Jeff Wagner is a Partner in the Litigation Practice 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 2014, with “impressed sources not[ing]: ‘Jeff simply devours even the most complex set of facts.’”
Jeff has tried five major products liability and consumer fraud class action cases for Philip Morris USA, the most recent of which was in the United States District Court (M.D. Fla). The prior trials took place in 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.
Jeff'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.
Jeff is a member of the American, Federal, Seventh Circuit and 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.
Ellen Gray v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al.
Successfully defended Philip Morris USA in this January 2015 negligence, fraud and strict products liability jury trial in federal court (Middle District of Florida). 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.
In re Tobacco II (Brown v. Philip Morris USA Inc.)
Successfully defended Philip Morris USA in this class action trial of claims brought under California’s consumer fraud statute (UCL 17200). In addition to injunctive relief, the class sought $1.5 billion in alleged economic losses purportedly arising out of Philip Morris USA’s marketing of Marlboro Lights cigarettes in California. On August 15, 2013, after a three month trial, the court entered a tentative order in which it proposed entering a full, final judgment for Philip Morris USA.
Eileen Clinton v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al.
Successfully defended Philip Morris USA in this 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.
Craft, et al. v. Philip Morris USA Inc.
Currently defending Philip Morris USA in this 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.
Cleary v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al., 2010 WL 2555640 (N.D. Ill. 2010)
Obtained 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.
Espinosa v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al., 500 F. Supp. 2d 979 (N.D. Ill. 2007)
Scored a significant victory for Philip Morris USA in this 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.
Bacardi Youth Targeting Litigation
Represented 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.
Price, et al. v. Philip Morris USA
Obtained a landmark decision for Philip Morris USA in this case, reversing a Madison County, Illinois, Circuit Court’s $10.1 billion judgment against Philip Morris 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.
American General Consumer Class Action
Defended American General Finance in 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.
Paschen Contractors v. Henry D. Paschen
Recouped several million dollars for a commercial contracting company by bringing claims against its Chairman for fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and RICO violations.