Munger, Tolles & Olson is consistently recognized for setting the highest standard of excellence in the courtroom. Our firm has trial lawyers in California and Washington, D.C. Many of our trial lawyers have experience trying cases as federal prosecutors, and we have multiple partners who are fellows of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Our team includes:
L. Ashley Aull
Robyn K. Bacon
Brad D. Brian
Victoria A. Degtyareva
Benjamin J. Horwich
Bethany W. Kristovich
Daniel B. Levin
Ronald L. Olson
Glenn D. Pomerantz
Laura D. Smolowe
John W. Spiegel
Gregory P. Stone
Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.
Munger, Tolles & Olson litigators are known as much for providing long-term strategic leadership on cases as for their remarkable ability to parachute in on the eve of trial. We have prevailed in trials after decades of hard-fought litigation, and we have won astonishing trial victories despite having only a few weeks to prepare. Key representations include:
- Bruce, Willa and Charles, who lost their Manhattan Beach business and property through a racially discriminatory condemnation action nearly 100 years ago. MTO represented the Bruce family, who successfully intervened in defending against a taxpayer action that sought to prevent Los Angeles County from returning the condemned beachfront property to the family.
- Plains All American Pipeline, a pipeline operator, in parallel criminal and civil actions that included more than a dozen lawsuits in state and federal court, in the aftermath of a pipeline leak that spilled oil onto Refugio State Beach. We defended Plains in a criminal trial in Santa Barbara on claims brought jointly by the state attorney general’s office and the Santa Barbara County district attorney’s office. More than thirty counts were dismissed before trial on the criminal side, and we negotiated a $230 million settlement on the civil side.
- Steves & Sons in the first matter ever in which a jury, not a regulatory body, had required divestiture as a remedy in private litigation over a completed merger.
- Wells Fargo in cases arising from the opening of unauthorized accounts by personnel, one of the highest-profile challenges the bank has faced since the 2008-09 crisis.
- Disney, Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros, Marvel, New Line and Turner Entertainment in a complete trial victory for several motion picture studios against unlicensed streaming service VidAngel, followed by a successful resolution of claims in VidAngel’s bankruptcy.
- Rent-A-Center, which operates about 2,500 rent-to-own consumer goods stores in the United States, in an expedited trial in the Delaware Court of Chancery challenging Rent-A-Center’s termination of a proposed merger. The judgment resulted in payment to Rent-A-Center of a $92.5 million termination fee.
- Fortress Investment Group in a five-week bench trial against claims brought by HM Ruby, a life settlement hedge fund, which alleged breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, unfair competition, negligent misrepresentation, promissory estoppel and fraud and sought $200 million in damages. The trial victory was recognized among the Daily Journal’s “Top Defense Verdicts” of 2016.
- Transocean, owner of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, in obtaining a defense verdict in litigation arising from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. By finding that Transocean's conduct did not void the company’s indemnity agreements, Transocean avoided tens of billions of dollars of liability. The American Lawyer named the matter among the “most fascinating big business cases of 2014” and recognized our lead trial counsel on the case as a “Litigator of the Week.” The verdict also earned the trial team a 2015 California Lawyer Attorney of the Year (CLAY) Award.
- Phillip Morris USA in winning a trial victory in a massive class action spanning more than 16 years involving the marketing of Marlboro Lights cigarettes. The case was named by the Daily Journal as a “Top Defense Verdict.”
$31 Million in Damages for Inappropriate Sharing of Tragic Crash Photos
Client: Estate of Kobe Bryant/Vanessa Bryant
Munger, Tolles & Olson represents the Kobe Bryant Estate in the invasion of privacy and federal civil rights suit against Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department involving the illegal taking and sharing of photos of the victims of the tragic helicopter crash that killed nine people, including Kobe Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. MTO’s representation began in February 2020 immediately after the Los Angeles Times reported on the improper photos.
This case has captured both national and global interest. Our firm’s role in the invasion of privacy lawsuit that arose from deputies sharing photos of the crash resulted in an important decision affirming the public’s right to information when police officers are accused of misconduct.
In August 2022, the jury returned a verdict in favor of our client Ms. Bryant, as well as Chris Chester, who lost his wife and daughter in the crash, and awarded them a combined $31 million in damages.
Munger, Tolles & Olson also co-led the wrongful death suit against Island Express, the helicopter company that transported the passengers who perished in the crash.
MTO Wins $16m Jury Verdict for Vanessa Bryant in Trial Over Crash Site Photos
$1 Billion Lawsuit Dismissed Over Fukushima Radiation Exposure
Client: Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)
Munger, Tolles & Olson preserved its victory in years-long litigation concerning the catastrophic tsunami and resulting nuclear incident in Fukushima, Japan, when the Supreme Court, in March 2021, rejected a certiorari petition from U.S. Navy sailors seeking review of a May 2020 Ninth Circuit decision dismissing a $1 billion lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and General Electric Power Co. over alleged injuries the sailors suffered from radiation exposure during the Navy’s response to the 2011 incident.
In a pair of suits, each seeking $1 billion, sailors in the U.S. Navy sued TEPCO, claiming that they had developed cancer due to radiation released from the Fukushima nuclear plant after it was struck by the tsunami. TEPCO argued that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over TEPCO and that principles of international comity required the suits to be heard in Japan. The district court dismissed both suits, one based on personal jurisdiction (Bartel) and the other based on international comity (Cooper). On appeal, the Munger, Tolles & Olson team won dismissal of the Bartel appeal without oral argument. Then, following argument former U.S. Senator John Edwards, the Ninth Circuit also affirmed the Cooper decision in May 2020, holding that the district court had acted within its discretion in deeming that international comity required the litigation to proceed in Japan. In March 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the plaintiffs’ petition for certiorari. Other cases filed by U.S. Navy sailors in the Southern District of California and the District of Columbia were voluntarily dismissed in light the results obtained in Cooper and Bartel.
American Sailors Lawsuit Rejected Against Japanese Over Fukushima Radiation