Benjamin W. Hulse focuses his national practice at Blackwell Burke P.A. on class action defense, mass tort defense, and commercial litigation. Mr. Hulse is an accomplished class action defense lawyer and has helped build Blackwell Burke P.A. into one of Minnesota’s go-to class action defense firms. His class action and mass tort clients have included leading companies from several different sectors of the economy, including medical devices (3M and Medtronic), food (General Mills and ConAgra), health and fitness (Life Time Fitness), oil and gas (ExxonMobil and BP), and banking and insurance (ABN AMRO and Audatex).
His experience includes defeating several putative class actions on motions to dismiss, winning decertification of an environmental class action in the Eighth Circuit, decertification of damages claims in a class action in California court, and forging a settlement of a food marketing class action that has become a model for settling these difficult-to-resolve cases. Mr. Hulse is the author of the chapter on Minnesota class action law in the ABA’s Practitioner’s Guide to Class Actions (2d ed. 2017).
Mr. Hulse is also an experienced trial and appellate lawyer. He served as trial counsel in a commercial dispute involving a large-scale technology outsourcing contract where the plaintiff sought more than $100 million in damages. Following a three-week bench trial, the court entered a complete judgment in favor of Mr. Hulse’s client, including on his client’s $18 million counterclaim. Mr. Hulse also frequently represents clients on appeal.
Prior to joining the Firm as a partner in 2010, Mr. Hulse was a litigation partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Chicago.
Before entering private practice, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable James B. Loken, then-Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
- In re Bair HuggerTMMDL Summary Judgment Victory. Won a landmark victory for 3M Company in the federal Bair HuggerTM MDL, securing dismissal of one of the 10 largest MDLs in the country. The court granted summary judgment for 3M in more than 5,000 cases after granting the firm’s motion to exclude the opinions of the plaintiffs’ experts. Measured by the number of cases dismissed, the summary judgment win represents one of the largest-impact defense wins in history. Also won summary judgment and dismissal of all Minnesota state cases.
- Gareis v. 3M Company (Bair Hugger™).Won a complete defense verdict for one of the world’s largest global innovation manufacturing companies in the first product liability multidistrict litigation (MDL) bellwether trial in Minnesota Federal District Court. The jury agreed with the defense that the warming device did not cause surgical site infections.
- Max Mason Posthumous Pardon. Collaborated with the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, Inc., the Minnesota Historical Society, members of the Federal Bar, and other supporters, to successfully secure the posthumous pardon of Max Mason, who was wrongfully convicted of raping a white woman in 1920. The posthumous pardon was the first ever in Minnesota history, in commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of Mason’s conviction and the brutal lynching of three Black circus workers in Duluth.
- Medtronic implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) litigation. Won summary judgment based on federal preemption for medical device manufacturer Medtronic Inc. in 44-case “mini MDL” in Minnesota state court where the plaintiffs alleged that ICD batteries failed prematurely. Affirmed on appeal.
- Environmental class actions. Defeated class certification in environmental class action in Minnesota federal court involving a former General Mills research facility. Defeated class certification and won dismissal of nearly 90% of plaintiffs in environmental suit against 3M in Cook County, Illinois.
- Food marketing class actions. Won dismissal of Hebrew National class action against ConAgra, and two Nature Valley class actions against General Mills on motions to dismiss. Hired after class certification in YoPlus class action against General Mills in California federal court; obtained decertification of the class’s claims for damages, including its claim for punitive damages. Successfully resolved the remaining claims without drawing any objectors.
- Fuel dealer franchise litigation. Defended ExxonMobil in suit challenging “zone pricing” as illegal price discrimination. New Jersey court granted summary judgment to ExxonMobil. Won concurrent Third Circuit appeal from denial of preliminary injunction. Also won summary judgment for ExxonMobil in class action by franchisee dealers challenging fuel pricing.
- Commercial litigation. Co-trial counsel for leading technology company in dispute concerning large-scale IT outsourcing agreement. Plaintiff sought more than $100 million in damages against firm client. Following three-week bench trial, court entered complete judgment for firm client, including client’s $18 million counterclaim.
Publications & Presentations
- Mock Examination of Expert Witness, Consumer Brands Association Legal Forum, Palm Springs, CA
- The Ethics of Internal Investigations, Domestic and Abroad¸ ABA Section of Litigation, Food & Supplements Workshop, Omaha, NE
- Best Practices and Strategies for Managing Discovery in National and Multi-Forum Parallel Litigation, NAMWOLF Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, MN
- The Changing Landscape of the Food and Beverage Industry, Association for Corporate Growth, Upper Midwest Connection Conference, Minneapolis, MN.
- Minnesota chapter in ABA’s Practitioner’s Guide to Class Actions(2d ed. 2017) and forthcoming 3d edition.