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Jeffrey M. Wagner

Jeffrey M. Wagner

Partner
Complex Commercial Litigation Department

Chicago
T: +1 312 583 2391
F: +1 312 583 2360


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Legal Services

Education

  • University of Chicago Law School
    JD, 1988
  • University of Chicago
    MA, Public Policy, 1986
  • University of Redlands
    BA, magna cum laude, Political Science and Communications, 1984

Bar Admission(s)

  • Illinois
  • US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
  • US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • US Supreme Court

Jeff Wagner is a partner in the Litigation Department who concentrates his practice in commercial litigation, including products liability, consumer fraud class actions, securities, breach of contract, fraud, RICO and negligence actions. Jeff is ranked in Illinois for Litigation: General Commercial by Chambers USA 2015 and 2016, with clients describing Jeff as a “a tenacious and creative trial lawyer who can master complex scientific facts’” (2016), and an “‘effective advocate and examiner of witnesses, who has a great capacity to absorb large amounts of complicated information and present it well.’” (2015).

Mr. Wagner has tried six major products liability and consumer fraud class action cases for Philip Morris USA, the most recent of which was in Broward County, Florida. The prior trials took place in the United States District Court (M.D. Fla), California state court, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Illinois state court (Madison County) and the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He also has served as lead or co-lead counsel in several complex commercial cases involving a broad variety of claims such as RICO, common law fraud, statutory fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, insider trading, securities fraud and breach of contract. Jeff has argued appeals in numerous state and federal appellate courts.

Mr. Wagner’s representative clients include Philip Morris USA, Philip Morris International, PCI Systems, Inc., Paschen Contractors, Inc., Bacardi Ltd., Bacardi U.S.A, Inc. and Peter Halmos (founder of SafeCard Services, Inc.). Jeff is one of Philip Morris USA’s lead counsel defending multiple consumer fraud class actions brought against the company. In connection with his representation of Peter Halmos, Jeff managed approximately two dozen cases pending simultaneously in federal and state courts in 12 jurisdictions. He was responsible for managing and coordinating the efforts of in-house and outside counsel, as well as first-chairing many of the cases.

Activities

Mr. Wagner is a member of the Chicago Bar Associations and a past member of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. He served a four-year term as an elected member of the Board of Education for Wilmette Public School District 39, and served a three year term as a Trustee of the University of Redlands. Jeff previously has been selected by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation to serve as a Special Administrative Law Judge.

Representative Matters

  • Philip Morris USA: Hunter v PM USA (Alaska) and Philip Morris USA: Pardue v RJR et al. (Florida), two wrongful death actions involving claims of product liability and fraud against PM USA; both will be tried in 2016.
  • The developers/general partners of a portfolio of low income housing tax credit developments against breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract claims, in which the general partners’ equity in the limited partnerships has been directly threatened. Jeff has kept the matter out of formal litigation and presently is negotiating a complete resolution on terms very favorable to the general partners.
  • Susan L. Wagner, one of the founders and former Vice-Chairman of Blackrock, Inc., who is an independent (outside) director of Apple and a member of Apple’s Special Litigation Committee, in a shareholder derivative suit seeking to hold the members of Apple’s Board of Directors individually liable for a US$450 million antitrust judgment regarding the pricing and sale of e-books.
  • A former HSBC Executive in connection with an investigation presently being conducted by the Department of Justice (Civil Division) regarding some portion of HSBC’s residential real estate mortgage portfolio, including the securitization of those assets.
  • Pfizer, Inc. in numerous product liability/medical malpractice litigations and RICO charges. One major case involves plaintiff Hygrosol Pharmaceutical Corp., which pressed racketeering charges against Pfizer in a Pennsylvania court. The suit accused our client of conspiring to keep generic forms of the muscle relaxant Skelaxin off the market. We successfully fought off the RICO charges, as the plaintiffs failed to prove that Pfizer’s actions had led to the loss of millions of dollars in potential royalties they claimed were owed to them as developers of the drug’s generic counterpart.
  • Philip Morris USA in securing an extremely favorable verdict in a September 2015 product liability jury trial in one of the most difficult jurisdictions in the nation for corporate defendants. The plaintiff claimed that Philip Morris cigarettes were responsible for her many smoking-related diseases. After a four week jury trial, in which Jeff dismantled the expert's credibility, the jury assigned only 10% liability to Philip Morris and no liability for any punitive damages. After statutory setoffs, our client’s responsibility will amount to approximately 2% of the amount sought by Plaintiff. Cooper v. R.J. Reynolds.
  • Philip Morris USA in the successful defense of a January 2015 negligence, fraud and strict products liability jury trial in federal court (Middle District of Florida). The plaintiff claimed that Philip Morris violated Florida common law by selling Marlboro cigarettes which, coupled with cigarettes manufactured by R.J. Reynolds, led to her late husband’s lung cancer, COPD and other smoking-related diseases. After a two week trial, and immediately following Jeff’s arguments in favor of a directed verdict motion, the plaintiff withdrew her claims against Philip Morris. Ellen Gray v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al.
  • Philip Morris USA in the successful defense of a class action trial of claims brought under California’s consumer fraud statute (UCL 17200). In addition to injunctive relief, the class sought US$1.5 billion in alleged economic losses purportedly arising out of Philip Morris USA’s marketing of Marlboro Lights cigarettes in California. After a three month trial, the court entered a full, final judgment for Philip Morris USA, which has now been affirmed by the intermediate appellate court in California. In re Tobacco II (Brown v. Philip Morris USA Inc.)
  • Philip Morris USA in the successful defense of a common law fraud/products liability action in federal court (Southern District of New York). Plaintiff claimed that Philip Morris violated New York’s common law of fraud by selling Marlboro Lights cigarettes as having “lowered tar & nicotine” compared to Marlboro regulars. After a four-week trial, the jury returned a verdict for Philip Morris in December 2012. Eileen Clinton v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al.
  • Philip Morris USA in the defense of a consumer fraud class action in Missouri Circuit Court in which the plaintiffs are claiming that Philip Morris violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act by selling “light” cigarettes to Missouri customers and representing the “light” cigarettes to be lower in tar and nicotine than “regular” cigarettes. Craft, et al. v. Philip Morris USA Inc.
  • Philip Morris USA in successfully obtaining denial of class certification and dismissal of all claims in a putative class action brought by smokers alleging state law consumer fraud act, unjust enrichment, negligence and public nuisance claims against Philip Morris USA and other cigarette manufacturers. The claims were premised on allegations of defective product design, failure to warn regarding health hazards and addiction, youth targeting and misrepresentations regarding the nature and design of low tar cigarettes. Cleary v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al.
  • Philip Morris USA in securing a significant victory in a national class action in which the plaintiff asserted various state law claims premised on allegations that defendants steadily and purposefully increased the nicotine level and absorption of their cigarettes into the human body in brands most popular with young people and minorities. Successfully removed the action to federal court, and then prevailed on a motion to dismiss on the ground that all claims were preempted by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act. Espinosa v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al.
  • Bacardi U.S.A., Inc., its parent Bacardi, Ltd., and various other corporations in the Bacardi family in nine putative class action suits brought by parents of underage consumers who bought alcohol beverages prior to turning 21. Among other claims, the plaintiffs alleged that beverage alcohol manufacturers have “targeted” underage consumers with marketing designed to make drinking more attractive. Obtained dismissals, with prejudice, of the actions in Colorado, the District of Columbia, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
  • Philip Morris USA in successfully obtaining a landmark decision, reversing a Madison County, Illinois, Circuit Court’s US$10.1 billion judgment against our client and directing entry of judgment for the company. The Price class action alleged that by marketing Marlboro Lights®and Cambridge Lights® as “light,” and Marlboro Lights® as having “lowered tar and nicotine,” Philip Morris USA violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Acts because the cigarettes did not deliver “lowered tar and nicotine” to smokers. Price, et al. v. Philip Morris USA.
  • American General Finance in the successful defense of a nationwide class action lawsuit filed by a married couple on behalf of a putative class of consumer loan credit insurance purchasers. The action was removed to federal court due to the plaintiffs’ filing of a subsequent bankruptcy. Based on the facts of a Rule 2004 examination of both plaintiffs, including how they were solicited by their counsel to act as lead plaintiffs, the plaintiffs and their counsel were convinced to voluntarily dismiss the action with prejudice.
  • A commercial contracting company in successfully recouping several million dollars by bringing claims against its Chairman for fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and RICO violations. Paschen Contractors v. Henry D. Paschen.