Chloe Dallaire is opening an Atlanta office for a fast-growing Baltimore plaintiffs firm, Discepolo, after 14 years as a defense litigator.
“I’m doing it in part because it’s interesting and in part out of a desire to help some clients,” said Dallaire.
Very active national mass tort litigation is driving Discepolo’s expansion, said its founder, Donald Discepolo, notably its suits against makers of transvaginal mesh over complications from the implantation of the mesh. He said the firm has filed more than 200 mesh cases since taking its first one last summer.
“I want to build a national plaintiffs’ law firm that can touch every state,” said Discepolo. The plaintiffs firm has 11 lawyers in Baltimore, he said, and has opened one-lawyer outposts in Texas, Illinois, Philadelphia, California and now Atlanta.
Discepolo recruited Dallaire, who had been opposing counsel on a carbon monoxide poisoning case two years ago, to be the firm’s first partner in the Southeast.
Dallaire spent more than 13 years at defense litigation firm Weinberg Wheeler, where she became a partner in 2003, before moving to Taylor English a year ago. It was at Weinberg Wheeler that she met Discepolo.
After a three-month trial, a Baltimore jury awarded $34.3 million to 20 workers at a Ruth’s Chris Steak House, who claimed they’d been poisoned by a carbon monoxide leak originating in the boiler room of an adjacent hotel owned by TPOB Pier Five.
Discepolo tried the case with two other Baltimore plaintiffs firms. He said he handled all the depositions for the medical portion of the case, with Dallaire on the other side. She “embodied the talents of a good plaintiffs’ lawyer,” he said.
“My experience with Chloe during that litigation was that she came prepared, was quick on her feet and had the ability to counter effectively just about every type of line of questioning that I was employing,” he said.
Discepolo’s firm has expanded rapidly since that big win. He said the firm has taken on other carbon monoxide poisoning cases and national mass tort litigation in addition to the mesh cases, such as suits against a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, Dupuy, which makes an artificial hip that it has recalled. The firm is “likely to try the first Pinnacle hip case in the country” for a Baltimore client, he said.
The vaginal mesh cases against four medical device makers — Boston Scientific Corp., Johnson & Johnson, C.R. Bard Inc. and American Medical Systems Inc. — have been consolidated in multidistrict litigation in U.S. District Court in Charleston, W.Va.
Discepolo opened a solo practice in 1998 after graduating from the Southern New England School of Law in Massachusetts. “No one would hire me, so I started my own firm,” he said.
Dallaire said she’s joining Discepolo so she can do contingent fee work and represent actual people instead of corporations.
“On the defense side the dynamic is completely different because I was representing big insurance companies and corporations.”
“That is not to say that defendants are bad and plaintiffs are all good,” Dallaire added. “But from a work satisfaction and ideological point of view, I’m helping actual people.”
Dallaire said the desire to help individuals was one of the reasons she ran for judge in 2010. “I thought I would have more of an impact with the people in front of me,” she said.
Dallaire ran unsuccessfullyfor an open Fulton County Superior Court seat two years ago. She was short-listed by Governor Nathan Deal for another vacancy on the Fulton Superior bench in February, due to Marvin Arrington’s retirement, but it went to Robert McBurney.
Dallaire said she moved to Taylor English from Weinberg Wheeler last year to broaden her client base, with the idea of handling catastrophic injury defense for Taylor English’s corporate clients instead of dealing solely with insurers. She also was interested in taking on plaintiffs cases and commercial litigation.
But Dallaire said the general practice corporate firm was not an exact fit for the kind of practice she was trying to develop. “Taylor English has great lawyers and great talent, but at the end of the day, what I do is catastrophic personal injury and they do commercial litigation.”
When Discepolo called her about starting an Atlanta office for his plaintiff’s firm in June, Dallaire decided to take him up on it.
Taylor English’s managing partner, Al Hill, said Dallaire’s departure was amicable. “Chloe is a real talent and she will be missed,” he said.
“She wants to do plaintiffs work. We accept contingent fee matters on a very select, limited basis, but we are much more of a commercial and business law firm,” said Hill of his firm, which has 114 lawyers, according to its website.
Discepolo said Dallaire will head up the firm’s newest mass tort effort over the off-label prescription of an asthma drug, terbutaline, to pregnant women to delay premature labor. Prolonged usage is alleged to cause autism in the fetus.
Amy Loggins joined Taylor English last week as counsel from Crawford & Co. Loggins handles labor and employment matters.
An associate in the firm’s creditors’ rights and bankruptcy practice, Samantha Tzoberi, left for Locke Lord where she is senior counsel in the business litigation group, representing financial institutions. Tzoberi had joined Taylor English a year ago from Greenberg Traurig.
After 13 years, J.D. Humphries III has stepped down as the leader of Stites & Harbison‘s Atlanta office. Ron Bingham II, who has a creditors’ rights and bankruptcy practice, succeeded him as office executive member, effective Aug. 1. Humphries will continue to practice litigation and construction law, as he did while managing the Atlanta office. The 240-lawyer firm has eight offices, including four in Kentucky, where it was founded.
Littler Mendelson also has a new Atlanta leader. L. Traywick Duffie succeeded Cameron Pierce as Atlanta managing shareholder for the national labor and employment firm at the beginning of August. Pierce, who served as the firm’s local leader for a decade, will continue his employment litigation and counseling practice. Duffie defends companies against employment litigation and union organizing.
An arbitration seminar on Friday organized by Robert Dokson of Ellis Funk and John Allgood of Ford & Harrison will address hotly contested topics in the field, such as mandatory arbitration clauses that credit card companies, hospitals and other corporations use in consumer agreements and proposed legislation to make the Federal Arbitration Act more consumer-friendly.
The seminar features some big local and national names. Consumer lawyer and former governor Roy Barnes of The Barnes Law Group will make the case that consumers should always have the right to litigate. The vice president of the American Arbitration Association, Neill Currie, and Thomas Stipanowich of Pepperdine School of Law, will respond.
Other participants include Fulton County Superior Court Senior Judge Phillip Ethridge, former U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Birch, who’s now a neutral at JAMS, Linda Klein of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz and Kerstin Meyers of the National Labor Relations Board.