Dianne M. Nast, co-lead counsel of the Zoloft multidistrict litigation’s plaintiffs steering committee’s executive committee and a leading player in other mass tort litigation around the country, has opened a new firm in Philadelphia, called NastLaw.
Nast was with RodaNast in Lancaster, Pa., since 1995, in part because she was raising her five children in the Lancaster area.
While Nast said only about half of her cases are in Philadelphia and her practice is national in scope, Philadelphia is her home base and she said she would prefer not to be making, when she is not on the road for depositions or meetings with other attorneys all over the United States, the five-hour round-trip to commute between the Lancaster area and Philadelphia.
Nast also said that she is looking forward to being involved in professional activities in ways that she could not be with that commute.
The RodaNast was terminated November 30 after jointly operating with NastLaw for about two months, said Daniel Gallucci, one of the other attorneys at NastLaw and Nast’s son.
While Nast was in Lancaster, she never had a case in Lancaster County and nor did Gallucci have more than a couple, Gallucci said.
In addition to Nast and Gallucci, there are four attorneys at the firm, and all but one worked with Nast at RodaNast. The other attorneys are Michele Burkholder, Erin Burns, Joanne Matusko and Matthew A. Reid.
Nast’s practice involves mass torts and antitrust cases.
Both types of cases tend to involve very large, “well-financed” corporations “well-represented by very capable lawyers,” Nast said, but the bars in both areas of law tend to be discrete from each other.
The hottest issue in antitrust law are cases involving pharmaceutical companies and allegations of price-fixing through the misuse of patents and other mechanisms to stop generics from coming on the market so drugmakers can continue to make profits on their branded drugs as long as possible, Nast said. There may not be a “quirkier kind of intersection” than antitrust law and patent law, she said.
Mass torts have been shifting from state courts to federal courts as mass torts have shifted from class litigation to “aggregate litigation,” Nast said.
“Instead of class litigation it’s now aggregate litigation … that’s what the MDL accomplishes. It takes the cases all over the United States and bring them to one district,” Nast said.
If litigation settles now, it settles in federal court even if there are state court analogues, Nast said, pointing to the settlements in Vioxx and Avandia.
Gallucci, who has been practicing law since 1998, said “the most I learned from my mother is that reasonableness and treating both clients and defense counsel and other colleagues professionally and courteously is the key to being respected and doing well. You have to do what you say and follow through.”
That kind of professionalism pays dividends considering that attorneys must essentially make “employment applications” to judges in order to be picked to lead litigations through plaintiffs steering committees, Gallucci said.
Nast started in antitrust work when she got her first legal job in 1976 at trial lawyer Harold E. Kohn’s firm, where she eventually became a shareholder, officer and director at a firm known for a time as Kohn, Nast & Graf.
“When I was hired to work at the Kohn firm, I was hired to work on First Amendment issues and I spent the whole summer studying First Amendment issues and when I got there Harold Kohn assigned me seven antitrust cases,” Nast said. “And that’s all I did for the first 20 years of my professional life was antitrust cases.”
Nast also started in mass torts work with the breast implant cases the Kohn firm had.
When Nast started in the mass torts field, she said that she would frequently be the only women attorney in the room but that there are now many more women active in the mass torts bar.
But when looking at the lead counsel of cases and steering committees they are made up of almost all male attorneys, which might reflect that there are more men in leadership roles in the U.S. Congress and in corporate America, Nast said.
But she said she thinks women will catch up.
“I have never personally found being a woman lawyer — I don’t like that expression you’re a lawyer, not a woman lawyer” — to be an impediment in the practice of law, Nast said.
Among other litigations, Nast was co-lead counsel in the Darvon-Darvocet litigation, a federal-state liaison and advisory committee member in the Avandia MDL, a steering committee member in the Actos bladder cancer litigation as well as the NFL head injury litigation, and co-liaison counsel in Philadelphia and federal-state liaison counsel in the Yasmin/Yaz litigation.
Among other litigations, Gallucci was a steering committee member for the Digitek MDL, co-liasion counsel in the state Yaz/Yasmin/Ocella litigation and a member of the executive committee of the Heparin products MDL.
One of Nast’s other sons, Joseph Roda, is working at the firm of the other Zoloft co-lead counsel, Mark P. Robinson Jr. of Robinson Calcagnie Robinson Shapiro Davis in Newport Beach, Calif., Gallucci said.
Nast and Gallucci worked with the eldest of Nast’s sons, Michael Nast, at RodaNast before he died in 2004 in a scuba-diving accident.