Over the past 15 years with Shook, Pete has represented Philip Morris USA in numerous individual smoking and health cases in state and federal courts in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, New Mexico and Texas. Pete's creative work led to a favorable judgment or voluntary dismissal in all the Alabama, Arkansas, New Mexico and Texas cases that he handled. Moreover, he framed, briefed and/or argued eight successful appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, thereby preserving the judgments obtained in district court. In 2007, he became licensed to practice law in the state of Florida to defend Philip Morris USA in suits brought by approximately 8,000 individual plaintiffs claiming membership to a decertified class. He had a primary role in successfully removing to federal court the suits of several thousand such plaintiffs. Since 2009, he has served as counsel for Philip Morris USA in 16 trials in Florida, including two as second chair.
Pete has successfully represented other Shook clients. For example, he helped obtain a summary judgment for Miller Brewing Company in a $500-million breach of contract case filed in Wisconsin. In addition, he successfully defended Kraft Foods, Leggett & Platt, and Houston-based Continental Carbon Company in several multimillion dollar state and federal court commercial cases and/or arbitrations in California, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
Before graduating cum laude from the University of Houston Law Center, Pete served as business editor of the Houston Journal of International Law.
Product Liability Cases
Crockett v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Pete removed this smoking and health case to federal court - for the second time, only minutes after the state court's severance of a non-diverse doctor. The court denied plaintiffs' motion to remand and granted defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings. Plaintiffs appealed the denial of the motion to remand. Pete argued the appeal for defendants. The Fifth Circuit, on an issue of first impression, held that a removal to federal court following a state court severance of an improperly joined non-diverse party does not violate the "voluntary-involuntary rule" and thus affirmed.
McLean v. Philip Morris
The district court held that plaintiffs' smoking and health claims, brought on behalf of the estate of the original "Marlboro Man," failed under California substantive law. Plaintiffs contended on appeal to the Fifth Circuit that intervening California Supreme Court opinions required reversal. Pete argued the appeal on behalf of all the major cigarette manufacturers. He successfully persuaded the court that the district court abused its discretion in applying California substantive law, and that Texas substantive law barred the claims. The court affirmed the dismissal less than four weeks after Pete's oral argument.
Pokarney v. Kraft Foods
Plaintiffs' California state court suit alleged catastrophic injuries to a child due to choking on a piece of candy. Pete took the lead on fact discovery, motion practice, and deposing plaintiffs' liability experts (including Dr. Henry Heimlich). Because the case was set for trial on only 120 days' notice, depositions continued until the trial setting. Based on Pete's deposition of plaintiffs' warnings expert, Kraft filed a motion for directed verdict as to the failure to warn claim on the first day of trial. The case settled upon favorable terms a few hours later.
Tuoni v. Brown & Williamson
After successfully arguing to a New Mexico state court a partially dispositive motion based on federal preemption, Pete deposed the plaintiff on behalf of all defendants. Although the case was only a few months from trial, plaintiff's counsel decided to voluntarily dismiss this smoking and health case after a few hours of Pete's examination.
Green v. R.J. Reynolds
Pete engineered two removals of this smoking and health case. He framed the briefing to the Fifth Circuit that lead to the court affirming the denial of plaintiffs' motion to remand and the dismissal of all claims. The court's opinion created new removal law in the circuit.
Trafalgar v. Kraft Foods
Plaintiffs sued Kraft in Texas, alleging breach of contract and seeking $1 billion in damages. Pete got involved in the case following the trial court's denial of Kraft's motion to compel arbitration. He led Kraft's successful mandamus action, in which the First Court of Appeals held that all of plaintiffs' claims must be arbitrated.