'There Shouldn't be Any Carpetbagging': Steve Berman on Local Lawyering and the Myth of Work-Life Balance
The National Law Journal has launched a profile series of plaintiff bar leaders. Each Q&A takes a personal look at the attorney’s career and legacy as well as discusses industry trends. In this edition, Hagens Berman managing partner Steve Berman discusses his legal strategy in the Ohio train derailment case and the importance of keeping claimant representation local. He also raises concerns about conservative judges and shares his take on work-life balance.
"If something hasn't been working before, come up with a new angle. That's, that's how we approach our cases. Thinking outside the box is critical if you want to do cases that change the status quo." more »
'Our Terms Have Changed': A new strategy from plaintiff’s attorneys may prevent companies from cheating “large numbers of consumers out of individually small sums of money”
Recently, you might have received an email from Amazon with a subject line that gave you pause: “Our Terms Have Changed.” The email itself was short and to the point. “Previously, our Conditions of Use set out an arbitration process for those disputes,” it read in part. “Our updated Conditions of Use provides for dispute resolution by the courts.” Even that might have given you pause. By the courts? Amazon is going to take me to court?
It’s actually the opposite, says class action/mass torts attorney Steve W. Berman, of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro in Seattle. “It’s great for consumers,” Berman says.
“Now, instead of [class action attorneys] saying, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you, because you have to arbitrate,’ we might be able to say to consumers, ‘Yeah, we’re going to do a mass arbitration. Sign up.’” more »
Meet the Lawyer Trying to Make Big Oil Pay for Climate Change
When you want to sue the largest, most powerful companies on the planet, Steve Berman is the guy you call. He forced Jack-in-the-Box to pay $12 million for causing an E. coli outbreak that killed four children. He won a $215 million settlement against Enron for defrauding investors and wiping out employee retirement accounts. He represented auto dealers in a $1.6 billion lawsuit against Volkswagen for cheating on diesel emissions. ...
The reason not to dismiss Berman is that he has a history of proving doubters wrong. When he entered the legal fight against tobacco companies in the 1990s, mainstream opinion was that he would be unsuccessful. The owners of brands like Marlboro and Camel had crushed hundreds of lawsuits attempting to link cigarettes to cancer and emphysema. “No one had ever won a tobacco case,” Berman said... more »
Steve Berman: Putting the Brakes on Alleged Emissions Cheating
When the scandal involving Volkswagen’s self-acknowledged cheating on emissions tests rocked the auto industry and shocked consumer advocates in 2015, Seattle lawyer Steve Berman had to wonder if the German manufacturer was the only one trying to pull the wool over consumers’ eyes. ...
“We want the cars fixed, a fraud premium paid or a complete buyback if they can’t be fixed,” says Berman, dubbed “the one-man EPA” around his office. “Clean air is important to us all, and we can’t allow this type of pollution to go unchecked. With Trump in office and an industry lackey as head of the EPA, I consider myself the de facto chief of holding the car companies’ feet to the fire.” more »
Meet the lawyer trying to pry drug pricing secrets out of Big Pharma
Class-action attorney Steve Berman is coming after a drug industry he says is “gouging” the American consumer. And his suits have the potential to crack the lid on the black box of drug pricing, shedding light on a secretive process that has sparked an escalating blame game between drug makers and the many middlemen in the US health care system.
Berman sees the drug pricing system as a Rube Goldberg machine for extracting money from patients: Pharma sets a high price for a given medication, and then promises a big, undisclosed rebate to the pharmacy benefit managers who control which drugs get covered by insurers. As prices go up, so too do the secret rebates. Berman’s conclusion: The big guys get richer, and the patients pay the price. more »
Lawyer Limelight: Steve Berman
A key component in plaintiff-side litigators making the Lawdragon 500 guide is the impact of their cases. In this assessment, it’s hard to top the work done by Steve Berman, a master class-action attorney and the managing partner of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro in Seattle.
“It may sound corny, but what first interested me in the law was the chance to right wrongs and change things that needed changing,” says Berman.
The 1980 graduate of the University of Chicago Law School started on the defense side at Jenner & Block, where he had the legendary Jerry Solovy as a mentor. As a plaintiffs’ lawyer, Berman has tallied an impressive amount of record-setting recoveries, including as a lead attorney on the historic Big Tobacco litigation. He has since scored big for injured clients in corporate fraud, antitrust, sports injury and automotive litigation, having served as lead counsel in the Toyota unintended-acceleration action that resulted in a $1.6 billion settlement. more »
Compensating Car Owners Will Be Big Test for Volkswagen
The New York Times
When Steve Berman, a plaintiffs’ lawyer in Seattle, heard about the Volkswagen scandal, he quickly posted a video on YouTube urging vehicle owners to contact him.
“We are going to launch a lawsuit on behalf of consumers against Volkswagen, and you are welcome to join,” said Mr. Berman, who has been involved in class-action lawsuits against carmakers, drug companies and the tobacco industry.
Mr. Berman was one of dozens of lawyers who raced to the courthouse after Volkswagen disclosed last week that it had used rigged software to enable its vehicles with diesel engines to pass air emissions tests. Shareholders have also sued the company, and regulators have said they plan to take action against it, but legal experts said Volkswagen’s biggest test would be the steps it takes to make its customers whole. more »
Class Action MVP: Hagens Berman's Steve Berman
After fighting court battles that put a little extra money in amateur athletes' pockets, augmented safety protocols in youth and college sports and allowed Volkswagen diesel owners to draw from a $14.7 billion settlement over emissions cheating, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP partner Steve Berman has earned a place among Law360's 2016 Class Action MVPs.
Assisting in the negotiation of the largest automotive settlement in history was an honor for Berman, but for a man who loves complex cases, it was not his personal highlight of the past year. The litigation against Volkswagen was relatively simple because the German carmaker accepted liability before litigation commenced, he said. more »
Keep It Simple, Stupid
Ask most lawyers a question and 10 minutes later you’ll have to ask another. Ask Steve W. Berman of Hagens Berman a question and 10 seconds later you have to ask another. Conversation with him is less a leisurely round of golf than a rapid-fire game of ping pong.
How many cases is he involved in right now? “Probably 40,” he says.
Which was the last case he took to verdict? “Average Wholesale Price. It was three years ago.”
Why class action? “[My old firm] got involved in the WPPSS case.”
And after that? “Others came in. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Because? “So many people are involved in what you’re doing. You can make a big difference if you succeed.”
This brevity is actually part of the secret to his success. Early on, one of his mentors, Paul M. Bernstein of Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman in New York, told him KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. So that’s what he does. more »
How Sports Got Blitzed by the Plaintiffs Bar