VOL. 124 | NO. 123 | Thursday, June 25, 2009
Thompson to Lead Baker Donelson’s Product Liability, Mass Tort Group
By Rebekah Hearn
J. Carter Thompson
Firm: Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC
Basics: Thompson, based in the firm’s Jackson, Miss., office, has been chosen to head the firm-wide Product Liability and Mass Tort Group.
“Because (Baker Donelson has) such a broad and extensive range of representation in this area, our attorneys have in-depth knowledge on a wide range of topics within this field.”
– J. Carter Thompson
J. Carter Thompson, a shareholder at the Jackson, Miss., office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, has been chosen to head the firm-wide Product Liability and Mass Tort Group.
He will oversee about 70 professionals in the firm’s 15 offices, including Memphis. Thompson also serves as co-chair of the firm’s Drug, Device & Life Sciences Team, which has more than 80 attorneys.
Thompson practices in the national, regional and local defense of product liability, drug and medical device, professional liability and personal injury cases.
He is a member of the Product Liability Advisory Council and serves on the Steering Committee of the Drug & Device Committee of the Defense Research Institute. He has been selected as a Best Lawyer in America in Product Liability, listed in Chambers USA as a leading litigation lawyer in Mississippi, is listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers and was named to the Lawdragon 3000 Leading Lawyers in America.
He serves as lead counsel for the distributor of anesthesia medication in more than 200 cases in Nevada and recently served as lead counsel for the manufacturer of a hemodialysis product withdrawn from the market.
Q: As the head of the Product Liability and Mass Tort group, what will be your primary responsibilities?
A: I am honored to lead a group of many talented and experienced trial lawyers and other professionals who handle serious product liability cases and mass torts in the South and around the country. It is my responsibility to oversee the group’s administrative operations, including professional development, training and marketing.
Q: Although based in Jackson, have you ever done any work in product liability or drug and medical devices with any Memphis-based medical companies?
A: I cannot comment about work for particular clients, but Baker Donelson represents a number of local companies in product liability matters in West Tennessee and throughout the country. I was born in Memphis and have handled a number of product liability cases in this area. Although my practice began in Mississippi, as I gained experience and the world became flat, my practice expanded geographically. Currently, the vast majority of the cases in which I am involved are outside my home state and outside the region.
Q: Have you found a working method for keeping up with the ever-changing and new terminology and products that arise from the medical field?
A: Because we have such a broad and extensive range of representation in this area, our attorneys have in-depth knowledge on a wide range of topics within this field. Our lawyers maintain memberships in many professional organizations that allow us to exchange information and knowledge, and we have a number of nurses and other professionals on our staff who assist us with our work in the health care arena. The firm recently formed a Drug, Device & Life Sciences Team to address challenges in that industry by bringing together people from different practice areas, such as health law, business, intellectual property and product liability, which allows us to harness knowledge from across the firm for our pharmaceutical, medical device and life sciences clients.
Q: What led you to practice in these areas?
A: I had some great mentors in my early years of practice, and the Deep South was fertile ground for a number of mass torts, particularly in the field of product liability. I was in the right place at the right time, and was involved in a number of significant mass torts before tort reform in a number of states ended what some called “jackpot justice.” Many of our clients want to tap the experience we gained during that period.
Q: You serve as counsel for a pharmaceutical company in Isotrentinoin litigation. Can you explain what this particular drug is and why is it the subject of litigation?
A: Isotrentinoin is a drug for the treatment of severe acne. In the cases we are defending, plaintiffs allege that the drug is defective and unreasonably dangerous because it caused them to suffer gastrointestinal problems.
Q: You wrote an article, “The Use of Bellwether Plaintiffs – Overview, Practice, Strategy and Implications.” Can you explain about “bellwether plaintiffs”?
A: The term “bellwether” originates from the ancient practice of hanging a bell on a male sheep, called a “wether,” which is the leader of the flock. When faced with a mass tort involving hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs in a single proceeding, some courts seek to use a set of representative plaintiffs, or bellwether plaintiffs, in an effort to gauge the success of the remaining claims. Sometimes this practice will lead to settlement of some or all of the claims.