For a firm with humble beginnings as a one-man practice, Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C., has experienced remarkable growth in the nearly 40 years since its inception. Today, the firm is comprised of more than 50 attorneys, with a national footprint and a track record of more than $1 billion in verdicts, settlements, and judgments for its clients, including more than 100 individual recoveries in excess of $1 million.
But while much at the firm has changed since its early days, founder Michael Burg notes that the firm’s core values have remained consistent. “From the very beginning, my father told me to work relentlessly to be the best at my profession, and he said to ‘never chase the money.’ If you’re the best at what you do, people recognize it. So I think we owe a large part of our success to the fact that our work isn’t just about the economic benefits—we believe in our clients and their causes, and we’re committed to seeing their cases through, no matter how long or difficult the fight becomes.”
This dedication was particularly evident in the firm’s advocacy against Bayer in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) over the company’s drospirenone-containing birth control pills, such as Yaz and Yasmin. Bayer has settled the approximately 10,000 claims—for approximately $2 billion in awards—since spring of 2012 for women who suffered venous thrombotic events after taking these birth control pills. In addition, in March 2013 Bayer agreed to a global settlement on behalf of approximately 9,000 women who suffered gallbladder injuries after taking its products. Finally, this past August, Bayer agreed to a $56.9 million settlement for the approximately 1,200 women who had experienced arterial thrombotic events after using Bayer’s drospirenone-containing oral contraceptives.
“We fought this fight since day one, using all of our resources and years of experience to ensure our injured clients had the greatest chance of a successful outcome,” says Burg, who was appointed co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs by the federal judge overseeing the litigation. In addition to Burg, shareholder Janet Abaray was selected as co-chair of the MDL Science and Expert Committee, and fellow shareholder Seth A. Katz was named chair of the MDL Discovery Committee and appointed to the Negotiating Plaintiffs’ Committee.
“These were very difficult cases, and when you’re in a leadership role, firms around the country look to you to put this litigation together. It helped that we have attorneys like Seth, who was instrumental in conducting all discovery in the litigation and who is an expert in electronic discovery, and Janet, who is one of the top experts in the country with regard to the pharmacological issues of drugs and devices,” says Burg.
Over the course of the litigation, Burg Simpson oversaw the taking of all depositions and the review of more than 100 million pages of documents, globally represented more than 260 law firms, and successfully argued 17 Daubert motions. “No other firm in the country has helped more women receive fair compensation for injuries resulting from the use of Yaz, Yasmin, and other drospirenone-containing oral contraceptives,” Burg notes. “At the end of the day, we’re proud to have obtained some measure of justice for the women injured by these drugs.”
Burg Simpson continues to serve as a leading advocate for women on health-related issues, most recently investigating legal claims against the manufacturers of power morcellators—tiny surgical instruments with rapidly rotating blades that are used in the removal of fibroids on the uterus.
In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning against these instruments, finding that for some women with undetected cancers, morcellators could end up spraying malignant cells inside the abdomen, speeding the progression of the disease. Burg Simpson is currently representing women injured by the devices in a multidistrict litigation against one of the main manufacturers of power morcellators. Shareholder Meghan Quinlivan has been appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in this litigation.
“We are proud to be part of this fight to protect the health of so many women,” Burg says. “As trial lawyers, we have a responsibility to lead the way in guarding the rights of these individuals.”
For the past decade, Burg Simpson has been at the forefront of significant multidistrict litigation, securing approximately $8 billion for injured plaintiffs through its leadership in mass torts. Burg’s appointments include serving as State-Federal Liaison for the Vioxx MDL and on the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for the Zyprexa litigation, which achieved a settlement of nearly $700 million dollars. Michael Burg’s brother, shareholder Peter Burg, served as co-lead of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee and Executive Committee for the Gadolinium-based contrast agents product liability MDL. Seth A. Katz has been appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in the DePuy ASR hip implant MDL and the Executive Committee in the Testosterone Replacement Therapy MDL. He was also named co-lead counsel in the MDL against the maker of the drug Pradaxa.
Beyond pharmaceutical litigation, Burg Simpson is known for handling serious personal injury, medical malpractice, workers’ compensation, and commercial litigation. Moreover, with the addition of the lawyers of Sullan², Sandgrund, Perczak & Nuss, P.C., the firm has established a preeminent construction defect litigation group.
“There aren’t many firms that have the trial history and the number of leadership appointments by federal judges that we do, and that’s because of our hard work and high level of expertise,” says Burg, who in 2014 was also appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court Nominating Commission by the governor and attorney general of Colorado and the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.
Recognizing this distinction, 20 of Burg Simpson’s lawyers were included in the 2016 edition of The Best Lawyers in America, with four of the firm’s lawyers being named a Denver “Lawyer of the Year:” Michael Burg for plaintiffs’ product liability litigation, David Hersh for plaintiffs’ legal malpractice law, Scott Eldredge for plaintiffs’ professional malpractice law, and Brian Matise for plaintiffs’ mass tort litigation/class action. The firm was also ranked Tier 1 nationally for plaintiffs’ mass tort litigation/class actions (and received Tier 1 regional rankings) by U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms.”
“It’s inspiring to see what trial lawyers have accomplished in the past to change the world for the better, and we’re proud to be part of that important tradition,” Burg says. “The lawyers here are at the top of their game, and, more importantly, are all dedicated to changing people’s lives for the better.”