Civil Litigation

The partners of Christian & Small are among the finest trial lawyers in the state. Collectively, our partners have tried over 1,000 jury trials across Alabama, ranging from bet-the-company litigation and class actions to single plaintiff injury cases. We harness this wealth of experience to provide our clients with the most effective, efficient and zealous representation whether the goal is early resolution or a full-fledged defense through trial.

Practice Areas under Civil Litigation
Aviation

Aviation is one of the most dynamic and complex sectors in the global economy. Heavily dependent on the economic outlook, the industry is facing new challenges in operational safety, passenger safety legislation, security measures and mergers and acquisitions.

Beyond the financial and business concerns affecting the industry, government plays a large role in determining what’s happening on the runways and up in the air. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has all regulatory and legislative oversight for the aviation industry. The FAA sets and enforces minimum standards for aircraft, airline and airport security.

Christian & Small’s aviation attorneys have significant experience deciphering the complex FAA policies and regulations. We possess the necessary industry knowledge to guide clients through the specialized discovery and investigative issues that are inherent in aviation disputes. We handle every area of aviation law with an effective, practiced and collaborative approach, calling upon resources in related areas of substantive law including:

  • Insurance
  • Products liability
  • Regulatory affairs
  • Complex litigation

Examples of our broad capabilities in this highly-specialized area include the successful representation of aircraft and component manufacturers, fixed-based operators and pilots in accident investigations and liability claims. We have represented owners and operators in regulatory matters and resolved insurance coverage disputes involving the ownership and use of aircraft.

Aviation law is a specialized field essential to protecting the rights of the different parties involved, namely the airlines, airports, civil aviation authorities, executives, insurers, government agencies, pilots, mechanics and manufacturers. Your aviation legal team at Christian & Small has the right mix of solid litigation skills, industry know-how, understanding of FAA regulations and technical aircraft knowledge to assist you with any aviation matter.

 


Business and Commercial Litigation

Commercial litigation, encompassing all business conflicts, is a vast arena. Business differences arise on a daily basis for individuals, privately-held and publicly-traded companies. When you’re looking for the most favorable result in a business dispute, having an attorney with diverse commercial litigation experience is a game changer.

High-quality business litigation attorneys will understand your business, its objectives and the consequences of certain actions throughout the case. That means they understand how to devise and execute strategies designed to not only achieve a favorable result, but to minimize disruption and manage costs.

Christian & Small’s business and commercial litigation practice thrives as a result of the investment we make to understand our clients’ day-to-day business issues and long-term strategies and goals. We pride ourselves on building collaborative relationships with our clients, working together to devise and execute strategies designed not only to achieve a favorable result, but to minimize disruption and manage costs. Our attorneys have tried, arbitrated, mediated and handled appeals of virtually every type of commercial dispute including contracts, business torts, securities, shareholder disputes, antitrust, intellectual property, and trade secret litigation. Our dedication to excellence and practicality has gained notice among the bench and bar, and our trial experience is unparalleled.

  • Defended a software company against claims for theft of trade secrets and for inducing a competitor’s chief information officer to breach a covenant not to compete. When the jury returned an adverse verdict following a three-week trial, Christian & Small obtained a reversal of the verdict (and ultimately a complete dismissal for its client) when the Alabama Supreme Court agreed that no evidence of a trade secret had been presented.
  • Christian & Small served as lead counsel for the largest unsecured creditor of a nearly 100 year ship yard in the commencement of a contested involuntary bankruptcy. Through a complex chain of efforts, the firm was able to force a sale of corporate assets, obtain an allowed claim in excess of $40 million and negotiate favorable concessions in a hard fought fight that resulted in the confirmation of a consensual plan.
  • The firm served as part of the litigation team that represented the bankruptcy trustee of Just for Feet. At the time of its Chapter 11 filing, Just For Feet was one of the largest athletic shoe retailers in the country.  Through the aggressive pursuit of accounting malpractice and corporate governance claims, Christian & Small was a principal part of the team that successfully resolved the case on terms reported nationally in the Wall Street Journal.

Class Action & Complex Litigation

Lawsuits are not born equal.  The level of complexity in class action, mass action and large-scale proceedings requires experience, knowledge and capabilities that many law firms don’t have.

The lawyers of Christian & Small have been employed in excess of 100 class action cases and have represented clients in dozens of complex lawsuits, including putative nationwide class action cases, multidistrict litigation, and multi-party, multi-jurisdictional state court actions. Our attorneys have successfully defeated class certification in cases based on claims ranging from product liability to securities actions in both state and federal courts.

We work quickly to understand our clients’ legal and business objectives, while efficiently managing public exposure, multiple, often adverse parties, complicated legalities, and time consuming discovery and preparation.  We are continually investing in the best technology available.  This allows us to efficiently organize massive amounts of documentation, manage and conduct extensive discovery, and synthesize evidence for persuasive use at trial.

Representative Work
  • Nationwide representation, commencing in the Spring of 2008, of defendants in over 250 lawsuits filed throughout the United States arising from injuries allegedly sustained by consumers of a nutritional supplement recalled by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Many of these lawsuits were the subject of proceedings pending before the Multidistrict Judicial Panel of the United States. Partners involved include Jim Huckaby, Duncan Y. Manley, Edgar M. Elliott, IV, and Sharon D. Stuart.
  • Evans v. Walter Industries, Inc., 449 F. 3d 1159 (11 Cir. 2006) – defense of operator of brass foundry in lead contamination class action
  • Wilson v. JP Morgan, #1080982 (Sup Ct Ala, Dec 4, 2009) – defense of leading investment bank in rate payer class action arising from bond defaults and subsequent bankruptcy of Jefferson County, Alabama
  • Christ v. Beneficial Corporation, 547 F. 3d 1292 (11th Cir. 2008) – obtained decertification by the Eleventh Circuit, after trial, of nationwide consumer fraud class claims against major bank and affiliated insurers
  • Lowery v. Alabama Power Company, 483 F3d 1784 (11th Cir. 2007) – defense of manufacturer in environmental pollution mass action
  • Coates v Sunstar Acceptance Corporation, USDC Ala., CV 96-C-0376 W – defense of nationwide class action against automobile lender
  • Nail et al v. Mentor Corporation, Cir. Ct of Jefferson Co., Alabama, CV 0062426-87 – favorable pre-certification settlement of medical device class claims
  • In re Comptronix Securities Litigation, 831 F.Supp. 1563 (ND Ala 1993) – defense of shareholder class claims against officer/director
  • In re Consolidated Non-Filing – Ins. Fee Litigation, 195 FRD 684 (M.D. Ala 2000) – favorable class wide settlement of consumer claims against Bank of America affiliates
  • Retirement Systems of Ala v. Merrill Lynch Co., 209 F. Supp. 2d 1257 (MD Ala 2002) – defense of Enron- related securities fraud claims against lead bond underwriter
  • Martin v. Wilks, 49 US 744 (1989) – defense of City of Birmingham Personnel Board in reverse discrimination class action
  • Kidd v. The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, 32 F. 3d 516 (11th Cir. 1994) – successful defense and class wide settlement of employment discrimination claims
  • Represented a major financial services provider in a series of litigation and regulatory matters relating to a state retirement plan. Successfully negotiated class action settlement, a settlement with the State, a settlement of all related civil litigation, and obtained dismissal of a related derivative suit and putative class action.
  • Assisted a national carrier in coordination of coverage of Alabama property and exposure claims to Chinese Drywall under commercial liability, contractor packages and homeowner policies including consistency coordination with other states’ counsel in claims drawn into multi-district litigation pending in the Eastern District of Louisiana. The cases are currently awaiting a fairness hearing and final approval of very favorable settlement for the carriers involved. The settlements have been conditionally approved. Damages at issue were in the hundreds of millions. Christian & Small was lead Alabama Coverage Counsel for the carrier.
  • Obtained summary judgment in a multi-party wrongful death case for a silica company on an issue of first impression in Alabama.
  • Negotiated a settlement in a tortious interference/patent infringement case involving cases pending in Alabama state court and California federal court.
  • Our lawyers achieved a total victory for our clients, who were domestic affiliates of one of the world’s largest banks, in a nationwide class action certified in the only Multidistrict litigation case ever taken to trial in Alabama.  Our lawyers tried the case, and won it in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit while other defendants in the financial lending business paid very large sums to settle the claims against them.
  • We achieved a complete victory for our client, a major pharmaceutical company, in the first of seventy-three “Average Wholesale Pricing” cases filed by Alabama’s Attorney General. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed a jury verdict for the State and rendered judgment in favor of our client.  The national press reported the Supreme Court’s decision, and The Drug and Device Law blog named it the year’s most significant decision.
  • As national coordinating counsel, Christian & Small handled the defense of a component manufacturer of a nutraceutical product. More than 270 products liability cases were filed in state and federal court throughout the United States. Many of the cases were transferred to Judge David Proctor, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Alabama by the Multi District Litigation Panel. Plaintiffs alleged various and numerous symptoms as a result of the ingestion of the product.  Several class actions were filed in connection with the prosecution of these cases. The court delayed ruling on the class until discovery was completed and in the interim, all of the MDL cases were settled.

 


Construction

After several years of stalled building sites and declines in spending, the construction industry is starting to see modest improvement. The industry has relied on state and city government funding to fill the gap between public and private development. Despite the fact that federal stimulus money is almost spent and securing project financing continues to be difficult, most analysts predict that the number of construction starts will only continue to grow as more time elapses between now and the previous economic crisis and mortgage meltdown.

Christian & Small attorneys understand the challenges facing the construction industry. We represent numerous owners, developers, design professionals, general contractors, subcontractors, construction managers, architects, engineers, suppliers and insurers. We work alongside our clients through every phase of the construction process – from planning and design, to the build-out and warranty period.

Regardless of the type of construction you are involved in – new construction, renovation, repair or sustainability – Christian & Small attorneys have the tools to help you prepare and negotiate fair contracts, and keep your projects running on time and on budget. On the occasions when things aren’t going well, we have represented clients in title disputes, materialmen liens and bond claims. We have extensive experience in all forms of construction litigation, including successfully trying jury cases before numerous state and federal courts, and appearing before arbitration panels and mediators.

 


Drug and Medical Device

High-profile recalls, manufacturing disputes and federal and state government investigations have changed the game for the medical device industry. Beyond looking for more cost-effective ways to defend against medical products liability claims and comply with FDA pre-market and post-marketing mandates, medical device companies are seeking proactive ways to protect themselves from this high-stakes litigation.

Christian & Small attorneys have defended numerous pharmaceutical manufacturers, medical device manufacturers and ancillary health care and technology companies. Engagements range from the defense of single plaintiff cases to more complex litigation presenting multiple claims across several states. Our experience in multi-district litigation positions Christian & Small to efficiently gather and assimilate the vast amounts of technical and scientific data at play in these medical device cases.

Our lawyers work closely with clients and national coordinating counsel to mount the successful defense of complex medical device litigation. Extensive trial experience combined with firm litigators’ practice in health care liability defense provides us with the resources and the foundation to provide effective service to companies facing the challenges of this critical sector of the economy.

 


Environmental and Toxic Tort

Environmental and toxic tort litigation is growing at a rapid pace. Corporate environmental practices and procedures have come under intense scrutiny due to an increased use of potentially hazardous chemicals and new government regulations. These changes presented significant risks and costs to business.

To successfully litigate this complex and evolving body of law, your legal team must be on the forefront of developing environmental issues. They also must be educated about advances in science and medicine and competent in defending their clients using innovative and practical strategies.

Environmental and toxic tort cases are complicated and frequently have a lot of moving parts. In order to achieve a favorable outcome, you want a law firm that will respond quickly, communicate frequently and offer relevant experience. It’s critical you work with a legal partner who will advocate for you and who will minimize your exposure to crippling liability related to environmental or toxic substances.

With extensive experience in the interpretation and application of federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations, Christian & Small’s environmental and toxic tort lawyers represent clients in:

  • Litigation
  • Regulatory and permitting issues
  • Insurance coverage issues
  • Transactional work
  • Client education matters

Our litigators routinely handle disputes in a variety of judicial forums and before federal, state and local environmental agencies. We are able to draw upon the firm’s extensive insurance resources to provide comprehensive advice in cases involving environmental issues such as the availability of coverage for clean-up activities.

With our comprehensive client education programs, we strive to keep clients informed of the latest changes in environmental law and procedure so that potential liability can be avoided or mitigated. Active participation in the Business Council of Alabama’s Environmental and Energy Committee ensures that our environmental attorneys maintain an active voice in state environmental policy and stay abreast of the latest environmental developments impacting our clients.

 


Liquor Liability

Alabama has some of the most stringent liquor liability laws in the United States.

Dram shop and liquor liability laws once only applied to tavern owners and establishments licensed to sell alcohol. Now the move it to seek to apply these laws to social hosts or businesses who serve alcohol at private parties, such as picnics, housewarmings, fraternity parties and office holiday parties.

The liquor liability attorneys at Christian & Small know that training and proactive efforts to prevent alcohol-related injuries are integral to decreasing civil liability and protecting your personal and professional livelihoods. For that reason, we often evaluate existing liquor liability programs, and provide in-house vendor training to bartenders, servers and other employees of restaurants and bars so that they can recognize and discreetly deal with underage or intoxicated patrons.

Beyond educating clients about responsible serving practices, Christian & Small proactively monitors current state dram shop statutes, drunk driving and insurance coverage laws. When our clients have been named as defendants in third party claims, we have tried these cases, often to successful defense verdicts. Our liquor liability practice offers an extra dimension to these claims because we have professionals with Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board certification who can represent restaurant and bar licensees at the Board level.

 


Premises Liability

The issues in premises liability are complicated. Claims are filed for a variety of reasons and can be detrimental to you and your business. Prompt, proactive and assertive defensive strategies are required to protect your rights and prepare you for what might lie ahead.

A premises liability case can be simple or highly complex. Are technical issues like standards and codes applicable? Is expert testimony needed? A competent legal team will conduct a thorough investigation of the facts and circumstances surrounding the claim. They will analyze the issues, evaluate exposure, determine the damages, develop a timely assessment and counsel you on how to proceed. Finally, you should be provided with an assertive, practical defense strategy.

As a landlord, property owner or business establishment, the development and execution of a successful defense strategy is critical. Your legal counsel’s level of expertise on these matters can make or break your efforts of obtaining a favorable outcome. Overall, every premises liability claim is unique and requires a custom solution. Whatever the nature of the case, it’s imperative to work with an experienced firm that will guide you in defending your premises liability case.

At Christian & Small, our premises liability attorneys defend commercial entities as well as governmental entities against a variety of claims. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling premises liability matters involving claims for injuries sustained on properties due to a number of different factors, from pre-suit through trial, including:

  • Defects on the premises
  • Acts of negligent third parties
  • Slips and falls
  • Negligence or improper maintenance of the premises
  • Inadequate security
  • Falling merchandise

 


Product Liability

Tort litigation against businesses continues to escalate at unprecedented rates. Product manufacturers and distributors will find no reprieve from this trend, as a 2009 study commissioned by the Defense Research Institute identified products liability as the leading growth area in tort litigation.

And Alabama is unique. Products liability cases in Alabama are based on the Alabama Extended Manufacturer’s Liability Doctrine as promulgated in the cases of Casrell v. Altec and Atkins v. American Motors Corporation and is unique to the State of Alabama.

The attorneys of Christian & Small assume that every case will go to trial, and we prepare the defense of our cases in that way. With that approach, Christian & Small has amassed a record of successfully defending product manufacturers and distributors representing various industries. Our trial-oriented approach has taken us to the four corners of Alabama, where we have successfully tried numerous high-stakes, complex products liability cases in some of the state’s most notorious venues. In fact, clients have called on Christian & Small on the eve of trial to take over cases that other firms were handling. Our lawyers often heed the call to appeal a products liability case following an unsuccessful outcome achieved by another firm at the trial level.

While products liability litigation continues to intensify, Christian & Small understands that the efficiency of defending its clients is paramount. As a result, many products liability cases can and should be resolved before trial. Christian & Small’s willingness to take cases to trial, coupled with our wealth of trial experience, allows us to routinely achieve successful pre-trial resolution through the cost-effective development of critical facts.

Our products liability lawyers have represented manufacturers, insurance companies, distributors and retailers in both individual and large, sophisticated cases involving varied products, such as:

  • ladders
  • hydraulic transfer cars
  • all terrain vehicles (ATVs)
  • motorcycles
  • kerosene heaters
  • automobiles
  • medical devices
  • blow mold machines
  • diet drugs
  • tractors
  • extruders
  • underground mining equipment
  • handguns
  • all forms of industrial equipment
  • aircraft components
  • mobile cranes
  • building materials
  • overhead cranes
  • chemicals
  • pharmaceuticals
  • commercial and consumer lawn equipment
  • PVC pipe
  • commercial electrical regulators
  • power tools
  • commercial HVAC systems
  • televisions
  • concrete anchor lifting systems
  • scaffolds
Representative Matters
  • Defended international manufacturer of steel fabricating system in federal court for multi-million dollar property damage claim arising out of massive molten steel spill and involving design defect claims. Obtained summary judgment in favor of system manufacturer.
  • Defended domestic mobile, all-terrain crane manufacturer in wrongful death case in state court involving claims of design defect. Obtained summary judgment in favor of crane manufacturer. Alabama State Supreme Court subsequently affirmed the decision.
  • Obtained defense verdict in state court wrongful death case involving design defect and failure to warn claims against foreign agricultural tractor manufacturer.

Trade Secrets

Most U.S. states, including Alabama, have adopted all or portions of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (USTA). The Act provides protection for companies that lose money or competitive advantages when their trade secrets are misappropriated. In most cases, misappropriation takes place when a former employee steals the trade secret information and takes it to work with him at a competing company. In 2010, Alabama amended its trade secret law to increase the minimum civil penalty to $10,000 for willful and malicious misappropriation of trade secrets. The state law also makes it a class C felony for any third party to offer payment for the willful and malicious misappropriation of trade secrets.

Christian & Small has extensive experience in litigating cases concerning the misappropriation of trade secrets. Our attorneys litigate claims involving trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution and misappropriation of trade secrets in federal and state courts. We have helped our clients recover lost profits, damages and have secured injunctive relief from the courts. Moreover, our experience litigating these cases helps us educate our clients about the best methods for protecting themselves before problems arise. We have drafted and sought enforcement of non-competes, restrictive covenants and confidential non-disclosure agreements.


Transportation

State and federal laws regulating the various modes of transportation are almost as numerous and dynamic as the routes taken by America’s drivers, pilots, captains and conductors. In response to increasing numbers of distracted driving accidents, the United States banned handheld texting by drivers of commercial trucks and buses in 2010; drivers now face fines of up to $3,000 for talking or texting on mobile phones. Challenges to hours of service requirements are making their way through the appellate court system, and security and safety remain primary concerns of the transportation and logistics industry.

Christian & Small enjoys an established reputation as a preeminent transportation litigation law firm. We are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to assist our transportation clients. Our goal is to proactively assist our clients with the assessment of risk and liability, and reduce the cost of claims and the number of lawsuits.

According to the Alabama Trucking Association, trucks deliver almost 90-percent of the products shipped into and out of the state each day. Christian & Small’s transportation lawyers represent many of the major truck lines operating throughout the United States. Two members of the firm have been admitted to the Trucking Industry Defense Association (TIDA) and three are members of the Transportation Lawyers Association.

The firm’s lawyers defend transportation companies in personal injury cases, cargo and property damage claims, employment matters and workers compensation claims. We provide regulatory advice based on the latest rule changes from state and federal departments of transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Surface Transportation Board, the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. We also advise business owners on relevant corporate, tax and licensing issues.