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Thomas Combs & Spann honored in recent Chambers USA publication.

Chambers USA has released their 2018 lawyers and law firm rankings. In the category Litigation: Mass Torts — Thomas Combs and Spann was named a Tier 1 firm in the Litigation: General Commercial — West Virginia category. Additionally, David Thomas was identified as Tier 1 lawyer in Commercial Litigation and Mass Torts. Phil Combs and Bryant Spann were also recognized in Commercial Litigation. This is what Chambers had to say about the firm:

What the team is known for Toxic tort and product liability are cornerstones of this Charleston-based litigation boutique. Key clients include pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers. Experienced in handling multidistrict litigation and also active on asbestos proceedings. Additionally, noted for its work in financial services litigation and white-collar criminal defense.

Work highlights Successfully defended 3M in two product liability trials relating to use of the company's respirators by coal miners who have since developed lung disease.

Acting for Johnson & Johnson, and its subsidiary Ethicon, in the ongoing pelvic mesh multidistrict litigation.

Notable practitioners

The "excellent" David Thomas is widely praised as a preeminent figure in this market. Acclaimed by sources as "a tier-one litigator," he is extensively involved in national toxic tort and mass tort cases. He also has experience representing professional services firms and major chemicals companies.

Philip Combs is noted by peers for his "good reputation," while clients enthusiastically rate him as an "excellent lawyer." He is most markedly praised for his extensive product liability expertise.

Bryant Spann maintains a broad litigation practice, with expertise in white-collar crime as well as product liability work. In the latter field, he has especially notable experience undertaking asbestos and respirator cases.

CVN's Top 10 Most Impressive Defense Verdicts of 2017

CVN's Top 10 Most Impressive Defense Verdicts of 2017

Posted by David Siegel on Jan 12, 2018 1:35:32 PM

Courtroom View Network's most impressive defense verdicts CVN covered in 2017. We didn't rank these just by the amount of money at stake, but also considered the facts of the case, the parties involved, and the potential broader impact of the verdict.

#4: Call v. Subaru

Design of SUV's fuel line found not to be the cause for fatal fire following head-on collision

Defense attorneys: Christopher Spencer, Adam Lounsbury (Spencer Shuford LLP), Philip Combs (Thomas Combs & Spann PLLC)

Defense Attorneys for Call v Subaru

Link to video of the trial:

Why it made the list:

A West Virginia state court jury determined last February that Subaru was not responsible for the deaths of three passengers who died in a fire after their 1999 Forester sport utility vehicle was struck in a head-on collision.

The proceedings took on a decidedly hands-on feel when attorneys began examining the front section of a Subaru Forester that had been cut off and transported to the tight confines of Judge Jennifer Bailey's fourth floor courtroom. A blue tarp covered the unusually large exhibit for most of the trial.

Kanawha County jurors returned their verdict on February 2 following nearly two weeks of testimony. The families of Carole Lynn Crawford, 46, her daughter Meaghan McGuire Crawford, 16 and family friend Kelsey Rebecca Kuhn, 15, filed a product liability lawsuit against the car manufacturer in 2011 claiming the allegedly defective design of the Subaru Forester contributed to their relative's deaths.

The mother and two teenagers died in 2009 when a Ford Explorer crossed the center line and struck their Forester head-on. The plaintiffs argued that the route of a key fuel line created an unnecessary risk of an explosion in the event of a collision, however Subaru's attorneys successfully argued that other combustable fluids flowed onto exhaust elements after the impact ripped away other parts of the engine.

The victims burning to death could have resulted in a substantial pain and suffering award, as we saw at a similar trial in 2015, but a Virginia-based trial team lead by attorneys from Spencer Shuford LLP secured a clean defense verdict.

2018 The Firms Landing the Most Cases in 7 Practice Areas

A recent article in Law360 listed Thomas Combs & Spann in third place among firms representing Defendants in Product Liability cases. An excerpt from that article follows.

The Firms Landing the Most Cases In 7 Practice Areas

By Jacqueline Bell and Cristina Violante

Law360 (March 3, 2018, 10:50 AM EST) — In Lex Machina's new rankings, case volume speaks volumes.

The legal analytics provider's Top Law Firm Report reveals the firms that have fielded the most cases over the past five years, whether it's litigating a complaint or mounting a defense.

The study focuses on cases filed in U.S. district courts, zooming in on practice areas including patent, trademark, copyright, securities, antitrust, employment and product liability.

For each area, Lex Machina identifies the busiest firms, examining data from January 2013 through December 2017.

"The report provides in-house counsel with a starting point for outside counsel selection, and allows law firms to see how they compare with the competition," Brian Howard, Lex Machina's associate general counsel and legal data scientist, said in the report, which was released Friday.

The report ranks firms separately in each practice area, and it divides rankings based on cases in which the firms represented plaintiffs from rankings based on cases where they represented defendants.

In each practice area, all law firms appearing in the lawsuit are given credit for the case, so one case can count toward the tally for multiple firms.

Product Liability

Multidistrict litigation dominates product liability work, driving up the overall number of cases law firms have dealt with over the past five years. Lex Machina's report, which includes MDL-associated cases, shows that product liability-focused firms tend to deal with the highest volume of product liability litigation.

Subaru CVN Top 10 News

The February 2017 defense verdict in Subaru's favor was voted one of Courtroom View Network's Top 10 Most Impressive Defense Verdicts of 2017.

The case was tried in Kanawha County Circuit Court by Thomas Combs & Spann partner, Philip Combs and Christopher Spencer of Spencer Shuford, LLP. The case involved the tragic death of three women after their Subaru was struck by another vehicle. Following the wreck, the Subaru caught on fire. The jury rejected claims that the Subaru was not crashworthy, and determined that the car was, in fact, properly designed.

You can read CVNs report here:

Susan M. Robinson Elected Managing Partner

Thomas Combs & Spann, PLLC is proud to announce that Susan M. Robinson will assume the role of Managing Partner of the firm effective January 1, 2018.

Susan's legal practice at Thomas Combs & Spann centers around complex civil litigation, including product liability and toxic torts, and federal criminal defense. Since the firm was founded in 2012, Susan has represented product and pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors in an array of cases in state and federal courts and has been actively involved in multidistrict litigation.

Thomas Combs & Spann Receives Three Top Tier Rankings — Again!

On November 1, 2017 U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers announced their 8th Annual "Best Law Firms" rankings. Included firms are recognized for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise. This designation reflects the high level of respect a firm has earned by its clients and peers.

To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have a lawyer listed in The Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top 4 percent of practicing attorneys in the U.S.

Thomas Combs & Spann received Tier 1 rankings in the Charleston WV region in the following areas of law:

Antitrust Law
Commercial Litigation
Litigation – Environmental

The 2018 edition of Best Lawyers in America, released in August, recognized Thomas Combs & Spann, PLLC attorneys:

Susan Robinson in Criminal Defense: White-Collar
David Thomas in Litigation – Environmental
David Griffith in Commercial Litigation
George Guthrie in Antitrust Law

David Griffith and Joe Merical Prevail On Appeal to WV Supreme Court

On October 6, 2017, Thomas Combs & Spann attorneys David Griffith and Joe Merical, working in conjunction with attorneys from the law firm of Faegre Baker Daniels, successfully appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, obtaining reversal of an order from the Circuit Court of Berkeley County, West Virginia denying a motion to compel arbitration filed in the lower court.

In a 5-0 decision, the Supreme Court’s opinion authored by Justice Margaret Workman, includes a new syllabus point which holds: A non-signatory to a written agreement requiring arbitration may utilize the estoppel theory to compel arbitration against an unwilling signatory when the signatory’s claims make reference to, presume the existence of, or otherwise rely on the written agreement. Such claims sufficiently arise out of and relate to the written agreement as to require arbitration.

The full text Court’s opinion may be found on its website:

TCS Attorneys Obtain Unanimous Decision On Certified Question To WV Supreme Court

Thomas Combs & Spann partner David Griffith and associate Joe Merical convinced a unanimous Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia to rule in their clients’ favor on a question certified to the Supreme Court by Judge Jennifer Bailey of the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia.

Justice Menis Ketchum authored the Court’s October 12, 2017 opinion which holds that the debt collection provisions and deceptive practice provisions of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act, W.Va. Code §§46A-2-122 to -129a [1996] and W.Va. Code §§46A-6-101 to -106 [2015], do not apply to and regulate fees a landlord may charge to a tenant pursuant to a lease of residential real property.

The full text Court’s opinion may be found on its website:

Thomas Combs & Spann Receives Three Top Tier Rankings

U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers recently announced its rankings of Best Law Firms naming Thomas Combs & Spann to the top tier in three practice areas.

The firm was one of two in West Virginia to receive a tier one ranking for Antitrust Law, and one of seven in the state named to tier one in Litigation – Environmental. Thomas Combs & Spann was also honored with a tier one ranking in Commercial Litigation.

This marks the seventh year that U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers have ranked law firms. For more than 30 years, Best Lawyers has assisted those in need of legal services to identify the attorneys best qualified to represent them in distant jurisdictions or unfamiliar specialties.

Firms included in the 2017 Best Law Firms list are recognized for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.

To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have a lawyer listed in The Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top 4 percent of practicing attorneys in the U.S. Receiving a tier designation reflects the high level of respect a firm has earned among other leading lawyers and clients for its abilities, its professionalism and its integrity.

The 2017 Best Law Firms rankings can be seen in their entirety by visiting:

Thomas Combs Prevails in International Arbitration Case

Thomas Combs & Spann partner M. David Griffith, Jr. and David L. Wallace of Herbert Smith Freehills New York, LLP prevailed in a complex case involving enforcement of an international arbitration agreement in a dispute between a U.S. mining equipment distributor (Shilmann Rocbit, LLC) and the U.S. subsidiary of an Australian mine supplier (American Blasting Consumables, Inc.) that had purchased a South African company with which the mining equipment distributor had a distribution agreement.

The matter, originally filed in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia was removed to Federal Court by Thomas Combs and Herbert Smith Freehills on behalf of their client, American Blasting Consumables, Inc. On October 4, 2016 U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin issued a published memorandum opinion and order denying plaintiff's Motion to Remand and granting defendant American Blasting Consumables, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss and Compel Arbitration in South Africa.

A link to the Law 360 article on this opinion:

Bryant Spann and his trial team obtained the first defense verdict ever returned in favor of a respirator manufacturer in Kentucky

On August 23, 2016 in Hazard, KY, Bryant Spann and his trial team obtained the first defense verdict ever returned in favor of a respirator manufacturer in ongoing litigation brought by Eastern Kentucky coal miners diagnosed with black lung. The unanimous defense verdict, in a case brought by the estate of a deceased miner, was entered after a nearly four week long trial in Perry Circuit Court. The IADC report of the trial is here:

“Pattern Jury Instructions for Civil Cases in West Virginia”

In June, 2016 the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia published “Pattern Jury Instructions for Civil Cases in West Virginia”. Thomas Combs & Spann partner, Philip Combs is the reporter for the chapter on Products Liability and Warranty instructions.

Rankings released in 2016 by Chambers and Partners in the Chambers USA guide name Thomas Combs & Spann as a Band 1 firm in General Commercial Litigation in West Virginia.

This is what the Guide had to say about the firm and three of its partners:

From the Chambers USA guide

What the team is known for Toxic tort and product liability are cornerstones of this prominent practice. Key clients include pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers. Also active on asbestos proceedings and, more recently, advising banks.

Strengths (Quotes mainly from clients)

"They're very talented litigators, covering the full range of litigation."

"An excellent law firm which handles real difficult chemical exposure and product liability cases."

Notable practitioners

Founding partner David Thomas is a reputed authority on both mass tort and general litigation. He has served on significant medical, environmental and product liability cases and "has really made a name for himself defending very difficult cases in court, all around the country."

The "well regarded" Philip Combs is a founding partner who concentrates on product liability cases. His clients include major companies from the pharmaceutical, manufacturing and automotive fields, which he represents in a range of contentious matters. One peer observes: "He's really maturing into a good defense lawyer for complicated litigation."

Another founding partner, Bryant Spann is respected by peers across the state. He has been instructed on especially impressive cases in the financial sector and also maintains a criminal defense practice.

Thomas Combs & Spann, PLLC is proud to announce that Daniel R. Higginbotham is now a partner of the firm. Daniel has practiced with the firm since September, 2011.

Daniel Higginbotham’s practice focuses on the defense of product liability cases. Daniel specializes in drug and medical device litigation, regularly defending pharmaceutical and device manufacturers in personal injury and wrongful death cases. Daniel’s product liability practice also includes the defense of automobile and chemical manufacturers. In addition, Daniel has litigated contract disputes involving some of the country’s largest financial institutions.

Prior to entering private practice, Daniel was honored to serve as a law clerk for two of West Virginia’s federal judges. He first clerked for the Honorable Robert B. King of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Daniel then clerked for the Honorable John T. Copenhaver, Jr., of the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Daniel is a 2009 graduate of Duke University School of Law. While at Duke, he served as a Research Editor for the Duke Law Journal, participated in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, and was named a Mordecai Scholar. Prior to law school, Daniel studied Economics at Vanderbilt University, where he graduated summa cum laude in 2006.

Thomas Combs & Spann is a litigation boutique with a single-minded focus: Providing its clients with world-class representation in the courtroom. Their lawyers are trial lawyers; global companies and individuals routinely entrust Thomas Combs & Spann with their most challenging lawsuits, in West Virginia and elsewhere.

Three lawyers from Thomas Combs & Spann, PLLC were listed in The Best Lawyers in America© 2015.

David B. Thomas was selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2015 in the fields of Bet-the-Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation and Litigation - Environmental.

George G. Guthrie was selected in the field of Anti-trust law.

M. David Griffith was recognized in the field of Commercial Litigation.

Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey. Over 52,000 leading attorneys cast more than 5.5 million votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their practice areas. Lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed; therefore inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor. Corporate Counsel magazine has called Best Lawyers “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”

Thomas Combs & Spann is pleased to announce that Robert H. Akers has been named a partner in the firm effective January 1, 2014.

Mr. Akers received his undergraduate degree from Colgate University and his law degree from West Virginia University. His legal practice focuses on civil defense litigation. He has litigated cases in areas including personal injury/wrongful death actions; products liability; mass tort litigation; motor vehicle, trucking, and ATV accidents; medical malpractice; and deliberate intent cases. He has had both first and second chair trial experience in cases throughout West Virginia.

Rob joins the other firm partners, David Thomas, Phil Combs, Bryant Spann, Susan Robinson and David Griffith in building a lean, client-responsive litigation defense focused firm.

David B. Thomas selected for inclusion in the 20th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America

David B. Thomas was selected by his peers for inclusion in the 20th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America in the practice areas of:
     Bet-the-Company Litigation,
     Commercial Litigation and
     Litigation - Environmental.

Additionally, he was named the Best Lawyers' 2014 Charleston, WV Litigation – Environmental "Lawyer of the Year”
This is quite an honor for David and the firm is proud that his peers have recognized his quality work.

Two Thomas Combs & Spann lawyers were recognized in Super Lawyers magazine

Two Thomas Combs & Spann lawyers were recognized in the 2013 Virginia and West Virginia edition of Super Lawyers magazine. Rob Akers was honored as a Rising Star for the second year in a row and David Thomas was recognized again in the category Personal Injury Defense: Products. Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area.

Thomas Combs & Spann, PLLC has received a Tier 1 ranking in the 2013 Edition of U.S. News – “Best Law Firms”

Thomas Combs & Spann, PLLC has received a Tier 1 ranking in the 2013 Edition of U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms”. This Tier 1 ranking was determined through the firm’s overall evaluation, which was derived from a combination of client feedback, the high regard that lawyers in other firms in the same practice area have for Thomas Combs & Spann, and information provided by the Firm to Best Lawyers.

The Metropolitan First-Tier Rankings for Charleston WV earned by TCS are:
     Commercial Litigation
     Litigation – Environmental
     Litigation – Eminent Domain & Condemnation
     Antitrust Law

Thomas Combs & Spann associate Christopher S. Dodrill to take a position as Assistant Attorney General.

Thomas Combs & Spann associate Christopher S. Dodrill is leaving the firm January 14, 2013 to take a position as Assistant West Virginia Attorney General.

We are sorry to lose Chris, he is a bright, aggressive lawyer and we are proud of the work he did while he was here. At the same time we are excited for him and the opportunity he has to help shape the West Virginia Attorney General’s office under its new leadership. As a former naval officer and current Charleston City Council member public service has always been important to Chris.

We wish Chris the best of luck in his new position.

Stephanie D. Thacker becomes West Virginia's first woman appointed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Thacker was nominated by President Barack Obama last year to fill the vacancy created by the death of Judge M. Blane Michael and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in April. Speaking during her investiture ceremony in May, David B. Thomas remarked: "I learned that if there's anyone you want to be in a foxhole with in tough times, it’s Stephanie. If she didn't get appointed, we wanted her in the foxhole with us at our new firm, which would have been Thomas Combs Spann & Thacker."