G. Charles “Chip” Nierlich, a partner in the San Francisco office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, is a member of the firm’s Litigation Department, which has been recognized twice by The American Lawyer as the “Litigation Department of the Year” (in 2010 and 2012). Mr. Nierlich is also a member of the Steering Committee of the firm’s Class Action Practice Group, as well as a practice group leader for the firm’s Electronic Discovery and Information Law Practice Group.
Mr. Nierlich’s practice focuses on complex commercial litigation, including defending class actions and antitrust, unfair competition, and deceptive trade practice claims. Mr. Nierlich is co-author of the Unfair Competition Law chapter of the California State Bar Antitrust and Unfair Competition Law Section treatise. He speaks regularly to various groups about developments in complex litigation. He also has participated in a Consumer Class Action Roundtable in California Lawyer magazine, has spoken on complex litigation at Harvard Law School, and has been quoted by the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog.
Mr. Nierlich has been selected as a “rising star” in the Class Actions category by Law 360, identifying him as one of five top class actions attorneys in the country under 40. He has also been recognized as one of fewer than 40 “future stars” among California litigators in the 2010, 2011, and 2012 editions of Institutional Investor’s Benchmark Litigation Guide, and has been selected as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers.
Mr. Nierlich served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Morris S. Arnold in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit from 1997 to 1998. Mr. Nierlich received his law degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1997, where he served as president of the student government and Notes Editor of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics, from Claremont McKenna College in 1994, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
- CytoSport v. Vital Pharmaceuticals: Represented CytoSport, the maker of popular protein product Muscle Milk, in a trademark and trade dress infringement case against Vital Pharmaceuticals ("VPX"). After the court entered a preliminary injunction against VPX, VPX brought counterclaims seeking to cancel the Muscle Milk trademark and obtain damages on the theory that the name "Muscle Milk" supposedly misled consumers because it does not contain liquid dairy milk. The court granted summary judgment in favor of Cytosport on all of the counterclaims and excluded VPX's expert, leading to a favorable settlement of the claims Cytosport brought against VPX.
- Banks v. Nissan North America: Represent Nissan North America, Inc. and related entities in putative class action alleging that certain Nissan and Infiniti vehicles contain a purportedly faulty brake booster. The United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed the case in its entirety, agreeing with Nissan’s argument that the plaintiff failed to allege any fraudulent concealment of the supposed defect.
- In re Chevron Corp.: Represent Chevron Corporation in connection with the Lago Agrio environmental litigation in Ecuador, in which plaintiffs seek billions of dollars. Obtained evidence, including outtakes from the movie Crude, that helped to uncover what the Wall Street Journal's editorial page called the “Shakedown in the Rain Forest.”
- Oracle v. Micron: Represent Micron Technology, Inc. in action brought by Oracle America, Inc., relating to DRAM purchased by Oracle’s predecessor, Sun Microsystems. Obtained order reducing potential damages by over 90%.
- In re Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) Litigation: Represented Micron Technology, Inc. in various class actions brought by direct and indirect purchasers of DRAM, as well as cases brought by over forty state Attorneys General. Defeated motion for class certification in cases brought by the Attorneys General.
- Cytosport/Federal Trade Commission: Represented CytoSport with respect to an inquiry by the Federal Trade Commission concerning whether the name "Muscle Milk" somehow misled customers because the product does not contain liquid dairy milk. The FTC issued a letter confirming that it would take no enforcement action.
- Delacruz v. CytoSport and Gridley v. CytoSport: Represent CytoSport, Inc. in putative class actions challenging the labeling and advertising of certain CytoSport Muscle Milk® and CytoSport Monster Milk® products.
- Lisko v. Cytosport: Represented Cytosport, Inc. in consumer class action alleging that Cytosport’s Muscle Milk products were mislabeled. Obtained dismissal of the action after a motion to dismiss on multiple grounds.
- Gerlinger v. Amazon.com: Represented Amazon.com in consumer class action challenging an agreement between Amazon.com and Borders with respect to online sales. Obtained summary judgment on behalf of Amazon.com, affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
- Tucker v. AT&T Wireless: Represented AT&T Wireless in representative action under California’s Unfair Competition Law raising claims relating to AT&T’s disclosure of certain billing practices. Successfully argued appeal, resulting in order that the named plaintiff lacked standing to pursue the action.
- Allard, Cheldin v. Autotote: Represented Autotote, Inc. and Scientific Games in two nationwide fraud class actions arising from the highly publicized Breeder’s Cup scandal that occurred when a rogue employee of Autotote, who later pleaded guilty to a rigged betting scheme, conspired with two friends to circumvent computer security measures and submit a late “Pick Six” bet and win a multi-million dollar betting pool. Obtained dismissal of both complaints after a motion to dismiss on multiple grounds.
- In re Cellphone Termination Fee Cases: Represented AT&T Wireless in coordinated consumer class actions challenging wireless carriers’ imposition of an early termination fee on customers terminating service before the conclusion of the contract period. Successfully argued appeal of trial court’s denial of motion to compel arbitration.
- Donavin v. Unilever: Represented Unilever United States, Inc. in consumer class action challenging the labeling of Slim Fast meal replacement bars. Obtained dismissal of the action after demurrers on multiple grounds.
- Hodes v. Van’s International Foods: Defended putative consumer class action concerning the nutrition labeling on Van’s Frozen Waffles. Obtained dismissal of the action after defeating motion for class certification.
- Costa v. Superior Court: Represented proponents of Proposition 77 in defense of litigation brought by the Attorney General of California, who sought an order prohibiting Proposition 77 from appearing on the ballot. Obtained order from the California Supreme Court establishing that Proposition 77 would appear on the ballot.
- Azizian v. Federated Department Stores: Represented manufacturer of cosmetics in consumer class action challenging various cosmetics promotions.
- Levittan v. ConAgra: Represented ConAgra Foods, Inc. in consumer class action challenging the labeling of Knott’s Berry Farm 100% Fruit.
- Sorensen v. Gelson’s Markets: Represented Gelson’s Markets in coordinated group of consumer class actions challenging California retailers’ carrying nationally labeled vegetable oil spread and butter products that allegedly did not satisfy California’s unique labeling requirements.
- Williams Securities Litigation: Represented the Williams Companies in securities class action litigation brought on behalf of former owners of securities issued by Williams and former Williams subsidiary Williams Communications Group.
- Hall v. US Sailing: Represented Farrah Hall, an elite international windsurfer, in actions against US Sailing with respect to the process for selecting the US representative to international windsurfing competitions, including the Olympics.
- Franklin v. The Villas Parkmerced: Represented Parkmerced Investors Properties, the landlord of the largest apartment complex on the west coast, with more than 3,000 units, in a class action brought on behalf of the residents concerning Parkmerced’s determination of rent increases.
- Amicus Briefs in UCL Cases: Represented amici in recent high-profile Unfair Competition Law cases before the California Supreme Court, including In re Tobacco II Cases, Case No. S147345 (pending); Californians for Disability Rights v. Mervyn’s, 39 Cal. 4th 223 (2006) (applying Proposition 64’s limitations on UCL claims to pending cases); and Korea Supply Co. v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 29 Cal. 4th 1134 (2003) (limiting remedies available to plaintiffs under the UCL).
Selected Speeches and Presentations
- “The Future of Class Actions" 12th Annual Class Action Conference, Bridgeport (2012)
- “A Return to the Wild West for California UCL Actions,” Law 360 (2011)
- "The Year in Review on Class Actions: The Plaintiffs' Bar on the move," BNA Class Action Litigation Report (2010)
- "California Unfair Competition Law," a chapter included in California State Antitrust and Unfair Competition Law (2009)
- “Consumer Class Action Roundtable,” California Lawyer (2009)
- “2009: First Quarter Update on Class Action Trends,” BNA Class Action Litigation Report (2009)
- “Strategies for Cost-Effective Discovery and Case Management in the Information Age,” Lexis-Nexis, Best Practices in Case Assessment and Analysis (2008)
- “Defense Counsel Perspectives on Claim Administration,” Class Action Claims Administrator Conference (2008)
- “Responding To and Pursuing Discovery: Aggressive Strategies for Data Management and Cost Control,” American Conference Institute, Positioning the Class Action Defense for Early Success (2007)
- “Propositions 64 and 65,” California State Bar Environmental Law Section, Private Enforcement of Environmental Law: Prosecuting and Defending Citizens’ Suits (2007)
- “Bundling in Health Care Purchasing,” Healthcare Industry Group Purchasing Association International Expo (2005)
- “Everything You Need to Know About the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005,” Bar Association of San Francisco (2005)
- “Business & Professions Code Section 17200: Initiative & Initiatives,” California State Bar Environmental Law Section, Private Enforcement of Environmental Law: Prosecuting and Defending Citizens’ Suits (2004)
- “Strategies for Defending Class and Representation Actions,” Glasser LegalWorks (2003)
- “Defending California Business & Professions Code Section 17200 Claims: How Have Kraus and Cortez Changed the Section 17200 Landscape?” California State Bar Environmental Law Section, Private Enforcement of Environmental Law: Prosecuting and Defending Citizens’ Suits (2002).