Automotive Industry

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The automotive industry is far more comprehensive than car manufacturers. There are parts manufacturers, vehicle converters, interior manufacturers, auto dealerships, freight companies and more, and many of them rely on Baker Donelson for representation. From economic and infrastructure development, to public policy, investment, litigation, and mergers and acquisitions, we provide our clients with a wide range of services based on a thorough understanding of the industry.

We have helped numerous automobile parts manufacturers, vehicle manufacturing companies and states in connection with public-private partnerships, site selection, negotiation of incentives, navigation of intricate tax, real property and utility issues, construction needs and similar concerns. We also provide clients with services related to labor and employment compliance, labor relations, regulatory environmental compliance, tax issues, intellectual property, litigation, real estate, cross-border and international concerns, customs, immigration and technology issues.

We also help foreign companies integrate into the U.S. auto sector community and become good corporate citizens once they've completed their acquisitions. Our attorneys have assisted acquirers in clearing regulatory hurdles at the federal, state and local levels, as well as with a variety of transactional issues ranging from financing and inter-company transfers to immigration for senior officers. Our Firm's emphasis on and extreme attention to detail, combined with our sensitivity to foreign cultural issues, have been appreciated by our overseas clients and by our clients who support these manufacturers.

Clients have relied on our extensive lobbying experience in the transportation industry, as well. We have worked with manufacturers on regulatory and legislative issues such as seat belt safety, tire safety and hybrid-electric propulsion systems. We also have experience working on a broad scope of industry-related issues with public highway authorities and local government entities.

We represent major automobile manufacturers in product liability suits covering a wide array of issues and alleged defects, including lack of airbags and restraint systems; brakes; door latches; crashworthiness; post-collision fuel-fed fires and electrical fires; steering mechanisms, handling and stability; metallurgical failures; roof crush; side impact crashes; and seat belt and seat track failures. We routinely try cases to successful conclusion, and have the capability and resources to manage extremely complex cases from beginning to end in the most cost-efficient manner for our clients. Moreover, our attorneys' experience in the related disciplines of engineering and injury causation are a great asset both in cross-examining and undermining the expert witnesses who frequently testify for plaintiffs in automotive cases, and in securing the top engineering, forensic, medical and economic experts to assist our clients at trial. Our knowledge, skill and discipline, both in and out of the courtroom, set us apart for our automotive clients.

Representative Matters

  • Lead trial counsel for major domestic and foreign automobile manufacturers in Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Indiana, Michigan, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
  • Successfully defended major automobile manufacturer in a product liability action involving a quadriplegic plaintiff who sought $9.5 million in damages. Plaintiffs alleged that the sport utility vehicle was unstable while towing and that the seatbelt was defectively designed. After a two-week trial in one of the most plaintiff-friendly venues in the country, the jury found that the vehicle was not defective and that the accident was caused by the driver.
  • Won a $3 million product liability case for one of America's largest motor companies on a directed verdict.
  • Defended major automotive manufacturer in a motor vehicle accident case in which the plaintiff's decedent alleged that an employee rear-ended the vehicle, causing injuries, permanent disability and eventual death. Plaintiff filed a motion for sanctions for bad faith negotiations, and manufacturer did not accept the plaintiff's lowest settlement demand of $4 million. Ultimately, the jury found the death unrelated to the accident and awarded the plaintiff $218,000 for personal injuries.
  • Represented two automotive dealers in a class action case challenging our clients' practice of passing on the business tax to automotive purchasers. The plaintiffs also challenged the constitutionality of the statute and revenue rule allowing this practice. Tennessee court denied permission to appeal, affirming the previous ruling in our client's favor.
  • Represented buyer in acquisition of major automotive parts manufacturer; acquisition valued at over $500 million.
  • Represented national vehicle converter (buyer) in connection with restructuring of various credit facilities and simultaneous acquisition of largest competitor.
  • Represented truck and trailer parts company in its sale as part of a roll-up transaction, structured as a leveraged recapitalization.
  • Buy-side and sell-side experience in automotive industry asset acquisitions as part of consolidation resulting from changing market conditions.
  • Represented automotive supplier in commercial litigation dispute.
  • Represented designated automotive suppliers in action to repossess tooling.
  • Successfully defended suppliers in preference claims in a number of automotive cases.
  • Prepared technology agreements (computer software, data centers, manufacturing equipment); patent licenses; research agreements; supply agreements and joint development agreements for various clients as outside counsel for well-known manufacturer of automotive interiors.
  • Provided environmental counsel for a number of clients in automotive and related industries including an automobile manufacturer and a number of parts suppliers, in acquisitions and in other transactions.
  • Involved with negotiation of governmental incentives in several states across the Southern U.S. for different foreign vehicle manufacturers.