At the forefront of representing automotive companies, Shook, Hardy & Bacon understands our clients’ products, their businesses and the industry as a whole, as well as the legal and regulatory landscape, emerging technology and liability theories.

We have a deep bench of leading automotive lawyers who take a multidisciplinary approach to representing our clients at trial and on appeal, addressing issues in product liability and tort, class action and complex litigation, intellectual property, heavy machinery and transportation, as well as the rapidly developing field of autonomous vehicle regulation and law. In addition, our attorneys are supported by more than 100 research analysts with advanced science and technical degrees, giving us greater depth and breadth of knowledge in automotive technology, engineering and product design.

Our lawyers have fielded almost every type of automotive claim. For example, we have dealt with rollovers, electronic stability control, tire failure, unintended acceleration, glazing, airbags, side curtains, active restraint systems, seats, roof design, fuel systems, brakes, vehicle structures, door latches and child restraint systems. We also have worked with automakers, component suppliers and OEMs to resolve personal injury claims, consumer fraud litigation and commercial disputes involving component parts, aftermarket alterations, unauthorized modifications, and other technologies.

Shook lawyers routinely participate in industry workshops and technical training sessions to enhance their knowledge of issues such as accident and biomechanical reconstruction, failure mode analysis, component characteristics and performance. As part of our front-end risk mitigation services, we also provide input on advertising and product literature.


Product Liability and Tort Litigation | We represent companies that design and assemble automobiles, trucks, buses, motorcycles and ATVs. Our individual case, class action and complex litigation work includes all types of product defect cases, including pattern litigation, and efficiently managing cases as regional or national counsel.

Class Action and Complex Litigation | Shook has defended hundreds of class actions challenging our clients’ business practices in nearly every jurisdiction in the United States. As a result, we have become adept at devising innovative strategies to minimize the risk of such lawsuits and bring those that are filed to early favorable resolution. For example, we have successfully thwarted potential automotive class litigation by counseling on class waiver arbitration clauses. Our experience includes alleged consumer fraud class actions as well as alleged product defect class actions—with or without associated recalls.

Intellectual Property | Our services include patent and trademark litigation, prosecution and counseling. Our patent attorneys can help clients with filing, portfolio strategy and management, risk analysis, inter partes and post-grant review; we also help clients with unfair competition, trade secret, dilution and copyright claims. 

Autonomous Vehicles | Call them driverless cars, self-driving, connected or automated driving systems; autonomous vehicle development, testing and deployment has given rise to rapid changes in U.S. and global legislation, regulation and standards. Shook’s automotive team monitors the accelerating pace of development in this field, backed by more than a century of experience in dealing with the legal challenges and litigation that new technological developments inevitably bring.

Heavy Machinery and Transportation Litigation | Our attorneys represent bus, truck and other transportation companies and their insurers in injury and property damage cases throughout the country. We also defend manufacturers of cranes, construction equipment, and specialized industrial and agricultural machines.

Business and Commercial Litigation | Shook attorneys have successfully handled thousands of cases for clients involved in major business disputes and civil litigation. We have managed cases involving antitrust, corporate governance, securities, insurance coverage, contracts, arbitration and ADR, taxation, franchises and dealerships, and First Amendment issues. In addition, we help clients with state and federal regulatory requirements and engage in strategic public policy initiatives to improve the business climate in which they operate.

Appellate Practice | Our automotive appeals team regularly assists companies and other law firms in both trial and appellate courts. At trial, we ensure error preservation; assist in legal strategy on liability, compensatory damages and punitive damages; and prepare complex pretrial motions, jury instructions, verdict forms and post-trial motions. We also handle federal and state court writs and appeals, with an eye toward not only winning the particular case but also developing favorable precedent.

Product Liability and Tort Litigation 

Shook is known as a litigation powerhouse because we handle the toughest cases under the most contentious circumstances against the most talented, organized and well-funded plaintiffs’ counsel.

Our deep bench of seasoned trial lawyers is supported by professionals with ‎advanced degrees in the sciences, engineering and a range of technical disciplines. Our in-house talent is a rich resource of industry-specific knowledge, whether the client matter involves a product defect, infringed patent or trademark, tort or business dispute.

Shook’s trial teams are equally at home‎ in state or federal courts, before mediators and arbitrators, on appeal, and in international tribunals. From individual matters to class actions, complex litigation and mass torts, our litigators are driven to help their clients prosper.

Representative Matters

  • Durbin v. Ford Motor Co. | The plaintiff sued Ford for product and strict liability after she suffered injuries in a single-car rollover accident. The court entered a stipulated judgment for Ford to allow the plaintiff to appeal the denial of terminating sanctions against Ford for alleged discovery violation and alleged spoliation. The California Court of Appeal ruled that the trial court acted within its discretion and affirmed the verdict for Ford.

  • Boren v. Kia Motors America, Inc. | Plaintiffs involved in an accident alleged the vehicle lacked adequate roof strength, electronic stability control and rollover-activated restraint system technology, which they claimed rendered the vehicle defective and unreasonably dangerous; they sought damages in excess of $30 million. Following a four-week trial in Oklahoma, the jury returned a unanimous defense verdict.

  • Gilchrist v. Ford Motor Co. | Plaintiffs filed suit against Ford seeking $200 million in damages, alleging that their F-250 diesel truck experienced a left front tire failure that caused the pickup to drift left into oncoming traffic. Claiming significant injuries, they alleged that the F-250’s Hydro Boost system and scrub radius made the vehicle defective and prevented the truck’s driver from steering right to avoid the collision. After a five-week trial, the jury found that Ford’s design of the Hydro Boost system did not cause the accident, and that the driver of the pickup steered left into oncoming traffic before colliding with plaintiffs’ car. 

Class Action and Complex Litigation

Shook teams have defended hundreds of class actions and complex litigation matters nationwide. As a result of our experience, our teams are adept at devising innovative strategies to minimize the risk of such lawsuits and bringing those that are filed to early favorable resolution. For example, we have helped clients successfully avoid potential automotive class litigation through the use of class waiver arbitration clauses. Our automotive class action litigation experience includes alleged consumer fraud as well as product defect claims, with or without associated product recalls. 

Representative Matters

  • Sansoe v. Ford Motor Co. | Two plaintiffs who purchased Ford trucks claimed the trucks needed multiple repairs; Ford offered refunds or replacement, subject to conditions that the plaintiffs would be responsible for missing equipment, collision damage or abnormal wear. The plaintiffs accepted Ford’s offers, accepted the refunds, compensated Ford for repair costs due to abnormal wear, and signed releases of all vehicle-related claims. A year later, the plaintiffs filed suit claiming the settlement agreements violated the Song-Beverly Act—which allows a statutory deduction for mileage, but not abnormal wear—and the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA). Finally, a federal court in California granted summary judgment to Ford, finding the settlement agreement provisions were not severable, not unconscionable, and that the CLRA claim failed because the challenged conduct occurred after the sale date of the vehicles. The ruling defeated a putative nationwide class action against Ford.
  • DeMaria v. Nissan North America, Inc. | Shook won dismissal of a putative nationwide class action against Nissan in which 18 named plaintiffs from nearly as many states filed suit alleging Nissan concealed that the floorboards in certain vehicles were more prone to rust than normal. A federal court in Illinois ruled it did not have jurisdiction over the out-of-state plaintiffs, then dismissed all allegations of the single Illinois plaintiff for failure to state a claim. Plaintiffs filed, then voluntarily dismissed, an appeal.
  • Lassen v. Nissan North America, Inc. | In an industrywide action filed in California federal court, plaintiffs sought to certify a nationwide class and nine statewide classes alleging the keyless ignition systems used by Nissan and 11 other automobile manufacturers were defective because they did not shut off the vehicle automatically after the keyless fob is removed from it, allegedly creating a risk of carbon monoxide build-up, injury and death. On Nissan’s behalf, Shook moved to dismiss; the court granted the motion, denied plaintiffs’ request for leave to amend and dismissed the action with prejudice.
  • Owen v. General Motors Corp. | In a case brought against General Motors in Missouri federal court, plaintiffs sought nationwide class action status for GM customers whose windshield wipers failed. Through aggressive use of motion practice, Shook lawyers obtained a dismissal of all of plaintiffs’ claims, including a consumer fraud claim. The court then denied plaintiffs’ motion for class certification as moot.
  • Loose v. Mitsubishi Motor Sports of America | Shook lawyers defended Mitsubishi in nationwide consumer class action litigation in Kansas, alleging that the defendants’ wheels performed defectively. Shook successfully defeated class certification, then negotiated and oversaw a favorable nationwide class action resolution.
  • Durkee v. Ford Motor Co. | Shook lawyers defended Ford in a class action in the Northern District of California alleging consumer fraud class claims in relation to alleged unlawful and fraudulent warranty practices. Following an aggressive motion practice strategy, we secured a dismissal with prejudice and judgment in Ford’s favor. 

Intellectual Property 

Shook’s IP teams represent some of the world’s leading companies in patent and trademark litigation, prosecution and counseling–including firms at the leading edge of technological development and design.

Our patent attorneys can help clients with filing, portfolio strategy and management, risk analysis, inter partes and post-grant review; we also help clients with unfair trade competition, trade secret, dilution and copyright claims.

Shook attorneys also monitor the rapid pace of technological development and its effect on intellectual property law. For example, we help our clients keep pace with the 2Wit Design blog, a groundbreaking look at design, patent and litigation; and with Cloud IPQ—taking a wide-ranging look at cloud computing, cybersecurity and more—created and curated by a partner who rejoined Shook after serving more than a decade as Microsoft’s chief patent counsel.

Representative Matters

  • Sprint v. Time Warner Cable | Shook attorneys obtained the largest-ever patent verdict in Kansas for Sprint when a jury awarded $139.8 million in damages for infringement of five VoIP patents. After the verdict, Law360 named Shook a “Legal Lion of the Week” and The National Law Journal named the lead trial counsel “Winning Litigator for 2017.”
  • Signal IP, Inc. v. Nissan North America, Inc.  Shook represented Nissan against claims that the automaker infringed car-safety patents; the client obtained summary judgment on two claims and reached a favorable settlement on the remainder. 

Autonomous Vehicles

Whether we call them driverless cars, self-driving, connected or automated driving systems, autonomous vehicle development, testing and deployment has given rise to rapid changes in U.S. and global legislation, regulation and standards.

As this field of law evolves and expands, new areas of concern for manufacturers, consumers, legislatures and courts are emerging, including:

  • Data privacy and protection
  • Cybersecurity and anti-hacking software
  • Technological development in cameras and radar systems
  • “Smart” road infrastructure
  • Insurance risks
  • Driverless public transportation

Because of the significant data security challenges in this field, Shook’s Privacy and Data Security Practice Group works with our automotive team on cybersecurity, malware, data breach and compliance issues. Attorneys in the practice group hold professional certifications in information privacy for the U.S. and Europe, and the practice group chair is a member of the U.S. Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force and has been nationally ranked by Chambers USA in data security and privacy law.

In addition, Shook’s automotive team monitors the accelerating pace of legal and regulatory development in this area, backed by our Technology and Telecommunications, Insurance and Reinsurance, Product Liability, Government and Regulatory, and Public Policy practice groups. We report the legal news that our automotive clients need to know in our Autonomous and Connected Vehicles Update, and our attorneys help our clients through presentations and publications that explain the most recent changes in the legal landscape.

Heavy Machinery and Transportation Litigation

Our attorneys represent manufacturers and users of heavy machinery and commercial transportation vehicles and their insurers in injury and property damage cases throughout the country. We also defend manufacturers of cranes, construction equipment, and specialized industrial and agricultural machines.

Representative Matters

  • Geronga v. Ford Motor Co. | Shook represented Ford in a month-long California state court trial involving a fire in a limousine that had been stretched from a Ford Lincoln Town Car. Five women died in the fire, which occurred on the Hayward/San Mateo Bridge. Ford was the only defendant at trial, all other nine defendants having reached pretrial settlements with the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs claimed Ford was aware of a defect in the Town Car that could cause friction between the driveshaft and floorpan sufficient to ignite the interior of the limousine. Shook’s team argued that when the Town Car was stretched into a limousine, it was weight-restricted to six passengers in the rear, but was later modified by limousine operators to carry up to 12 passengers, an overloading condition that led to the fracture of the floor structure and contact with the driveshaft. The plaintiff sought more than $42 million, including $2.9 million in economic damages. After four weeks of trial, the jury returned a full defense verdict.
  • Gleason v.  Freightliner, LLC | Shook lawyers secured a defense verdict for Thomas Built Buses, Inc. and Freightliner LLC in a consolidated trial in Missouri state court stemming from a school bus crash that resulted in fatalities and injuries. Plaintiffs sought in excess of $50 million in economic damages, claiming the brake system and pedal configuration on the school bus were defective. Following an eight-week trial, the jury returned a defense verdict, ultimately siding with the defense theory that the driver of the bus inadvertently depressed the accelerator instead of the brake. Missouri Lawyers Weekly named this case the top defense verdict of the year.

Business Litigation

Shook’s Business Litigation Practice Group has successfully handled thousands of cases for clients facing major business disputes and civil litigation. We have managed commercial litigation involving antitrust, corporate governance, securities, insurance coverage, contracts, arbitration and ADR, taxation, franchises and dealerships, and First Amendment issues. We also handle retailer issues, commercial property contracts, product recalls and matters involving the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In addition, we help clients with state, federal, and global regulatory requirements, including matters subject to the oversight of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Trade Commission, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and U.K. regulatory agencies. We also engage in strategic public policy initiatives to improve the business climate in which our clients operate. 

Appellate Practice

Our automotive appeals team regularly assists clients, often collaborating with other law firms, in both trial and appellate courts. At trial, we ensure error preservation, develop legal strategy on liability and damages, and prepare complex pre-trial motions, jury instructions, verdict forms and post-trial motions to preserve issues for appeal.

We handle federal and state court appeals and writs, not only working to win a particular case but also to develop favorable precedent. To that end, our National Amicus Practice regularly submits amicus curiae briefs in pending appeals whose outcomes may affect our clients and their future business operations.

Representative Amicus Filings

  • Walker v. Ford Motor Co. (Colo. 2017) | The Colorado Supreme Court adopted Shook’s argument in an amicus brief filed on behalf of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM), ruling the risk-benefit test—not the consumer expectation test—is the correct test to assess whether a product is unreasonably dangerous due to a design defect where the dangerousness of the design is defined primarily by technical scientific information. The AAM (BMW Group, FCA US LLC, Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche Cars North America, Toyota, Volkswagen Group of North America and Volvo Car Corp.) produces 77 percent of all U.S. car and light truck sales.