Litigation

Whether confronted with a complex commercial matter, a class action, or a personal injury suit, Pierce Atwood's nationally-recognized Litigation Group consistently gets results for its clients in a practical and efficient manner.

Pierce Atwood's litigators have successfully litigated a broad variety of matters in State and Federal trial and appellate courts and agencies, as well as a variety of alternative dispute resolution settings.  Regardless of the type of case, the Litigation Group takes great pride in partnering with its clients to formulate and execute on the right approach to serve the client's needs in any given situation.



First Circuit Win for Pierce Atwood and Unum

A unanimous panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that Unum Life Insurance Company’s practice of using Retained Asset Accounts (RAAs) to pay death benefits claims on group life insurance policies, which specifically provided for the use of RAAs, does not violate the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

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Rossop v. Bank of America

In connection with a 12 count, 217 paragraph complaint we successfully obtained dimissal of five counts and summary judgment on all remaining counts for our client.

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SUCCESS

Axenics, Inc. v. Turner Construction Company

We successfully defended our clients Turner Construction Company and Stryker Biotech in a case that settled important issues of contract and evidence law affecting New Hampshire litigants.

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Victory at the Motion to Dismiss Stage

We received a unanimous ruling from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court for our client, a condominium association. This victory at the motion to dismiss stage brought this case to an early termination and shielded our client from what would have been a messy and expensive discovery process.

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Victory for a Vietnam War Veteran

Our client, a Vietnam War veteran, received medical services at a VA clinic for many years. The clinic failed to timely diagnosis the client’s cancer and as a result of the delay the client’s treatment options were significantly reduced.

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Areas of Expertise

Alternative Dispute Resolution

In today's litigation, clients are concerned about the time and expense needed to bring a case to final resolution through trial and appeal.  More and more parties turn to alternative dispute resolution as a way to resolve their cases more quickly and efficiently.  Pierce Atwood offers an unsurpassed level of expertise and service in all forms of ADR. 

 

Our team's members include two former Chief Justices of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, and a former President of the American College of Trial Lawyers who has served as Independent Counsel under President Clinton and as Counsel for the United States before the International Court of Justice.  Our members have served as Special Masters appointed by the Supreme Court of the United States in cases falling within the Court's original jurisdiction. Our attorneys serve on panels of neutrals offered by AAA, CPR and AHLA. 

Appellate Litigation

A significant portion of Pierce Atwood's litigation practice focuses on appellate work.  Our appellate work arises both when we are retained solely for the appeal and in cases we have first litigated before the trial court. Where we are involved from the outset, our goal is to think long-term, focusing not only on issues that may impact the strategy at trial, but also on the best ways to position the case for a future appeal.

 

We handle cases covering a range of issues involving areas of federal law and significant areas of state and commercial law. We often are asked to prepare amicus briefs on behalf of industry associations and coalitions. Our lawyers have made numerous oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court, the various United States Courts of Appeals across the country and before state Supreme Courts throughout New England.  Included in our group are two former state Supreme Court Chief Justices who provide strategic analysis with an eye toward how briefs will be viewed from the other side of the bench.

Attorney Liability and Professional Conduct

Attorneys representing other attorneys: Where lawyers go when they need a lawyer tells you a lot about the firm they turn to.

When another large law firm in Portland needed counsel recently to defend a high profile legal malpractice lawsuit against it, they turned to Pierce Atwood. On a number of occasions, lawyers at Pierce Atwood have helped lawyers at other firms, big and small, to defend against allegations of professional negligence, breaches of fiduciary duty, and violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Pierce Atwood provides this assistance both in court and before administrative bodies regulating lawyers such as the Board of Bar Overseers.

Handling such matters requires discretion as well as skill. Pierce Atwood offers tact to go along with aggressive advocacy, and the experience and judgment to know when to employ each effectively and with positive results for our clients.

Class Actions

Class actions remain one of the most powerful tools used by plaintiffs' counsel.  In appropriate cases, a class action may afford a legitimate opportunity for injured plaintiffs to obtain class-wide relief.  In other cases, however, the threat of a class action is used primarily to force a settlement from wary businesses.  When this threat arises, Pierce Atwood assists its clients nationwide in vigorously challenging the propriety of class certification.  In the past several years alone, we have successfully defeated class actions in Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida and Minnesota.  The ABA Section of Litigation regularly asks one of our partners to author the Maine Section of its Fifty State Survey of Class Action Law, and another partner is a member of the American Law Institute working group drafting the ALI's new Principles of the Law of Aggregate Litigation.

 

Pierce Atwood attorneys also maintain a class action blog, First Class Defense, that focuses on decisions of the state and federal courts within the boundaries of the First Circuit.

 

More information on our class action practice >>

Commercial Litigation

In today's increasingly complex world, it is no surprise that business disputes are becoming more complex as well. Our commercial trial lawyers have the skill and confidence to seize the initiative, control the litigation agenda and efficiently and effectively obtain results for our clients, whether in federal or state courts around the country, before government agencies in regulatory and administrative litigation, or in private arbitrations.

Whether representing Fortune 500 companies or medium and small size business clients, we take pride in the fact that we provide all of our clients the same vigorous representation and degree of service and attention. We understand and respect our clients' budgets and deadlines, communicate frequently with our clients during litigation, and ensure that our clients are fully advised of the progress of their cases. Most importantly, we take the time to get to know our clients' businesses so that we can provide the best overall advice.

We keep up with changing technologies and are experts in electronic discovery. We routinely use in-house automated litigation support tools that allow our lawyers to give our clients better, more efficient and cost-effective representation.

Construction & Surety Litigation

Whether large or small in size, few construction projects are completed on time and without a hitch.  Pierce Atwood has decades of experience representing general contractors, owners, subcontractors and suppliers and helping them sort out these problems and get their projects back on track whenever possible.

 

Our construction litigation experience covers all aspects of the construction process, including:

  • Pre-construction issues, including advice on drafting and interpretation of construction agreement
  • Mid-stream informal dispute resolution and problem solving
  • Post-construction claims litigation, including hearings before arbitrators and mediators

 

Our surety litigation experience is equally broad, and encompasses:

  • Advice on contract, surety bonds, and general agreements of indemnity
  • Prosecution and defense of fidelity, surety, and indemnity claims
Defending Against ATM Patent Threats

Robert H. Stier, Jr., a seasoned trial lawyer with over 30 years experience handling patent infringement cases, has built a nationwide practice representing biotech, semiconductor and other high tech clients.  He never expected to be applying his skills in defense of banks.  But when Automated Transactions LLC ("ATL") began threatening community banks in New England with expensive lawsuits unless they licensed a portfolio of 13 ATM patents, he saw a problem in need of a solution.  For any individual bank confronted with such a demand, there was no real choice: it was more expensive just to study the patents and analyze their claims than it would be to pay the nuisance-value licensing fees and make the hassle go away.  Bankers felt extorted, and they were justifiably upset with our legal system and its perverse incentives. 

Click here for more about how we're helping small banks harness the power of a joint defense against patent threats.

Employee Benefits Litigation

Today's employers, employee benefit plan sponsors, insurers and other fiduciaries face a complex and frequently evolving array of claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and state law. Our lawyers are actively involved in the leading industry groups, including the ABA and DRI Life, Health and Disability Committee, and stay abreast of implementing regulations, enforcement, and legal developments in order to provide the best advice to our clients. Equally important, we maintain a successful benefits litigation practice with multi-jurisdictional expertise, appearing on behalf of clients in cases pending across the country. By doing so, we assist our clients in working toward a uniform body of law for resolution of benefits disputes. We also take a proactive approach by working with clients to review plan language and adopt effective claims administration procedures before problems arise.

We handle disputes over entitlement to benefits and associated removal and ERISA preemption issues, breach of fiduciary duty and prohibited transaction claims, subrogation actions, bad faith and rescission suits, and complex class actions in both ERISA and non-ERISA contexts. We have assumed a lead counsel role in both routine and complex benefits cases in courts in numerous states and have represented clients in connection with several important United States Supreme Court ERISA cases.

Environmental Litigation

Environmental litigation is an all too common occurrence in today's business climate. Our attorneys handle civil and criminal lawsuits and administrative proceedings relating to the contamination, protection, and restoration of natural resources; public and private remediation rights and obligations; licensing and permitting issues; toxic torts, including both personal injury and property damage claims; and establishing, contesting, and protecting property rights and interests. Pierce Atwood's attorneys have a wealth and depth of experience with respect to relevant federal and state laws including the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act ("CERCLA"), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act ("RCRA"), the Toxic Substances Control Act ("TSCA"), and analogous state statutes and regulations, and have handled both civil and criminal environmental cases in state and federal trial and appellate courts, and administrative agencies and boards.

Government/White Collar

Pierce Atwood represents companies and individuals in connection with federal and state criminal and regulatory investigations, enforcement matters, and federal False Claims Act cases. We provide comprehensive services to clients that receive subpoenas or other requests for information from federal or state regulators. Although we seek to address and resolve issues and concerns raised by government prosecutors and regulators before a prosecution or enforcement action begins, that is not always possible, and we have extensive experience in investigating and litigating all forms of government inquiry and enforcement from the investigative stage through the grand jury process and, if necessary, trial.

The matters we handle range from alleged environmental crimes, banking and financial crimes, violations of occupational and health and safety law, ERISA matters, False Claims Act investigations and qui tam actions, securities fraud investigations, health care fraud investigations, food and drug investigations and anti-trust investigations. Regardless of the type of matter, Pierce Atwood has a proven record of helping clients avoid, resolve and mitigate the impact of government investigative and enforcement proceedings. 

Insurance Litigation
Pierce Atwood has extensive experience in all facets of insurance-related litigation. Whether representing an insurance company, a corporate insured, or an insurance agent, Pierce Atwood provides effective and practical legal services at the trial court level or on appeal in cases ranging from declaratory judgment actions, breach of contract suits, uninsured motorist claims, and extra-contractual litigation. Pierce Atwood consistently obtains successful results for clients whether it is overturning a large jury verdict in a bad faith disability insurance case, defending a class action for extra-contractual remedies, or prosecuting or defending a coverage case.
IP Litigation
In today's global economy, changes in technology and product designs are constantly occurring and the need to identify, protect and enforce intellectual property rights is increasing. Pierce Atwood provides intellectual property litigation services to a variety of industries, including biotechnology, financial services, computer and software technology, music and entertainment, and designers of luxury goods. Litigation matters include copyright, trademark and patent infringement, Internet domain name and trade name disputes, unfair competition claims, as well as disputes over proprietary information, data breach and trade secrets. Pierce Atwood litigates matters before the United States Patent & Trademark Office, state and federal courts at the trial and appellate levels, and before foreign tribunals. Whether you are an emerging business with potentially valuable intellectual property or a Fortune 500 company with a vast intellectual property portfolio, Pierce Atwood provides expert and cost-effective representation.
Personal Injury

Attorneys in Pierce Atwood's Personal Injury Practice Group bring the highest degree of professionalism and service to represent clients who have suffered harm as the result of the conduct of others. Pierce Atwood regularly represents Plaintiffs with a variety of claims such as claims for personal injuries, wrongful death, traumatic brain injuries, medical malpractice, toxic chemical exposure, financial abuse of the elderly, or real estate claims such as trespass or boundary disputes.

Typically, Pierce Atwood represents clients of its Personal Injury practice group on a contingent fee basis so that they do not need to worry about paying legal bills at a time when they need help the most and are the least able to afford legal representation. Many of the cases handled by the Plaintiff's Practice are referred by other attorneys and Pierce Atwood shares fees with referring attorneys as permitted by law.

Products Liability Litigation

Products liability litigation is one of the most complex areas of litigation with the cases often involving scientific and technical issues combined with serious or even catastrophic personal injuries. Pierce Atwood's products liability group responds to these challenges by combining cutting-edge scientific and technical knowledge with extensive personal injury experience to deliver successful and cost-effective products liability defenses to our clients in trial and appellate courts.

From the outset of any given case, we work closely with clients manufacturing or distributing such products as vehicles, industrial equipment, pharmaceuticals, asbestos, aviation, latex medical equipment, chemicals, machinery, and forestry equipment, to identify goals, establish objectives and promptly assess the strengths and weaknesses of each case as early as possible.