US class action firm uses Mercedes litigation as UK bridgehead


Mercedes: Firm has 33,000 people registering interest in claim

Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro is the latest US class action firm to enter the UK with big ambitions for building its presence in the market.

Known in the UK as Hagens Berman, it has recently secured litigation funding from Harbour, as well as after-the-event insurance, to begin a group action against Mercedes over alleged emissions cheating.

The London office, the firm’s first outside of the US, opened last October.

Managing partner Steve Berman said: “We have plans to grow our brand and reputation in the UK market where there is scope to do more to champion consumer rights over corporate wrong-doing and violations and where the legal landscape is changing.

“Alongside our emissions and automotive case work, where we will initially focus on Mercedes-related litigation, we intend to broaden our practice and caseload into other areas of the law especially in competition, consumer, environmental, securities and civil rights litigation.”

US lawyer Michael Gallagher, a former partner at another class action firm, Milberg Phillips Grossman, is the co-managing director of the office and is supported by senior solicitor Molly Ahmed, former general counsel of Global Financial Experts Ltd.

Some 33,000 Mercedes drivers in England and Wales have registered interest with the firm, which reached a $700m settlement with the car manufacturer in the US.

Mr Berman said that, following that, they have spent “the past year laying the foundation for equally successful litigation in the UK”.

The firm will be leaning on City law firm Fox Williams for extra support and has retained David Cavender of One Essex Court to lead the counsel team.

Hagens Berman says it was the impetus for emissions-cheating claims against Mercedes in the US, having obtained and tested the vehicles itself.

It came on the heels of its role as the first law firm in the US to sue Volkswagen on behalf of consumers following the announcement of its widespread emissions cheating.

The firm went on to help lead that litigation, which culminated in a $14.7bn settlement, the largest automotive case in history.

Hagens Berman also represented owners of VW franchise dealerships, obtaining an additional $1.6bn in settlements.

There has been a growing number of specialist group actions law firms from other countries moving into England and Wales.

Hausfeld blazed a trail in 2009 but has been joined more recently by the likes of Milberg, Keller Lenkner, what is now called PGMBM and last autumn Australian law firm Phi Finney McDonald.




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