James Huston is the former chair of the firm’s world-wide Trial Practice Group and a nationally recognized trial attorney. Mr. Huston’s practice focuses on product liability matters, contract disputes, and appeals. He is a member of the prestigious American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), and was named by Law360 as one of the top 10 most admired product liability litigators in the country. Mr. Huston has extensive experience in trying cases to verdict in state and federal courts in the fields of product liability, contracts, and patents. He has also successfully argued numerous appeals in state appellate and federal circuit courts.
Mr. Huston is nationally recognized for his expertise in aviation and pharmaceutical litigation, and has extensive additional experience in ATVs, automobiles, motorcycles, and tires. He has handled numerous cases involving large-scale consumer product claims and class actions for products such as wearable devices, helmets, children’s products, bullet-resistant vests, and dozens of other products. He also represents companies in personal injury and commercial litigation involving industrial equipment and utilities, including construction cranes, mine drilling machinery, commercial juicing machines, underground fuel pipelines, oil drilling pipes, underwater drilling and placement, and solar panels. Mr. Huston is a frequent speaker on topics of pharmaceutical litigation, medical device litigation, aviation litigation, legal research, and writing and appellate advocacy. Mr. Huston is also a New York Times best-selling author and has published eight novels.
After serving in the Navy as a naval flight officer in F-14s and graduating from TOPGUN, Mr. Huston attended the University of Virginia School of Law, graduating in 1984. He became an associate with Gray, Cary, Ames & Frye in San Diego, and then was elevated to partner in 1990. From 1997 to 2004, he served as the national chair of the firm’s Tort and Product Liability Practice Group. In 2004, he was recognized with the “Most Distinguished Alumnus Award” from the University of South Carolina, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1975.
- Recognized by Chambers USA in the area of aviation litigation (2015)
- Recognized in Best Lawyers in America in the practice area of product liability litigation (2011 – 2015)
- Recognized by Law360 as one of the 10 Most Admired Product Liability Attorneys in the country (2010)
- Recognized as a leading product liability lawyer by Legal 500 US in the areas of:
Pharmaceutical and Medical Device, “Huston’s breadth of experience and innate charisma make him the perfect trial lawyer” (2008 – 2015)
Aerospace/Aviation, “Huston is the perfect trial lawyer; he provides sound advice and is always well prepared” and “absolutely dedicated to obtaining the best results” (2008 – 2015)
Consumer Products, “the perfect trial lawyer” (2008 – 2012; 2015)
- Recognized as a leading product liability and trial lawyer by Benchmark Litigation, Euromoney’s Expert Guides, and Who's Who Legal
- Selected for inclusion in SuperLawyers for personal injury defense (since 2008) and recognized by Southern California Super Lawyers (2014)
- Selected as a fellow in the Litigation Counsel of America’s Trial Lawyer Honorary Society (2012)
- Member of the Aviation Law Institute of America (2012)
- Elected to the American Board of Trial Advocates, the prestigious trial lawyers' organization, and remains a member today (2004)
Lethal Injection Matters
Worked with a major pharmaceutical company to stop the states of Missouri and Texas from using a significant anesthesia drug in their executions. Faced with the threat of litigation, both states chose alternative methods for lethal injection. Our work helped to prevent a catastrophic drug shortage, as the European Union, which publicly opposes executions and had previously banned the export of drugs used in lethal injections, threatened to impose export restrictions if this drug was used for executions anywhere in the United States.
Pain Pump Matters
Serving as national counsel for a major pharmaceutical company in product liability cases filed in jurisdictions around the United States. The cases alleged that local anesthetic products used in pain pumps contributed to the development of post-surgical chondrolysis, a degenerative condition of the shoulder. We achieved the dismissal of our client from 186 cases consisting of 478 plaintiffs. Many of these dismissals were accomplished through successful motions to dismiss, and persuading plaintiffs’ counsel to dismiss our client without it paying a single settlement.
Chinook Helicopter Crash in Afghanistan (Getz v. Honeywell)
Obtained summary judgment based on the government contract defense for Honeywell International Inc. in litigation arising from the crash of an Army special operations Chinook in Afghanistan on February 17, 2007. Eight people died and 14 were injured when the special operations Chinook crashed while returning from a mission pursuing a member of Al Qaeda. In August 2011, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the decision ruling that Honeywell and the other government contractor defendants were not liable for the crash.
In re Aredia and Zometa Litigation
Represented a major pharmaceutical company in MDL proceedings and state-consolidated cases in which more than 200 plaintiffs claimed that pamidronate, an injectable drug used in the treatment of certain cancers, causes a degenerative condition of the jaw. On January 30, 2012, we obtained dismissals from all remaining plaintiffs in the MDL. The MDL court found that plaintiffs’ claims boiled down to failure to warn claims and, therefore, were preempted under the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Mensing. In addition to MDL proceedings in the Eastern District of New York, we represented our client in New Jersey mass tort proceedings.
In re Reglan/Metoclopramide Litigation
Representing a major generic pharmaceutical company in hundreds of lawsuits (comprising more than 2,000 individual claims) that have been filed in numerous jurisdictions around the United States, alleging that Reglan/metoclopramide (when prescribed off-label for psychiatric purposes) causes significant side effects and damages health. The cases are pending in mass tort proceedings in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California.
Learjet 60 Crash
Represented a component manufacturer in six consolidated cases involving the crash of a Learjet on September 19, 2008, as well as separate action in Columbia, South Carolina, brought by the operator for the hull loss and loss of use. The plaintiffs include former Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and celebrity disc jockey DJ AM, who both survived the crash but were critically injured. The two pilots and other two passengers were killed. The plane was headed for Van Nuys, California. The cases were filed in Los Angeles, California. The cases settled on terms favorable to our client.
Serving as national counsel in numerous cases filed around the United States, alleging side effects from heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (“HIT”). Our client is the largest manufacturer of heparin, a prescription injectable blood coagulant often used in hemodialysis and cardiac invasive procedures.
Chinook Helicopter Crash off Greece (In re Greek Chinook)
Represented Honeywell International Inc. in litigation arising from the crash of a Boeing Chinook helicopter off the coast of Greece in the Aegean Sea on September 11, 2004. The accident claimed the lives of the 17 passengers and crew on board the helicopter. This litigation involved multiple international jurisdictions, Death on High Seas Act (DOHSA), and a difficult causation investigation. We defended claims involving alleged defects in the helicopter’s engines, FADEC and AFCS. The lawsuits filed in the Greek courts in Chalkidiki, where the accident occurred, were settled. The remaining cases were filed in the U.S. and consolidated in federal court in Philadelphia. Those cases were also settled on terms favorable to the client.
Apache Helicopter Crash near Kandahar, Afghanistan (Flanigan v. Honeywell)
Represented Honeywell International Inc. in a lawsuit arising from the July 2, 2006 crash near Kandahar Airbase of a U.S. Army Apache Helicopter, which was responding to a rocket attack on the airbase. The accident resulted in the death of the pilot. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. A favorable de minimis settlement for our client was reached in December 2008.
Bayer PPA Litigation
Represented Bayer Corporation in PPA litigation. PPA was an ingredient of Alka Seltzer Plus, and other cough and cold remedies. Hundreds of cases were filed around the country alleging a correlation between the use of PPA and subsequent strokes.
Apache Helicopter Crash near Tikrit, Iraq (Beltran, Carns v. Honeywell, Chadwick, et al.)
Represented Honeywell International Inc. in litigation arising from the crash of a U.S. Army Apache Longbow Helicopter near Tikrit, Iraq, on August 14, 2003. The accident resulted in serious spinal and other injuries to the two crew members. The cases were filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and successfully removed to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Extensive discovery, expert witness development, and motion practice led to the settlement of cases by all defendants in early 2007. After the settlement, we obtained full reimbursement, including attorneys' fees, from the predecessor corporation in late 2008.
Eye Drop Class Action Litigation
Defended a major pharmaceutical company in a class action case alleging that one of its ophthalmologic products contained insufficient preservatives and was subject to contamination resulting in an infectious injury. The case settled favorably for our clients.
Boeing Vertol 107-II Accident near Bella Coola, British Columbia (Ruth v. Honeywell)
Represented Honeywell International Inc. in two wrongful death cases and a related hull loss claim arising out of the crash of a Boeing Vertol 107-II during logging operations near Bella Coola, British Columbia. The aircraft involved in the accident was originally manufactured as a military helicopter for the Swedish military and later re-manufactured for commercial use by a co-defendant. The cases, pending in federal court in Pennsylvania and the courts of British Columbia, were settled on terms favorable to the client.
Little v. Piper Aircraft
Represented Piper Aircraft in a wrongful death case filed in the Central District of California arising from the crash of a Seneca V on November 6, 2005, in Tomball, Texas. The crash resulted in two deaths. Despite the National Transportation Safety Board’s conclusion that the crash was the result of pilot error, the decedents’ family members sued, alleging engine failure. We persuaded plaintiffs to dismiss the action against Piper for a waiver of costs.
Airport Runway Design Litigation
Represented the County of San Diego in six consolidated cases in federal court in San Diego arising from the crash of a Cessna Citation 5 jet. The accident occurred during an aborted landing at Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, California, resulting in the death of both pilots and two passengers. Our motion for summary judgment was granted, applying federal preemption to the airport design claims. The decision was one of the most notable and unprecedented rulings in an aviation case in 2008 because of the application of preemption. The cases were dismissed with prejudice, and plaintiffs and codefendants waived their rights of appeal.
Toy Product License Agreement Litigation
Represented a major film company which licensed its trademark names and images to a toy manufacturer. Because of positive tests for lead content, the license agreement was terminated. Litigation ensued, and we prevailed in settling a permanent injunction and our attorneys' fees.
Pharmaceutical Product Consumer Class Action Litigation
Represented major pharmaceutical company in a consumer class action case alleging violations of consumer fraud of the Consumer Confidentiality of Medical Information Act, and of Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code section 17200. Successfully demurred to multiple amendments to the complaint leading to final judgment in favor of the client.
Fernandez v. Cessna; Kratzer v. Cessna; Feliz v. Cessna
Represented Cessna Aircraft Company in the crash of a Cessna Citation 560 at Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles. The nose baggage door came open on rotation and the pilot crashed while attempting to return to the airport. The two pilots aboard were killed. The cases settled for nominal amounts against Cessna and plaintiffs proceeded to trial against the codefendant.
Southwest Airlines Flight 1455
Retained in March of 2000 to represent Southwest Airlines in the most serious incident in the history of that airline. All but two of the numerous cases were settled, most after a summary judgment decision by the court denying punitive damages. Two cases went to trial, and both cases the judgments were less than the amounts offered in settlement.