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 also has had the honor of being court-appointed Interim Co-Lead Class Counsel in two high-profile putative environmental toxic tort class actions, including In re Flint Water Cases, which resulted in a $626 million partial settlement (granted final approval on November 10, 2021) and the Cape Fear River Contaminated Water Class Action Litigation. Mr. Leopold also serves as lead counsel in the LensCrafters and General Motors Litigation class actions.
Currently, Mr. Leopold is litigating the following notable matters:
- Cape Fear River Contaminated Water Litigation (E.D.N.C.): 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 for knowingly discharging PFAS, such as GenX, and other “forever chemicals” into the Cape Fear River, one of North Carolina’s principal drinking water sources.
- Underwood v. Meta Platforms, Inc. (Facebook) (Sup. Crt. Cal., Alameda Cnty.): On January 26, 2022, Mr. Leopold filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Angela Underwood Jacobs, the sister of Dave Patrick Underwood, against Meta Platforms, Inc., formerly Facebook, Inc., alleging that by connecting users to extremist groups and promoting inflammatory, divisive, and untrue content, the company bears responsibility for the tragic murder of Mr. Underwood.
- General Motors Litigation (E.D. Mich.): On September 26, 2019, Mr. Leopold was court-appointed Lead Counsel and Chair of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee to consolidate and oversee consumer class actions filed on behalf of thousands of GM vehicle owners across 30 states against GM related to defective eight-speed automatic transmissions in vehicles manufactured between 2015 and 2019.
- Edwards v. Tesla (Sup. Crt. Cal., Alameda Cnty.): On June 25, 2020, Mr. Leopold filed a product liability lawsuit against Tesla, Inc. on behalf of Kristian and Jason Edwards. Ms. Edwards sustained catastrophic injuries as a result of the failure of the airbags to deploy in her Tesla Model 3 during an accident.
- Edenville and Sanford Dam Failure Litigation (Mich. Crt. of Claims; Cir. Crt., Cnty. Saginaw, Mich.): On June 24, 2020, Mr. Leopold filed two separate property damage lawsuits against Michigan State Government agencies, including the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy and Michigan Department of Natural Resources for blatantly mismanaging and failing to properly maintain the Edenville and Sandford dams, which catastrophically failed on May 19, 2020. Cohen Milstein is representing more than 300 residents and businesses in Midland County and Saginaw County, Michigan and the surrounding areas, including, Arenac, Gladwin, and losco counties.
- Reed, et al. v. USA (E.D. Tenn.): Mr. Leopold is representing plaintiffs in a wrongful death and property damage mass action against the U.S. Department of Interior and National Park Service for the negligence of its employees to perform their duties during The Chimney Tops 2 Fire in Tennessee, which originated in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and ultimately damaged or destroyed 2,500 homes, buildings and other structures, and killed more than 12 people.
- Bernardo, et al. v. Pfizer, Inc., et al. (S.D. Fla.): On February 20, 2020, Mr. Leopold filed a false advertising, medical monitoring, and personal injury class action against Pfizer, Inc., Boehringer Ingelheim, Sanofi, and other pharmaceutical companies on behalf of multiple plaintiffs and putative class members across the United States who, as a result of taking Zantac (ranitidine), may have been afflicted with cancer or may now be subjected to an increased risk of developing cancer.
- Johannessohn, et al. v. Polaris Industries (D. Minn.): 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) (E.D.N.Y.): Mr. Leopold, as lead counsel, is 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. On December 13, 2021, the United States Eastern District of New York granted class certification to purchasers of LensCrafters’ Accufit Digital Measurement System (Accufit) services.
- Doe v. Chiquita Brands International (S.D. Fla.): Mr. Leopold is representing families of banana workers and others killed or tortured by the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, a foreign terrorist organization designated by the United States, which was allegedly receiving financial support and firearms and ammunition from Chiquita, a U.S. corporation with operations throughout Colombia.
Examples of some of Mr. Leopold’s litigation successes are:
- In re Flint Water Cases (E.D. Mich.): Mr. Leopold was court-appointed Interim Co-Lead Class Counsel to oversee a group of toxic tort class actions filed on behalf of Flint, Michigan residents and businesses harmed by exposure to toxic levels of lead and other contaminants in the city’s drinking water. On November 10, 2021, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan granted final approval of a landmark $626.25 million settlement against the State of Michigan. On August 11, 2021, Judge Levy granted class certification on liability claims in the ongoing litigation against the other defendants.
- HCA Litigation (M.D. Fla.): Mr. Leopold was lead counsel in a class action lawsuit alleging that HCA hospitals billed inflated fees for emergency room radiology services provided 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 (D.D.C.): 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 (Cir. Crt., Duval Cnty., Fla.): 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.
- Lindsay X-LITE Guardrail Litigation (State Crts.: Tenn., S.C.): Mr. Leopold successfully represented more than five the families of decedents and victims of catastrophic injuries in a series of individual products liability, wrongful death and catastrophic injury lawsuits in Tennessee and South Carolina state courts against the Lindsay Corporation and several related entities for designing, manufacturing, selling, and installing defective X-Lite on state roadways.
- Caterpillar Product Liability Litigation (D.N.J.): 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 (Cir. Crt., Jasper Cnty., Miss.): 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 (S.D. Fla.): 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 (Cir. Crt., Palm Beach Cnty., Fla.): Mr. Leopold tried one of the first managed care abuse 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.
- Carrier v. Trinity (Cit. Crt., Sullivan Cnty., Tenn): 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. He was named a Law360 Titan of the Plaintiffs Bar (2022), as well as to Lawdragon’s “500 Leading Lawyers in America” (2020, 2021) and Lawdragon’s “500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers” (2019 – 2022) lists. In 2019 and 2021, he was named Daily Business Review’s “Distinguished Leader” and in 2019 Best Lawyers in America named Mr. Leopold “Lawyer of the Year – West Palm Beach, Florida” for Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Plaintiffs. 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’s “Most Effective Lawyer of 2017: Class Action”; 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.” Annually, Best Lawyers in America recognizes Mr. Leopold for his work in: Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions; Personal Injury Litigation; Product Liability Litigation; Qui Tam Law. He is also consistently recognized by Best Lawyers in America in the fields of Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs, as well as by Florida Super Lawyers and Palm Beach Illustrated.
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