Over the past 17 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 strategies led to favorable judgments or voluntary dismissals 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 for the Fifth Circuit. 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 20 trials to verdict 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 multi-million dollar state and federal court commercial cases and/or arbitrations in California, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. He currently represents Sinclair Oil & Gas Company in a multi-million dollar Texas federal court suit.
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 medical doctor. After the court denied plaintiffs' motion to remand and granted defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings, plaintiffs appealed the remand ruling. Pete argued the appeal. 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. He successfully persuaded the Fifth Circuit 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). 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 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.
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.