Theodore J. Leopold is a Partner at Cohen Milstein and Co-Chair of the firm’s Complex Tort Litigation and Consumer Protection practice groups. Mr. Leopold is also a member of the firm’s Executive Committee.
Mr. Leopold’s practice is devoted solely to trial work, with a focus on complex product liability, environmental toxic torts, managed care abuse, consumer class actions, and catastrophic injury and wrongful death litigation. Mr. Leopold has tried cases throughout the country and has recovered multi-million dollar verdicts, including jury verdicts in the eight-figure and nine-figure amounts.
In his role, Mr. Leopold litigates high-stakes, complex lawsuits on behalf of consumer safety issues, particularly as it relates to product defects, automobile safety and managed care matters. In 2010, he obtained a $131 million jury verdict against the Ford Motor Company, the ninth-largest verdict against an automobile company in U.S. history.
Mr. Leopold is court-appointed Interim Co-Lead Counsel in two high-profile putative environmental toxic tort class actions, including In re Flint Water Cases and the Cape Fear River Contaminated Water Class Action Litigation. Mr. Leopold also serves as lead counsel in the LensCrafters and Polaris ATV class actions, and co-lead counsel in Irizarry v. Orlando Utilities Company.
Currently, Mr. Leopold is litigating the following notable matters:
- In re Flint Water Cases: On July 26, 2017, Mr. Leopold was appointed Interim Co-Lead Counsel for a group of related class action lawsuits filed in federal court on behalf of Flint, Michigan residents and businesses harmed by exposure to toxic levels of lead and other hazards from the city’s drinking water.
- Cape Fear River Contaminated Water Litigation: On January 4, 2018, Mr. Leopold was court appointed Interim Co-Lead Class Counsel to consolidate and oversee a series of five putative environmental toxic tort class actions filed against E.I. DuPont de Nemours Company and The Chemours Company in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of North Carolina, Southern Division.
- Irizarry v. Orlando Utilities Company: On December 20, 2018 Cohen Milstein and co-counsel filed a putative contamination and property damage class action against Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC), a municipally-owned public utility providing electric and water service to Orlando citizens, for allegedly contaminating the properties of more than 30,000 residents with toxic byproducts from the utility’s coal-fired power plant at the Curtis H. Stanton Energy Center.
Lindsay X-LITE Guardrail Litigation: Mr. Leopold represents the families of Hannah Eimers, Lauren Beuttel, Jacob Davison, and Wilbert Byrd, who were killed by defective Lindsay X-LITE guardrails, against the Lindsay Corporation and several related entities for designing, manufacturing, and selling defective, dangerous guardrails for use on public roadways.
- Johannessohn et al, v. Polaris Industries: On July 31, 2017, Mr. Leopold, lead counsel, filed a class action suit against Polaris Industries, the manufacturer of the Sportsman all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), alleging the ATVs have a design defect that makes them dangerous to drive.
- Ariza v. Luxottica Retail North America (LensCrafters): Mr. Leopold is lead counsel, representing a putative class of purchasers of LensCrafters’ Accufit Digital Measurement System (Accufit) services, who allege that LensCrafters used false, misleading advertising and deceptive sales practices about Accufit being “five times more accurate” in measuring pupillary distance than traditional methods, to induce customers to purchase LensCrafter’s higher-priced prescription lens products.
- Pulse Nightclub Shooting: Mr. Leopold is co-lead counsel representing more than 90 survivors and relatives of victims of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting. The lawsuit against the shooter’s former employer, G4S, alleges that it knew he was mentally unstable and threatening violence, yet they employed him as an armed guard, obtained his security license from the state with the use of a fraudulently signed psychological assessment, and repeatedly gave him weapons training, making him a more effective and dangerous shooter.
- Ratha, et al v Phatthana Seafood Co.: Mr. Leopold is part of a Cohen Milstein’s Human Rights team representing seven Cambodian plaintiffs who, after being promised well-paying jobs, became victims of human trafficking, forced labor, involuntary servitude, and peonage by factories in Thailand producing shrimp and seafood for export to the United States.
Examples of some of Mr. Leopold’s litigation successes are:
- HCA Litigation: Mr. Leopold was lead counsel in a class action lawsuit alleging that HCA hospitals billed inflated fees for radiology services provided in the emergency room to people involved in automobile accidents and who received care that was covered by their Florida Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. In December 2018, Cohen Milstein secured final approval of a $220 million injunctive relief settlement on behalf of the class.
- Quinteros, et al v. DynCorp, et al: Mr. Leopold represented over 2,000 Ecuadorian farmers and their families who suffered physical and mental injuries and property damage as a result of aerial spraying of toxic herbicides on or near their land by DynCorp, a U.S. government contractor. The bellwether trial on behalf of the first six Ecuadorian clients came to a conclusion in April 2017, when the ten-person jury unanimously determined that DynCorp was responsible for the conduct of the pilots with whom it had subcontracted to conduct the chemical spraying after April 2003. In July 2017, Mr. Leopold successfully settled the case.
- Mincey v. Takata: Mr. Leopold was the lead attorney in a lawsuit brought on behalf of Patricia Mincey, a Florida woman who was paralyzed when the driver’s side airbag in her car deployed too aggressively during a vehicle collision. The injuries Ms. Mincey sustained in the accident ultimately led to her death. In groundbreaking litigation at the forefront of what would become a Department of Justice investigation and the largest defective product recall in automobile history, Ms. Mincey alleged that the airbag system in her car, manufactured by Takata Corporation, was defective and that Takata knowingly hid the defect from consumers. On July 15, 2016, immediately before a hearing was to be held on Plaintiff’s motions to depose the CEO of Takata and to amend the complaint to plead a claim for punitive damages, Mr. Leopold successfully resolved the case.
- Caterpillar Product Liability Litigation: Mr. Leopold was co-lead counsel in a class action lawsuit alleging Caterpillar sold diesel engines with defective exhaust emissions system that resulted in power losses and shutdowns. Mr. Leopold developed the case and led all aspects of the litigation, which he successfully resolved in September 2016 for $60 million.
- Cole v. Ford: Mr. Leopold was co-trial attorney for the family of former New York Mets infielder Brian Cole who was killed when the Ford Explorer he was driving rolled over, ejecting him from the vehicle. The lawsuit charged that the seat belt in the Explorer was defective in that it failed to keep Mr. Cole in his seat. Following two hung juries, eleven of the 12 jury members, in the third trial, agreed on the verdict and found for the Cole family in the amount of $131 million.
- Quinlan v. Toyota: Mr. Leopold was lead counsel in a product liability case against Toyota Motor Company after Bret Quinlan was paralyzed when his Toyota Camry suddenly and without warning began accelerating and failed to respond to the brakes. Mr. Leopold successfully resolved the case prior to trial.
- Chipps v. Humana: Mr. Leopold tried one of the first managed care cases in the country after Humana wrongfully denied physical and occupational therapy for a 6 year old child with cerebral palsy. The jury returned the largest punitive damage award on behalf of an individual in Florida history, and this seminal case was featured in the movie Damaged Care.
- Salvato v. Marion County Sherriff: Mr. Leopold represented the Salvato family in the wrongful death case of Joshua Salvato, an unarmed 21-year-old, who was shot and killed by two Marion County Sherriff’s deputies in 2014, and obtained a $2.3 million jury verdict at trial.
- Carrier v. Trinity: Mr. Leopold represented the Carrier family in this wrongful death matter. The death occurred as a result of the guardrail safety device failing. Instead of protecting the driver, the guardrail intruded into the passenger compartment of the vehicle and impaled the driver, causing her death. Mr. Leopold successfully resolved the case in October 2016.
Mr. Leopold is the past president of Public Justice Foundation, one of the nation’s preeminent litigation and advocacy organizations that fights for consumer justice through precedent-setting and socially significant individual and class action litigation.
Mr. Leopold is also frequently recognized by peers as being among the best in his area of practice. In 2018, Mr. Leopold was named a “Law360 MVP: Environmental,” recognizing the top five practitioners in the United States from both the Defense and Plaintiffs’ Bar in this area of law. Other recent recognitions include: The National Law Journal: “2018 Energy and Environmental Trailblazer”; Daily Business Review: “Most Effective Lawyer of 2017: Class Action”; Best Lawyers in America: 2019 “Lawyer of the Year” Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Plaintiffs, West Palm Beach, Florida. In addition, he was nominated for “Trial Lawyer of the Year” by the Public Justice Foundation for his ground-breaking litigation involving the managed care industry, and his work has been featured in the National Law Journal’s “Top Verdicts of the Year.”
Mr. Leopold lectures frequently at professional gatherings on such issues as personal injury, product liability, class action litigation, trial tactics and consumer justice. He is also author and co-author of several legal publications, including Florida Insurance Law and Practice (Thomson/West). Additionally, he has earned the Florida Bar Civil Trial Certification, the highest level of recognition by the Florida Bar for competency and experience within civil trial law.
Mr. Leopold is a graduate of the University of Miami, where he received a B.A. He earned his J.D. from Cumberland School of Law, Samford University.
- President, Public Justice Foundation
- Craig S. Barnard American Inn of Court LIV
- Board of Directors, American Board of Trial Advocates
- Board of Directors, Florida Justice Association
- Board of Directors, Attorneys Information Exchange Group
- Advisory Board Member, Cumberland School of Law, Samford University
- Board of Directors, Jewish Family & Children's Services
- Board of Directors/Past President, Arthur I. Meyer Jewish Academy