Attorney Justin Presnal is a shareholder in the Complex Litigation Department at Simmons Hanly Conroy, based in College Station, Texas. Justin’s cases involve dangerous drugs, medical devices, and other products, class actions, and other complex litigation matters.

Justin has practiced law since 1993, working on a wide array of cases. He has represented individuals and businesses in trial and appellate courts throughout the country, often involving complicated jurisdictional and choice of law issues.

“The Complex Litigation Department at Simmons Hanly Conroy is on the cutting edge of high stakes litigation, constantly looking at novel legal theories to help the clients we represent,” Justin said. “No case is too complicated or difficult for us to handle, and we have the experience and resources needed to creatively and strategically win hard cases.”

Careful Analysis & Compelling Writing

Justin works on the analytical and strategic components of the firm’s cases.  Along with other attorneys in the firm, and frequently with co-counsel from other firms, he analyzes potential cases and develops case strategies.  He takes the lead on preparing the papers that are filed with trial and appellate courts and has a passion for writing and the law.

Justin had an early introduction to working on complex and unusual cases, working on cases that were international in scope and often involved unusual legal questions – such as the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, the Warsaw Convention, federal and state application of the forum non conveniens doctrine, and federal preemption in pharmaceutical, medical device, automobile, and other product liability cases.  He once told one of his early mentors, Mike Maloney of Houston, “Mike, every one of your cases is like a law school exam question.”

That early experience was instrumental in Justin learning to find ways to prosecute complicated cases using creative but legally sound strategies, and the importance of not just winning in the trial court but making sure you can preserve that win on appeal. 

Justin was fortunate to work alongside some of the finest legal writers in Texas early in his career. That experience inspired him to develop a writing style that is plain and direct, rather than the “legalese” found in so much legal writing. Most issues are decided based on the papers provided to the court, often without having an oral hearing on motions.

Changes in court procedures following the COVID-19 pandemic have caused in-person hearings to become even less common, a trend that may continue in the future. As a result, hard-hitting and straightforward written submissions will be even more important. With many courts turning to technology to conduct remote hearings by teleconference and videoconference, Justin has focused on developing strategies for being a compelling advocate in those settings as well. 

Legal Background

Justin graduated with honors from Texas A&M University in 1990, and graduated with honors from Baylor University School of Law in 1993. He is admitted to the State Bar of Texas, the United States Supreme Court, the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States District Courts for the Southern, Northern, and Eastern Districts of Texas, the District of Colorado, and the Eastern District of Wisconsin. He is board-certified in Civil Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, is a member of the American Association for Justice, and is a Life Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation.

Justin was acknowledged by Best Lawyers as one of the “Best Lawyers in Texas” in 2016 and 2020, and as one of the “Best Lawyers in America” from 2016 to 2021 in the areas of Plaintiffs’ Personal Injury Litigation and Appellate Practice.  He was recognized as a Texas “Super Lawyer – Rising Star” in 2005. Justin is a native of Bryan/College Station, Texas, where his family has lived for several generations.

Appointments & Representative Cases:

Justin currently represents the interests of Simmons Hanly Conroy’s many governmental clients in the massive and far-reaching litigation involving the pharmaceutical industry’s improper promotion and distribution of prescription opioid medications.  He is a member of the Law and Briefing Committee in MDL 2804, In re National Prescription Opiate Litigation, Northern District of Ohio; and he also is part of the team representing the firm’s clients in the coordinated New York state court litigation, Index No. 400000/2017, In re Opioid Litigation, Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Suffolk.

Justin was appointed to the Law and Motions Committee in MDL 2244, In re: DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., Pinnacle Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. He was part of the trial team that obtained jury verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs in that MDL resulting from injuries caused by the “Pinnacle” metal-on-metal hip implants sold by Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, DePuy Orthopaedics:

  • $1 billion verdict: Rosa Metzler, et al. v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., et al., No. 12-2066; Michael Weiser v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., et al., No. 13-3631; Judith Rodriguez v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., et al., No. 13-3938; Linda Standerfer v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., et al., No. 14-1730; Kathleen Davis, et al. v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., et al., No. 15-1767; Marvin Andrews, et al. v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., et al., No. 15-3484. (Six cases consolidated for trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division)
  • $502 million verdict: Aoki v. DePuy Orthopedics, et al., No. 3:13-cv-01071-K; Christopher v. DePuy Orthopedics, et al., No. 3:14-cv-01994-K; Greer v. DePuy Orthopedics, et al., No. 3:12-cv-01672-K; Klusmann v. DePuy Orthopedics, et al., No. 3:11-cv-02800-K; and Peterson v. DePuy Orthopedics, et al., No. 3:11-cv-01941-K. (Five cases consolidated for trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division)
  • $247 million verdict: Alicea v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., et al., No. 3:15-cv-03489-K; Barzel v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., et al., No. 3:16-cv-01245-K; Kirschner v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., et al., No. 3:16-cv-01526-K; Miura v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., et al., No. 3:13-cv-04119-K; Stevens v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., et al., No. 3:14-cv-01776-K; Stevens v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., et al., No. 3:14-cv-02341-K (Six cases consolidated for trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division)

In addition to these trials, Justin was a part of the team that handled the appeal from the Aoki trial, In re: DePuy Orthopaedic, Incorporated, Pinnacle Hip Implant Product Liability Litigation, No. 16-11051, published at 888 F.3d 753 (5th Cir. 2018).  That decision from the conservative Fifth Circuit decided several important issues that were significant not only for other cases in the Pinnacle MDL, but will also impact product liability cases involving medical devices and other products in other courts:

  • Preemption: The court reaffirmed that design defect claims involving medical devices cleared for sale by the FDA using its “510k” procedure are not preempted by the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. 
  • Safer Alternative Design: The court rejected Johnson & Johnson’s argument that the plaintiffs should have been required to present evidence of a safer metal-on-metal hip implant design, and agreed with plaintiffs that Johnson & Johnson’s cross-linked polyethylene implant was an appropriate safer alternative design because both devices had the same utility. 
  • “Comment k” to the Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 402A: The court also rejected Johnson & Johnson’s argument that this provision categorically bars plaintiffs’ claims, an argument that Johnson & Johnson and other medical device manufacturers have asserted in numerous other courts.
  • Adequacy of Device Warnings: The court rejected Johnson & Johnson’s argument that the “instructions for use” included with its implants adequately warned of the risk of soft tissue damage, concluding that those instructions were not sufficiently specific.
  • Personal Jurisdiction: The court reaffirmed the Fifth Circuit’s adherence to the “stream of commerce” basis for exercising personal jurisdiction over companies that sell dangerous products.  The court also found that parent company Johnson & Johnson’s involvement in the development and marketing of the Pinnacle hip implants made it subject to the court’s jurisdiction.
  • Liability of Parent Corporation: The court also agreed that Johnson & Johnson could be liable for product liability claims as a “non-manufacturer seller” under Texas law because it participated in the design of the Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implant and it was aware of the dangers associated with it.  The court also found that the evidence was sufficient to show that Johnson & Johnson could be liable under the theory of “negligent undertaking” because of its role in the marketing of the Pinnacle metal-on-metal implant.

Justin was also appointed by the Court to the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee in MDL 2391, In re: Biomet M2A Magnum Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.  In addition to working on behalf of all the plaintiffs in the MDL as a member of the PEC, he represented numerous individual plaintiffs, most of whom were not eligible for the global settlement that Biomet announced in 2014. 

Other representative matters in which Justin has been involved include the following:

  • MCI Sales and Service, Inc. v. Hinton, 329 S.W.3d 475 (Tex. 2010), denied, 563 U.S. 1008 (2011) (appeal of a product liability jury verdict involving a motor coach that was found to be defectively designed and unsafe because it was not equipped with seat belts or laminated side window glass; the Texas Supreme Court rejected the defendants’ contention that the plaintiffs’ claims were preempted by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act.)
  • Victor Alarcon MD v. Alcolac, Inc., No. 16-0343, in the Supreme Court of Texas (hired by lawyers for the plaintiff to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court a decision by lower courts dismissing the claims of a former U.S. Army combat field surgeon who was exposed to mustard gas during Gulf War I, against defendants who illegally sold the chemicals used to make mustard gas to the Government of Iraq.)
  • Exxon Neftegas Limited v. Sakhneftegaz Engineering LLC, No. 2014-25508, in the 270th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas (and related litigation in the Southern District of Texas and state court litigation in New York) (representing consortium of owners of offshore oil platform in the Sea of Okhost, near Sakhalin Island, in litigation over defective and delayed engineering in connection with construction of the platform.)
  • Brianne Miller, et al. v. Sikorsky Support Services, Inc., No. 2:11-cv-00087, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Corpus Christi Division (representing the widow of a Navy instructor pilot killed during a training flight.)
  • Rowan Companies, Inc. v. Signal International, LLC, No. 2007-47010, in the District Court of Harris County, Texas (litigation involving defective construction of offshore “jack-up” drilling rig.)
  • British American Offshore Limited v. TCW Global Project Fund II, Ltd., No. 2005-64490, in the District Court of Harris County, Texas; In re TCW Global Project Fund II, Ltd., 274 S.W.3d 166 (Tex. App.—14th Dist. 2008) (commercial dispute between drilling contractor and North Sea operator and its lender over cancelled drilling contract and related mandamus proceeding involving enforcement of forum selection clause.)
  • Rowan Companies, Inc. v. Amoco (UK) Exploration Company, No. 1999-2626, in the District Court of Harris County, Texas (litigation involving cancelled offshore drilling contract with parallel proceedings in Texas and the United Kingdom.)
  • Victor C. Baris, et al. v. Sulpicio Lines, Inc., et al., 74 F.3d 567 (5th Cir. 1996) (litigation involving the sinking of the ferry M/V Dona Paz in the Philippines, in which approximately 5,000 Philippine passengers perished.)
  • Ker & Downey Safaris, Ltd. v. Friedkin Adventure Companies Inc., et al., No. 1994-420767, in the District Court of Harris County, Texas (representing an iconic Kenya-based safari company in trademark infringement and unfair competition dispute.)
  • Cynthia Wilkinson v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., No. 1992-49470, in the District Court of Harris County, Texas (representing the widow of a U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot killed in a crash in Germany.)
  • Kathleen Farris v. Wilrig (U.S.A.) Inc., No. 1992-16041, in the District Court of Harris County, Texas (representing the widow of an electrician killed while working on an offshore oil rig in the Port of Galveston.)
  • Lee Kern, et al. v. Jeppesen Sanderson, Inc., et al., No. 1993-45153, In the District Court of Harris County, Texas (litigation involving the 1992 crash of Pakistan International Airlines flight PK268 while en route to Kathmandu, Nepal, killing all passengers and crew aboard.)
  • Elena Lozano, et al. v. GPE Controls, et al., No. 1987-33476, in the District Court of Harris County, Texas (litigation involving death of U.S. airman and Korean civilians in explosion of fuel storage tank at Osan Air Base, South Korea in 1986.)

Practice Areas:

  • Business Litigation
  • Class Actions
  • Products Liability

Bar and Court Admissions:

  • Texas, 1993
  • United States Supreme Court
  • Federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • United States District Courts for the Southern, Northern, and Eastern Districts of Texas; the District of Colorado; and the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

Recognition:

  • Texas “Super Lawyer – Rising Star” in 2005
  • Best Lawyers: “Best Lawyers in Texas,” 2016 and 2020
  • Best Lawyers: “Best Lawyers in America,” 2016-2021, in the areas of Plaintiffs’ Personal Injury Litigation and Appellate Practice
  • America’s Top 100 Bet-the-Company Litigators, Southern Texas, 2019
  • National Trial Lawyers – Civil Plaintiff Top 100, 2020
  • Life Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation

Representative Experience:

  • Complex Litigation
  • Products Liability Litigation
  • Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)

Publications:

  • Speaker, “Merck Sharpe & Dohme Corp. v. Albrecht (In re Fosamax): The Good, the Bad,…and the Ugly??”, Harris Martin MDL Conference:  Critical Developments in Mass Torts, Multidistrict Litigation, and Game-Changing Jurisprudence (New Orleans 2019)
  • Speaker, “High Stakes Issues: 2018 in Review (Jurisdiction, Preemption, Daubert),” Harris Martin MDL Conference:  An Analysis of Today’s Mass Tort Landscape (Washington, D.C. 2019)
  • “The Latest Preemption Battle: Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett,” Harris Martin Complex Litigation Conference (co-author, 2013)
  • “Products Liability Litigation: An Update on Current Issues,” University of Houston Law Foundation–Advanced Civil Litigation (co-author, 2008)
  • “The Attorney-Client Privilege Under Attack” (2007)
  • “Power Corrupts; PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely–Trial Presentation Strategies” (2004)
  • “Proving Difficult Damages in Business and Personal Injury Cases,” University of Houston Law Center Litigation and Trial Tactics Seminar (co-author, 1997)
  • “The Impact of Tort Reform on Defective Products Cases: Plaintiff’s Perspective,” TTLA Advanced Products Liability Seminar (co-author, 1996)
  • “Legislative Update: Joint and Several Liability,” 19th Annual Page Keeton Products Liability and Personal Injury Law Conference (co-author, 1995)

Affiliations:

  • American Association for Justice
  • Texas Trial Lawyers Association
  • Texas Bar Foundation

Education:

  • Baylor University School of Law, 1993, J.D., cum laude
  • Texas A&M University, 1990, B.A, magna cum laude