Hueston Hennigan attorneys previously obtained the dismissal of multiple fraud indictments against an heir of former oil magnate H.L. Hunt after an evidentiary hearing for prosecutorial misconduct, which also resulted in a criminal contempt citation against the district attorney of Dallas, Texas. Featured as “Hill Wins, Watkins Loses” in the Dallas Morning News.
Click here to read article in Courthouse News Service.
“This is a significant decision for all food, beverage, and dietary supplement manufacturers,” explained attorney Steven Feldman, who represented Nutraceutical. “We are thrilled that the Court adopted our preemption arguments, which will provide a significant tool for defense counsel against these increasingly common ‘product testing’ complaints.”
The Court’s order addressed a significant trend in class action litigation: the “surge” in cases targeting food and supplement manufacturers, where plaintiffs “are increasingly alleging independent product ‘testing’ claims of dubious scientific and legal value” in an “attempt to survive a motion to dismiss and begin discover.” See U.S. Chamber, Trends in Food and Beverage Class Action Litigation at 1, 28 (February 2017). The Court’s decision disallowing this non-compliant testing is a significant development because similar “product testing” claims have proven difficult to defeat at the pleading stage. See id. at 28 (“Once the testing allegation is made, it can prove difficult to overcome despite this lack of detail.”).
In the case, Plaintiff Toni Welk alleged that Nutraceutical’s product “Methyl Factors” was misleadingly labeled, claiming that “scientific testing” showed that the supplement contained less Vitamin B12 than listed on the label. Granting Nutraceutical’s motion to dismiss, U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez held that Welk’s claims were preempted by federal law.
The Hueston Hennigan team included partners John Hueston and Steve Feldman, and associate Michael Todisco.
The news was also covered in the Daily Journal on Tuesday, August 14, 2018.
Brian Hennigan led the Hueston Hennigan LLP team at the two-week hearing, delivering the opening statement at the hearing and examining witnesses in the courtroom while negotiating with the L.A. District Attorney’s Office for the immediate release of his client, Maria Mendez.
Prior to her release, Ms. Mendez, 64, had served 11 years of a 25-years-to-life sentence. During a post-conviction evidentiary hearing in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Hueston Hennigan demonstrated that Ms. Mendez’s conviction relied upon false expert testimony and suppressed evidence. Emphasizing the significance of newly acquired CT-scans and autopsy photos of the baby’s brain, the Hueston Hennigan team showed that the prosecution’s theory that the child had suffered from “Abusive Head Trauma” (formerly referred to as “Shaken Baby Syndrome”) was medically and scientifically flawed. After one week of evidence, the prosecution approached the defense team with a deal that would result in Ms. Mendez’s release from prison. Ms. Mendez accepted – and on June 27, 2018, with Ms. Mendez’s family in attendance, the court ordered Ms. Mendez’s immediate release. She is now living in Mexico with her family.
Brian Hennigan and John Hueston both received “Lawyers of the Year” recognitions for Criminal Defense: White-Collar, a prestigious honor presented annually by Best Lawyers to a single outstanding lawyer in each practice and designated metropolitan area covered by the US publication, based on the highest peer ratings received.
Doug Dixon, along with Brian and John, is recognized in the category of Commercial Litigation.
To compile the list of distinguished lawyers, Best Lawyers conducts an extensive peer-review process during which tens of thousands of leading lawyers confidentially evaluate their professional peers. The latest edition includes 58,000 lawyers in 140 practice areas, covering all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and inclusion in this year’s publication is based on 7.4 million detailed evaluations of lawyers by other lawyers.