Thurston Webb focuses his practice on appellate litigation, as well as general complex commercial litigation. Mr. Webb has extensive appellate experience representing clients in various federal courts of appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court, and various state appellate courts. Mr. Webb regularly served as appellate counsel for various Fortune 500 companies, and also has an extensive pro-bono appellate practice. Mr. Webb also has extensive experience in other litigation matters before federal and state trial courts, including contracts, business torts, class actions and ERISA.
After graduating magna cum laude from Wake Forest University School of Law, Mr. Webb served as a law clerk for two years, first for Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, and then for Judge Susan H. Black of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. While in law school, Mr. Webb was the Senior Notes and Comments Editor for the Wake Forest Law Review and also spent time as an intern at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of North Carolina.
Mr. Webb has been recognized as a 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 North Carolina "Rising Star" for Business Litigation by Super Lawyers magazine.
Represented DuPont before the Fourth Circuit in an appeal of a $919 million trial verdict.
Represented a German mother pro-bono before the Fourth Circuit in a case involving a complex question under the Hague convention. After Mr. Webb presented oral argument, the Fourth Circuit affirmed in favor of the German mother in a published opinion.
Represented Reliable Contracting Group before the Federal Circuit in a successful appeal that resulted in overturning a decision by the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals.
In a pending case, represents DuPont before the Second Circuit in an appeal of a summary judgment ruling in favor of DuPont.
Represented Volvo in a class action in the Middle District of North Carolina. The case settled after Volvo successfully defeated plaintiffs’ motion for class certification.
Represented R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJRT) successfully in Employee Retirement Security Act (“ERISA”) class action.
On February 18, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina again found long-time client R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (“RJRT”) not liable for breach of fiduciary duty in an ERISA class action. The lawsuit was brought in May 2002 by an employee of RJRT against RJRT, its holding company, and two of its internal benefits committees, alleging that the defendants violated their fiduciary duties under ERISA to the approximately 3,500 members of RJRT’s 401(k) plan. The suit stemmed from a decision made in 1999 by RJR Nabisco Holdings Corp., subsequently renamed Nabisco Group Holdings Corp. (NGH), to spin off RJRT, thereby separating NGH’s tobacco business and food business. As part of the spin-off, the 401(k) plan for the previously related entities had to be divided into two separate plans for the now-separate tobacco and food businesses. The plaintiff contended that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties to participants of the RJR 401(k) plan when the defendants removed the stock funds of the companies involved in the food business, NGH and Nabisco Holdings Corp. (NA), as investment options from the RJR 401(k) plan approximately six months after the spin-off. The district court initially found that the 1999 Amendments to the 401(k) plan mandated removal of the Nabisco Funds. In December 2004, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the complaint, holding that the 1999 Amendments did contain sufficient discretion for the defendants to have retained the NGH and Nabisco funds as of February 2000, and remanded the case for further proceedings.
After almost eight years of litigation, in a complex trial lasting six weeks and involving a mix of ERISA law, the informational value of stock analyst reports, the efficient market theory, and complex and varied damages theories and calculations, on February 25, 2013 USDJ N. Carlton Tilley, Jr. found that RJRT’s decision to eliminate the Nabisco Funds was “objectively prudent” (i.e., under the circumstances of the case, the decision was one which a reasonable and prudent fiduciary could have made after performing the appropriate investigation) and, therefore, RJR was not liable. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit subsequently determined that the district court applied an incorrect loss causation standard, the United States Supreme Court denied RJR’s petition for writ of certiorari and the case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. On remand, the district court ordered extensive briefing on various remaining issues. In February 2016, RJRT prevailed for the third time. After applying the Fourth Circuit’s “would have” test, Judge Tilley found that RJRT proved “by a preponderance of the evidence that a prudent fiduciary would have decided to divest the Nabisco Funds and held to that determination that divestiture was a benefit to Plan participants and retained the same time line for divestment.” Tatum again appealed Judge Tilley’s ruling to the Fourth Circuit.
On April 28, 2017, the Fourth Circuit affirmed Judge Tilley’s judgment in favor of RJRT. In a published opinion, it held that Judge Tilley faithfully applied its prior opinion and correctly found that a prudent fiduciary “would have” made the same divestment decision at the same time and in the same manner as RJRT. Tatum subsequently declined to file a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. Richard G. Tatum, individually and on behalf of a class of all other persons similarly situated v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company et. al., 294 F. Supp. 2d 776 (M.D.N.C. 2003) (Tatum I).; Tatum v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 392 F.3d 636, 637 (4th Cir. 2004) (Tatum II); Tatum v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 926 F. Supp. 2d 648 (M.D.N.C. 2013) (Tatum III); Tatum v. RJR Pension Inv. Comm., 761 F.3d 346 (4th Cir. 2014) (Tatum IV), cert denied, 135 S. Ct. 2887 (2015); Tatum v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 1:02CV00373, 2016 WL 660902 (M.D.N.C. 2016) (Tatum V); Tatum v. RJR Pension Inv. Comm., 855 F.3d 553 (4th Cir. 2017) (Tatum VI).
Successfully defeated a contested class certification motion for Volvo Group North America, LLC, in a nation-wide breach of warranty case in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. The plaintiffs filed suit against our client asserting claims based on alleged defects in two models of Volvo’s high-displacement diesel engines. The plaintiffs alleged that defects in various systems of the engines led to repeated malfunctions and breakdowns of the trucks in the field and that Volvo was unable to develop and implement adequate solutions to the defects. Five days after the court held a hearing on the class certification motion, the judge entered an order denying the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. The court found that the plaintiffs failed to show how they could prove any issue central to the validity of their claims on a class-wide basis. The court also found that the plaintiffs failed to address the substantial choice of law issues or how the court could address the material variances in state law.
Represented former police officer Bruce Abramski in a successful cert petition and in merits briefing before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case concerned the authority of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to restrict when lawful gun owners can purchase firearms for other lawful gun owners. Abramski was the most prominent gun case of the October 2013 term and drew significant media attention.
Wake Forest University School of Law, J.D. (2009) Order of the Coif, magna cum laude
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, B.A., History and Economics (2005)
North Carolina (2009)
U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (2010)
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (2011)
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (2012)
U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina (2012)
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (2012)
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (2013)
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (2013)
U.S. Supreme Court (2013)
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (2014)
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (2014)
U.S. Court of Federal Claims (2014)
U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (2015)
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (2017)
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit - Honorable Susan H. Black
U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina - Honorable Thomas D. Schroeder
North Carolina Bar Association, Member
Wake Forest Law Review, Senior Notes and Comments Editor (2008-2009)
7's for 7 Lacrosse Tournament, Founding Member
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