McGuireWoods partner Ron Franklin, a highly acclaimed bet-the-company litigator, is featured by the National Law Journal in its Litigation Trailblazers issue published today. The publication recognizes top lawyers who have changed the practice of litigation with innovative legal strategies.
Franklin, a partner in the firm’s Houston office, has tried nearly 100 cases to final jury verdicts in federal and state courts across the nation since he began practicing in 1976. He has secured multiple million-dollar awards for business, personal injury and libel clients and has won defense verdicts for Fortune 100 corporations.
Franklin scored a noteworthy 2012 trial victory for client CSX Transportation in the first civil case to find attorneys liable under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. CSX sued two Pittsburgh plaintiffs’ lawyers and a radiologist under the RICO statute, alleging that they fabricated phony asbestos claims. Franklin’s trial team developed evidence that the three men conspired to commit wire fraud and mail fraud in making the claims against the company. After only two hours of deliberations, a federal jury found in favor of the railroad on every issue and awarded damages totaling $429,240.
The court later granted CSX’s motion to treble the jury award and entered a $1.3 million judgment for the railroad. The defendants appealed to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but later agreed to pay the full judgment, as well as $6 million in legal fees incurred by CSX in prosecuting the case, and to dismiss their appeal. Franklin’s success in this case opened the door for other corporate defendants to use the federal anti-racketeering law to combat corrupt plaintiffs’ attorneys.
As a defense lawyer, Franklin’s successes include representing Oklahoma-based oil and gas client Devon Energy when a New Mexico mining company alleged that a Devon gas well tainted $165 million in potash reserves. During an eight-day trial in 2014, a Franklin-led McGuireWoods team persuaded a jury in the plaintiff’s home town to award the potash producer just a single penny in damages. The case involved state-of-the-art well testing and witnesses that included a two-time Space Shuttle astronaut and a former U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President George W. Bush to prove there were no pipeline leaks or tainted potash.
The National Law Journal honor marks the second time this year that a widely respected legal publication has recognized Franklin for his litigation prowess. In July, the legal news service Law360 listed Franklin among the nation’s top 50 litigators in its inaugural “Trial Aces” series.