion on behalf of Progressive and three other insurers. The district court granted the motion to dismiss, and plaintiffs appealed.  Conrad O'Brien again took the lead in drafting defendants' appellate response brief and arguing the appeal, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case with prejudice.  See Palmer v. Illinois Farmers Ins. Co., 666 F.3d 1081 (8th Cir. 2012).
  • We represented three AEGON companies in long-running putative consumer class action suits in New Mexico state court in which plaintiffs sought nationwide certification for alleged breach of contract and failure to disclose modal premium charges.  Achieved success for our clients in all three cases. The plaintiffs in two of the cases voluntarily dismissed the nationwide putative class action after initial motion practice, Cadigan v. Transamerica Occidental Life Ins. Co., No. D-101-CV-99-2619, and after we filed a motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens, Wodzinski v. Peoples Benefit Life Ins. Co., No. D-101-CV-2000-2816.  In the third case, after extensive briefing and multiple oral arguments on the issues related to nationwide class certification, the parties agreed to a settlement of the case, limiting the class to a small pool comprising only New Mexico residents.  Romero v. J.C. Penney Life Ins. Co., No. D-101-CV-2001-270.
  • Conrad O’Brien attorneys represented a current and three former senior executives of Merck & Co. in shareholder derivative litigation in New Jersey state court in claims alleging, inter alia, breach of fiduciary duty to the corporation, unjust enrichment and insider trading arising from Merck’s marketing of the pain medication Vioxx.  We obtained the voluntary dismissal with prejudice of two of our clients; subsequently the case settled. 
  • Conrad O'Brien represented an insurance holding company against putative class action matters asserting direct and derivative claims against our client in state and federal court in connection with a proposed merger.
  • We represented a public utility serving over half a million electricity customers in North and Central Pennsylvania in a putative class action alleging that it breached right-of-way agreements by charging plaintiffs for relocation services at plaintiffs’ request.  The case involved complex issues regarding the interplay between a utility’s tariffs and its agreements.  After we produced factual information on behalf of our client showing that the agreements were individualized, plaintiffs dropped their class action claims.  
  • Conrad O’Brien attorneys defended a national public utility company in a class action for alleged $100 million in property loss from an industrial fire.  We achieved dismissal of our client from the case through summary judgment.
  • A national insurance company was sued in Pennsylvania state court in a national consumer class action.  The putative class claimed the insurer had breached contracts and fiduciary duties when it calculated the death benefits owed on variable annuity products.  The insurer turned to Conrad O’Brien for help, and we stopped the litigation by defeating class certification at the outset of the case.
  • When a putative national class filed a securities fraud lawsuit in federal district court in Iowa, a national brokerage firm chose Conrad O’Brien to defend the claims of misrepresentation in the sale of variable annuities.  We succeeded not only in securing the dismissal of the lawsuit, but in protecting the result on appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • An international bank was sued in a federal district court in New Jersey in a class action that alleged improprieties in the company’s assessment of late fees on equipment leases; after filing a motion to dismiss, Conrad O’Brien convinced the putative class to dismiss its claims voluntarily. 
  • We represented a debt management company in a consumer class action relating to claims arising under the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA), the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and unfair trade practices statutes.  We secured a settlement for our client after initial motion practice.
  • We represented Progressive in a long-pending class action involving Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, in which a class of medical providers contended that Progressive must pay automobile accident personal injury claims within 30 days of receipt of completed standard claim forms or pay statutory interest on unpaid claims, even when Progressive had not yet completed its claims investigation.  Richard S. Glick, D.O. v. Progressive Northern Ins. Co., et al., No. 001179, March Term, 2002 (Phila. Common Pleas).  In 2003 the trial court accepted the plaintiffs' position that receipt of a completed standardized billing form constituted reasonable proof of the amount of the benefits in all cases, and certified the class.  We took over the case in 2009 and, in January 2014, the Superior Court reversed and decertified the class.  Glick v. Progressive Northern Ins. Co., 64 Pa. D. & C. 4th 533 (Com. Pl. 2003) (class cert.), reversed and vacated, No. 2145 EDA 2010 (Pa. Super. Ct. Jan. 24, 2014).  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to review the case, effectively ending 12 years of litigation in Progressive’s favor.  2014 Pa. LEXIS 2728 (Pa. Oct. 15, 2014).
  • Conrad O'Brien was retained by Truck Insurance Exchange as lead defense counsel in two putative class action lawsuits that are currently pending in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, challenging practices concerning the payment of general contractor’s overhead and profit to insureds under Farmers homeowners policies.

Companies are not the only clients who turn to Conrad O’Brien for representation against class actions.  For example, before the current wave of subprime-related lawsuits, the chief financial officer of a bankrupt subprime lender chose Conrad O’Brien to represent him in a federal securities class action and state court litigation in Pennsylvania.  We successfully settled the federal and state cases for our client.  Likewise, when a corporation which extended financing for equipment to healthcare providers went bankrupt, the bankruptcy trustee, shareholders, bondholders, and financial institutions brought securities fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and common law fraud claims against the company and its officers.  Conrad O’Brien was brought into those actions to defend one of the officers.  We settled two of the cases for a fraction of the claimed damages.