John Parker Sweeney has more than 30 years of experience defending major class action and mass torts involving product liability and warranty, consumer protection, environmental, and toxic tort cases, allowing him to tailor an appropriate litigation response for any company to resolve "bet-the-company" risks. He regularly serves as national litigation counsel, creating and supervising comprehensive defense strategies in class action and mass tort cases across the country, most recently sweeping the board clean of a series of warranty class actions against an international construction product manufacturer.
John’s effectiveness and national prominence as a defense lawyer for business in class action and mass torts was recognized by his peers when he was elected as 2014-2015 president of DRI—The Voice of the Defense Bar, a 22,000-member association of defense lawyers.
John relies on his relationships with internationally renowned scientific, technical, and medical experts, as well as his thorough understanding of the rules and procedures governing expert testimony in both Daubert and Frye jurisdictions to protect his clients from scientifically unfounded claims and unqualified plaintiffs' experts. His success at securing precedent-setting decisions excluding junk science from the courtroom in "sick building" claims typifies his effectiveness.
John is devoted to his pro bono relationship with the Helping Up Mission, Inc. of Baltimore, a faith-based residential recovery program for homeless addicts. For over 10 years, John has led a team of lawyers providing free legal services and counseling for the mission’s residents.
Recent Representative Matters
- Brief and argument in United States Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit in Brown v. Louisiana Pacific Corporation, 2016, affirming the district court’s judgment rejecting class plaintiff’s claims of fraudulent misrepresentation, unfair or deceptive practices, and breach of warranty by failure of essential purpose, and agreeing with the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Harbison v. Louisiana-Pacific Corp., 2014, that the company’s warranty was neither substantively nor procedurally unconscionable.
NATIONAL CLASS ACTION COUNSEL
- An international construction products manufacturer retained John as national counsel to lead the defense of its product liability and warranty class action cases after a class was certified in 2010. John successfully resisted consolidation by the Multi District Litigation panel, and obtained dismissal or summary judgment in the district courts in Florida, Iowa, New York, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, including decertification of the only certified class, followed by appellate rulings affirming the dismissals or summary judgments in the United States Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Sixth, and Eight Circuits. All claims were resolved in 2016.
- Retained in 2010 by one of the country’s leading home appliance manufacturers to defend a federal class action on behalf of a national class of residential boiler owners alleging implied and express warranty, misrepresentation and state consumer protection act claims, John’s motion to dismiss led to plaintiffs’ counsel dropping the national class in favor of a handful of individual state classes, resulting in a settlement enhancing the company’s warranty program in 2013.
RECENT NATIONAL COUNSEL EXPERIENCE
John has experience as national counsel in complex business litigation involving major product liability, consumer protection, mass torts, toxic torts, and environmental matters since 1985. Recent examples include:
- Successful defense of an international construction products manufacturer as national class action counsel in product warranty class action cases
- National class action counsel for household heating appliances manufacturer
- National counsel for national professional standard setting association in blood-borne illness litigation
- National counsel for industrial machinery and power tool manufacturer in class actions, mass torts and environmental litigation
- National counsel for chemical product manufacturer in mass tort litigation
RECENT CLASS ACTION EXPERIENCE
John defends clients in class action lawsuits in around the country alleging unfair or deceptive trade practices, consumer fraud, misrepresentation, and breach of warranty in connection with product packaging and sales practices. He also has had extensive experience defending class actions and mass consolidations alleging indoor environmental and groundwater contamination, blood-borne diseases, injury due to excessive noise and vibration, and exposure to various toxic substances. Recent examples include:
- Defended one of the country’s leading home appliance manufacturers in a federal class action on behalf of a national class of residential boiler owners alleging implied and express warranty, misrepresentation and state consumer protection act claims. Motion to dismiss led to plaintiffs’ counsel amending their complaint to drop the national class in favor of a handful of individual state classes, leading to settlement enhancing warranty program.
- Defended clients in class action lawsuits and mass consolidations alleging indoor environmental and groundwater contamination, blood-borne diseases, injury due to excessive noise and vibration, and exposure to various toxic substances.
- Defended Maryland’s largest affordable housing owner/manager after the court had already certified a class action against it on illegal rent practices allegations. Successfully asserted set-off claims on any rent owed against any damages recovered that led to a quick and manageable settlement of thousands of claims.
- Defended one of the largest financial services companies In a “sick building” case brought by the company’s employees against their landlord and property manager, obtained dismissal of the class allegations and barred plaintiffs’ experts from asserting claims of multiple chemical sensitivity, “sick building syndrome,” chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and the like.
- Defended a national medical professional association, obtaining dismissal with prejudice, sustained on appeal, of class action allegations asserting claims for damages and injunctive relief for failure to adopt a notification program for blood transfusion recipients different from that mandated by the FDA.
- When a leading national provider of multi-family housing faced a class action demanding immediate closure of a Florida high-rise apartment building, pulled together overnight a multidisciplinary team of industrial hygienists, remediators, claims adjusters and an allergist-immunologist to address building issues and avoid a court-ordered evacuation.
RECENT APPELLATE EXPERIENCE
John has obtained numerous reported appellate decisions in federal and state appellate courts including the leading opinion on the standard for punitive damages in product liability cases in Maryland, Owens-Illinois v. Zenobia, 1992. Recent examples include:
- Brief and argument in United States Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit in Brown v. Louisiana Pacific Corporation, 2016, affirming the district court’s judgment rejecting class plaintiff’s claims of fraudulent misrepresentation, unfair or deceptive practices, and breach of warranty by failure of essential purpose.
- Brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Harbison v. Louisiana-Pacific Corp., 2014, affirming the district court’s ruling that the company’s warranty was neither substantively nor procedurally unconscionable.
- Amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court for DRI in AEP v. Connecticut, 2011, supporting successful petitioners in reversing Second Circuit ruling allowing states to pursue limits on greenhouse gas emissions by utility companies.
- Amicus brief in Maryland’s highest court for the National Multi Housing Council, the national Home Builders Association, and Maryland Defense Counsel in Montgomery Mutual v. Chesson, 2007, establishing that the “generally accepted” standard of S. v. Frye applied in Maryland civil cases to limit expert opinion and requiring trial judges to hold Frye hearings on request.
RECENT MASS TORTS AND PRODUCT LIABILITY EXPERIENCE
John has extensive experience defending manufacturers and other corporate clients from product and premises liability claims alleging illness from occupational exposure to asbestos, hazardous chemicals and other allegedly toxic substances or harmful conditions. Recent examples include:
- Representing chemical company in “popcorn worker lung” claim resulting in judgment well below final settlement offer against prominent and successful national plaintiff’s counsel. Circuit Court for Baltimore County Maryland April-May 2011.
- Successfully defended the safety of asbestos and silica products for a leading manufacturer of glass plant equipment against hundreds of claims by East Texas plant workers. Produced a dismissal without payment and helped avoid client’s involvement in other asbestos and silica claims arising in glass plants around the country.
- A leading industrial equipment manufacturer faced thousands of hearing loss and hand/arm vibration claims from Mississippi shipyard workers. Successfully demonstrated client’s equipment had not contributed to any hearing loss or vibration injury in shipyard workers; matter resulted in dismissals with prejudice and discouraged other workers from pursuing hearing loss and hand/arm vibration claims in other shipyard and occupational settings.
- An international building materials manufacturer became one of 12 target defendants in the common issues trial of more than 9,000 consolidated Maryland asbestos cases. After a six-month trial in Baltimore City Circuit Court, obtained a mediated resolution of over 12,000 pending claims that allowed client to process claims administratively and avoid trials for years.
- A manufacturer of industrial lubricants was sued in hundreds of cases alleging exposure to nickel in a Texas Army Depot and dozens of cases alleging exposure to benzene in Pennsylvania steel mills. In both instances, demonstrated that client’s products were not a cause of the many plaintiffs’ alleged injuries.
RECENT ENVIRONMENTAL LITIGATION EXPERIENCE
John has one of the nation’s leading practices defending commercial and multi-family residential property owners against claims alleging mold and other indoor air contaminants. He also represents industrial manufacturers and property owners in environmental regulatory compliance and premises liability matters including CERCLA liability. He works closely with such expert consultants as health and medical specialists, toxicologists, architects, industrial hygienists, remediation specialists, contractors and engineers to resolve environmental problems and develop effective trial defense strategies. Recent examples include:
- National environmental counsel for Top 50 multi-housing client, including oversight of daily management of mold, asbestos, lead, and other environmental claims.
- Facing a Maryland Department of Environment civil penalty action demanding tens of millions of dollars in civil penalties as well as injunctive relief after cooperating fully to contain and retrieve over 50,000 gallons of fuel oil in Baltimore’s Curtis Bay area, a petroleum terminal owner and operator was able to settle its liability for a fraction of MDE’s claims after John secured expert testimony demonstrating the effectiveness of the company’s standard operating procedures and response to the event.
- When client was sued by hundreds of New York families alleging personal injuries and property value diminution from alleged PCBs and TCE in groundwater, defended claims and ultimately enforced an indemnification from the prior owner of the manufacturing facility, which client had acquired subject to an indemnification agreement.
- Defended a client against CERCLA liability for a corporate predecessor’s alleged industrial release of perchlorate into groundwater now drawn upon by California residential communities for drinking water. By developing the groundwater and soil testing data, demonstrated that the predecessor’s activities had not contributed to contamination of the groundwater.
RECENT REGULATORY EXPERIENCE
John began his legal career in an independent federal regulatory commission and has frequently called upon his administrative experience to assist his clients in regulatory matters that relate to very significant potential litigation exposure or must be carefully coordinated with pending litigation. Recent examples include:
- John counseled one of the country’s leading producers of educational demonstrative products for children on compliance with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and the CPSC’s regulations thereunder, including negotiating a voluntary product recall, as well as preparing written rulemaking comments and meeting with Commissioners regarding pending rulemaking proceedings.