Stanley Bernstein of Bernstein Liebhard.
Stanley Bernstein of Bernstein Liebhard. (Michael Turek)

Bernstein Liebhard is known for its securities class action expertise, but last year marked a departure as it celebrated an historical punitive damages award.

Nearly four years after a $14.7 million verdict on behalf of more than 1,000 autobody shops claiming unfair trade practices against Hartford Fire Insurance Co. regarding rates for repairs, Bernstein and co-lead counsel at Hurwitz, Sagarin, Slossberg & Knuff won $20 million in punitive damages. It was the largest punitive damages award in the history of Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, according to Bernstein partners.

The Hartford’s lead trial counsel Thomas Rohback, litigation group chairman of New York-based Axinn Veltrop & Harkrider declined to comment.

On the securities side, the firm served as investor counsel in a case against Beacon Associates, a feeder fund for investment fraudster Bernie Madoff. The firm’s dogged research and investigation helped secure the $219 million settlement last year. Lowey Dannenberg Cohen & Hart was lead counsel.

Bernstein Liebhard also made big moves in mass tort and consumer cases. It was on the team that won $11 million in the first trial over Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon Inc.’s pelvic mesh implants. The New Jersey state jury award included punitive damages. “We found that we could spread out our wings and use our skills in different types of plaintiffs’ litigation,” name partner Stanley Bernstein said.

Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman of Rose­land, N.J., was lead counsel. Senior partner David Mazie said Bernstein partner Jeffrey Grand “was an integral ­member of the team that achieved this landmark verdict.” Anderson Law Offices in Cleveland also served as counsel.

Bernstein Liebhard is co-liaison with Mazie Slater and Cohen, Placitella & Roth for 4,730 New Jersey cases targeting Ethicon and with Motley Rice of Mount Pleasant, S.C., in 977 cases against C.R. Bard Inc.

FIRM FACTS

Founded: 1993
Based: New York
Total No. of Attorneys: 24
Partners: 10
Associates: 14

TRIAL TIPS

► Pick a theme to the case, keep that theme simple and repeat it in every argument to the judge.
►Don’t treat discovery as a salad bar where you try to get everything on your plate. Get what you need to win.
►Assume that every victory you get will be appealed and structure your arguments so that the appellate court will support them.
►Choose your experts at the beginning of the case to help frame your theories at the outset.

—Stanley Bernstein, partner