James Schurz represents clients in federal and state courts in the areas of consumer protection, advertising, product liability, environmental, and food law.
Mr. Schurz has broad experience representing manufacturers, retailers, and resource companies involving a diverse range of consumer products, technologies, and industries. His recent cases have involved fruit juice, coffee, soft drinks, dietary supplements, baby food, over-the-counter drugs, home electronics, and semiconductor chips. Mr. Schurz has served as trial counsel in class actions, MDL proceedings, jury trials, bench trials, and arbitrations. He has appeared extensively in courts throughout California, in particular, San Francisco Superior Court, the United States District Courts for the Northern and Eastern Districts of California, and the California Courts of Appeal.
Mr. Schurz has advised and defended clients in actions related to Proposition 65 (California’s unique toxics and labeling law) and California’s consumer protection and unfair competition laws. He recently prevailed in Environmental Law Foundation v. Beech-Nut et al., the largest Prop. 65 food case to go to trial. He regularly handles litigation and trial of suits brought by private litigants and law enforcement officials for unfair business practices and false advertising claims against manufacturers and retailers.
Mr. Schurz has deep experience with many of the world’s leading arbitration forums, including the International Chamber of Commerce, the American Arbitration Association, and UNCITRAL. He has handled arbitrations involving intellectual property, distribution contracts, fuel contracts, joint ventures, and the development of infrastructure projects. He also has broad experience litigating the enforceability of arbitration clauses in federal and state courts. He is co-chair of the San Francisco Bar Association’s Arbitration Committee and co-chair of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution’s Advocacy Committee.
Legal 500 US (2015) recognized Mr. Schurz in the areas of product liability and mass tort defense: consumer products and toxic tort. He has received the San Francisco Bar Association’s Award of Merit, the Outstanding Barrister Award, and the California Lawyer Angel Award for his pro bono work. In 2014, he was awarded an Outstanding Public Service Award by the Northern District Court of California and the Justice and Diversity Center for his pro bono representation. Legal Services for Children also presented him with its Pro Bono Leadership Award in recognition of his advocacy, leadership, and extraordinary commitment to Bay Area children.
Mr. Schurz received his B.A. and M.A. degrees in European history from Stanford University. He received his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Immediately following graduation, Mr. Schurz served as a law clerk to the Honorable Marcus Kaufman, Associate Justice, California Supreme Court. He joined Morrison & Foerster in 1990 and is a former co-chair of the firm’s Commercial Litigation Group.
Council for Education and Research On Toxics (CERT) Coffee Litigation(Cal. Superior Court, Los Angeles). Represent virtually every major producer of packaged or brewed coffee sold in California—including Folgers, Green Mountain Roasters, illy, and Maxwell House—in two lawsuits brought by CERT regarding the presence of acrylamide in coffee. Lead trial lawyer in 21-day bench trial in Los Angeles Superior Court (Civil Central West Division). Matter is submitted and awaiting decision.
Environmental Law Foundation v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp., et al.(Cal. Superior Court, Alameda County). Scored trial and appellate victories for Del Monte, Dole, Gerber, Smucker’s, Welch’s, and 10 other companies in a case brought by the Environmental Law Foundation and Baron & Budd class action firm. Plaintiff argued that the companies’ baby food, fruit juice, and packaged fruit products must carry cancer and birth defect warnings because they contained trace levels of lead, notwithstanding the FDA’s findings that they were safe and posed no unacceptable health risk. The trial judge and unanimous panel of the California Court of Appeal rejected arguments that California’s Proposition 65 law required warnings on these products and rejected an enforcement policy long advanced by the California attorney general and numerous plaintiffs’ groups that falsely assumed that every type of food is consumed each and every single day of the year. This decision, considered to be one of the most significant in Proposition 65’s 25-year history, opens the doors to companies that wish to use expert testimony based on actual exposure data to defend themselves, and may have application, including to consumer class action cases, going forward.
In re Fruit Juice Products Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation(D. Mass.) (Multidistrict Litigation). Won dismissal on behalf of Coca-Cola Company, Gerber Food Products, Del Monte Corporation, Welch Foods, The Hain Celestial Group, The J.M. Smucker Company, Dole Food Company, and 4 other food manufacturers of seven class actions centralized in the District of Massachusetts asserting claims for violations of state consumer-protection laws, breach of warranty, and unjust enrichment, alleging that defendants misled consumers into believing their fruit juice products and purees were safe. Dismissed as to all defendants on all claims.
Boysen v. Walgreen Co.(N.D. Cal.). Won dismissal of a class action against Walgreen Co. that sought to use state consumer-protection and warranty laws to regulate trace amounts of arsenic and lead in fruit juice and fruit purees. The court found that the plaintiff’s claims were not sufficient to establish an injury in fact and therefore plaintiffs lacked standing.
Guzzardo v. Amway Corp.(D. Utah). Successfully defended Amway in a two-week bench-trial, class action lawsuit in which former Amway independent business operators claimed that Amway sought to improperly bind them to their agreements, including noncompetition, nonsolicitation, and nondisclosure provisions. The matter proceeded to trial and an appeal.
Legal 500 US (2015) recognized Mr. Schurz in the areas of product liability and mass tort defense: consumer products and toxic tort. He has received the San Francisco Bar Association’s Award of Merit and the Outstanding Barrister Award and the California Lawyer Angel Award for his pro bono work. In 2014, he was awarded an “Outstanding Public Service Award” by the Northern District Court of California and the Justice and Diversity Center for his bro bono representation of a group of homeless people in Arcata, California.
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