Gun makers tap Jones Day, Cozen to defend against Mexico lawsuit

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A man handles a Ruger revolver during the National Rifle Association annual meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., April 27, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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  • Jones Day team includes former U.S. solicitor Noel Francisco and Andrew Lelling, former U.S. attorney
  • U.S. gun makers coordinating a joint response to claims they created 'public nuisance' in Mexico
  • Mexico has agreed to pay up to $1 million annually to Texas plaintiffs' firm leading the litigation

(Reuters) - Several major law firms will represent U.S. gun makers in a federal lawsuit Mexico filed recently that seeks to hold the companies liable for allegedly contributing to a surge of firearms flowing unlawfully into the country.

The defense firms, including Jones Day, Cozen O'Connor and Day Pitney, said in a court filing on Tuesday that they would be representing defendants in the case Mexico filed last month in Massachusetts federal court. The firms are working with litigation boutiques and other regional law offices to coordinate a joint brief responding to Mexico's claims, the new filing said.

Mexico's Aug.4 complaint accused some of the country's biggest firearm makers, including Smith & Wesson Brands Inc, Sturm, Ruger & Co Inc and Glock Inc, of "persistently supplying a torrent of guns" to drug cartels in Mexico. "Defendants are fully on notice of the massive trafficking of their guns into Mexico," the lawsuit said, accusing the firearms makers of creating a "public nuisance" in Mexico.

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Jones Day partner Noel Francisco, who leads the firm's Washington, D.C., office and who served as U.S. solicitor general in the administration of former President Donald Trump, is representing Massachusetts-based Smith & Wesson with partner Andrew Lelling. Lelling, a former U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, joined Jones Day in February to help build the Boston office.

Ruger, based in Connecticut, is represented by Day Pitney and the Chicago-based firm Swanson, Martin & Bell. Lawyers from Philadelphia-based Cozen O'Connor appeared on the filing for defendant Beretta USA Corp.

Lawyers at the products liability firm Cornell & Gollub in Boston represent Glock Inc with the White Plains, New York-based Renzulli Law Firm.

Defense attorneys at Jones Day, Cozen, Day Pitney and Cornell Gollub either declined to comment on Wednesday or did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Lead plaintiffs' lawyer Steve Shadowen of the Austin, Texas-based Shadowen firm declined to comment.

Mexico has agreed to pay Shadowen's firm up to $1 million annually to represent the country in its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The firm said it would cut its hourly rates in half as part of its work for Mexico.

Defense lawyers for the gun makers said in Tuesday's filing that certain issues in forthcoming motions to dismiss the lawsuit are expected to "overlap significantly."

The attorneys said they plan to file a shared brief as "the most efficient manner to bring these issues before the court." Individual briefs from the companies will present narrower issues, the lawyers said.

Jones Day has long represented firearm, tobacco and other clients in lawsuits alleging public nuisance claims. The firm boasts on its website that it "has been and remains at the forefront of defending public nuisance litigation."

Smith & Wesson has relied on other Big Law firms for litigation work in recent years. Firms including DLA Piper and Shook, Hardy & Bacon have appeared as counsel for the company in various matters.

The case is Estados Unidos Mexicanos v. Smith & Wesson Brands Inc, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, No. 1:21-cv-11269.

For Mexico: Steve Shadowen of Shadowen

For Glock Inc: Peter Durney of Cornell & Gollub; and John Renzulli of Renzulli Law Firm

For Smith & Wesson Brands Inc: Noel Francisco and Andrew Lelling of Jones Day

For Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc: James Campbell of Campbell Conroy & O'Neil; and James Porter of Porter Porter & Hassinger

For Beretta USA Corp: John McDonald of Cozen O'Connor

For Colt's Manufacturing Company: John O'Neill of Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen; and Michael Rice of Harrison Law

For Sturm, Ruger & Co Inc: Jonathan Handler of Day Pitney; and James Vogts of Swanson, Martin & Bell

For Century International Arms Inc: Joseph Yannetti of Morrison Mahoney, and Anthony Pisciotti of Pisciotti Lallis Erdreich

Read more:

Texas law firm cuts rates to press Mexico's case against gun makers

Mexico sues U.S. gun makers, eyes $10 billion in damages

Smith & Wesson must face synagogue shooting victims' suit

U.S. ambassador pick for Mexico discloses WilmerHale pay

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