The seventh annual Plaintiffs’ Hot List is our unscientific survey of the litigation scene since the summer of 2007. We asked our readers to nominate exemplary firms that devote at least half of their resources to plaintiffs’ work, and which have achieved at least one significant win during that period. “Significant” meant prevailing in a bench or jury trial when the stakes were high, such as a hefty sum of money, or the case could affect the litigation strategy or outcome of similar cases nationally. The firms we recognize here struck us as representing the best qualities of the plaintiffs’ bar and  demonstrating unusual dedication and creativity.

Editor’s note
Sure, the global economic system is teetering on destruction and the failure of Wall Street’s giants seems to have taken the wind out of stockholder lawsuits intended to recoup some of investors’ staggering financial losses. Add to that the U.S. Supreme Court’s inclination, with rulings like Stoneridge, to make it harder for plaintiffs to make financial evildoers pay. But don’t count out plaintiffs’ lawyers’ capacity for innovation.

The firms selected for this year’s honors are: Baron & Budd; Beasley Allen; Berger & Montague; Bernstein Liebhard & Lifshitz; Bernstein Litowitz; The Cochran Firm; Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy; Coughlin Stoia; Dickstein Shapiro; Grant & Eisenhofer; Korein Tillery; Labaton Sucharow; Lieff Cabraser; Quinn Emanuel and Seeger Weiss. Read on for the winning cases that earned these firms their place on the list.

Persistence pays in Vioxx litigation
A series of trial wins prompted Merck & Co. Inc. to settle after spending $1.9 billion defending its anti-inflammatory drug — but for all that Merck might have done pretty well. By some estimates, the pharmaceutical manufacturer could have been on the hook for $20 billion in liability.

Global diamond cartel is cut down to size
A diamond may be forever, but to plaintiffs’ lawyers who sought to litigate antitrust claims against the world’s largest diamond supplier and an avowed monopolist, it seemed to take nearly an eternity to get De Beers S.A. into a U.S. court. For decades, the South African company had successfully evaded litigation by refusing to submit to any U.S. jurisdiction. But plaintiffs’ firms’ tenacity ended that streak with a $295 million settlement for DeBeers’ customers earlier this year.

What price your pet, or peace of mind?
Sherrie Savett has been busy putting price tags on unusual losses, including credit card holders’ fear of identity theft and beloved family pets, whose worth can’t be measured in dollars. The task demands flexibility, creativity and a careful calculation of the risks of a trial, said Savett, chairwoman of Philadelphia-based Berger & Montague’s securities litigation department.

Where have all the employment cases gone?
Plaintiffs claiming employment discrimination fare far worse in the federal courts than in state courts, which has led to a sharp drop in federal filings, concludes a new study by a pair of Cornell Law School professors based on four decades of employment discrimination cases.

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