Jerry W. Blackwell is the founding partner, CEO and chairman of Blackwell Burke P.A. Mr. Blackwell serves as national and trial counsel for several major corporations, having represented them in federal and state courts in 47 states and internationally. He is an experienced trial lawyer with nationwide experience defending class actions, toxic tort, commercial disputes, products liability, and other high stakes complex cases. Mr. Blackwell has numerous winning jury verdicts and favorable settlements to his credit. He is a frequent presenter on winning trial strategies and how to communicate complicated legal, scientific, and business issues to jurors.
Mr. Blackwell is admitted to practice in the state and federal courts of Minnesota, federal district courts of Michigan, Arizona, Colorado, and Illinois, as well as the United States Supreme Court and Fourth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals. Mr. Blackwell has presented to the Federal Bar Association, American Bar Association, Minnesota State Bar Association, National Bar Association, International Association of Defense Counsel, National College of Advocacy, and various Fortune 500 clients and trade organizations.
He is a founder of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers. In 2011, Governor Mark Dayton appointed Mr. Blackwell to serve as an at-large member of the Minnesota Commission on Judicial Appointments. He was reappointed to the Commission in 2015.
When he is not zealously defending clients, Mr. Blackwell enjoys beekeeping, meditation, and is an avid hobby farmer.
- University of North Carolina School of Law (J.D., 1987)
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (B.S., 1984)
- 3M Supplier of the Year Award for Minority Owned Business
- America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators®
- America's Top 100 Civil Defense Litigators®
- BTI Legal Mover & Shaker Award
- Benchmark Litigation Minnesota Litigation Star
- BTI Client Service MVP (only one in Minnesota)
- BTI Client Service All-Star
- Minnesota Super Lawyers® (Since 2003)
- Minnesota Attorney of the Year
- Minnesota Lawyer Diversity & Inclusion Honoree
- Hennepin County Bar Association Employer Diversity Award
- AV Preeminent® Ranking (Martindale-Hubbell)
- AV Preeminent® Ranking – Judicial Edition (Martindale Hubbell)
- Counsel to Counsel Award – The National Law Journal
- The Best Lawyers in America©- Products Liability Defense (Since 2014)
- National Bar Association Commercial Section Cora T. Walker Award
- Excellence in Service Award, General Mills Supplier Diversity
- Outstanding Black Business of the Year (MN Black Chamber of Commerce)
- Minnesota Minority Business Owner of the Year
- Distinguished Citizen Award, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity
- Equal Justice Award, Minnesota Council on Crime and Justice
- Litigating with the Legends, Minnesota Association for Justice, Minneapolis MN (September 27, 2018)
- Faculty Member, International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC) 45th Annual Trial Academy, July 29 – August 4, 2017, Stanford Law School, Palo Alto, CA
- Instructor, Defense Research Institute, Atlanta, GA (2017)
- Elimination of Bias: Challenges and Opportunities for Black Lawyers in Minnesota’s Legal Community, Minnesota CLE, April 9, 2014, Minneapolis, MN
- Avoiding Trial by Fire: Interactive and Illustrative Trial Tips from the Experts, NAMWOLF Conference, September 21-25, 2013, Minneapolis, MN.
- Presenting Food Science to the Judge or Jury, American Bar Association’s Section of Products Liability Food & Supplements Third Annual Workshop, June 18, 2013, Oakbrook, IL.
- Reap What You Sow: Using Technology to Pick the Right Jurors, DRI Product Liability Conference: Make Your Products Practice Bloom, April 3, 2013, Washington, D.C.
- Showdown: Products Masters Demonstrate Their Closing Styles, DRI Product Liability Conference: Make Your Products Practice Bloom, April 5, 2013, Washington, D.C.
- How to Protect Your Company with an Effective Food Liability Program, Food Safety Summit, April 17, 2012, Washington, D.C.
- The Wizard of Oz and the “Expert” Behind the Curtain: Deconstructing Junk Science and Winning Your Case, Grocery Manufacturers Association 2011 Foodborne Illness Litigation Conference, Chicago, IL (with C. Gordon).
- 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. This case is one of more than 4,500 cases in the Minnesota MDL all involving numerous complex novel scientific legal issues. With Mr. Blackwell’s leadership, the defense team has secured dismissal of all Minnesota State cases, prevented Plaintiffs from adding punitive damages, won a significant motion to compel, securing more than $11,000 in fees and costs for client. The verdict was widely covered in the media.
- Rigor v. 3M Company. Secured a complete defense victory for Fortune 100 conglomerate in a US$25.5M Los Angeles County, California asbestos lawsuit. Plaintiff claimed he contracted mesothelioma from on-the-job exposure to asbestos over the course of 40 years, and that our client’s respirator was defective and failed to protect him. Multiple defendants settled, and only our client proceeded through the four-week trial to verdict. The verdict is additionally remarkable because California has consistently been named a “judicial hellhole”, i.e. an unfriendly or hostile jurisdiction for corporate defendants. The verdict was covered by HarrisMartin Publishing.
- State of Minnesota by its Attorney General Lori Swanson, Commissioner of Pollution Control, Commissioner of Natural Resources v. 3M Company. Resolved a long-standing environmental contamination action brought by the State of Minnesota Attorney General. The $850 million settlement was the largest environmental settlement in Minnesota, and the third largest in U.S. history, ending eight years of litigation over a former ingredient (fluorochemicals, or PFCs) that allegedly contaminated the state’s drinking water. The settlement was widely covered by the media.
- Benzene Exposure Trial. Won a complete defense verdict for one of the world's largest global innovation manufacturing companies in a seven-figure benzene exposure case in Madison County, Illinois after a two-week trial. Madison County has consistently been named a “judicial hellhole” for corporate defendants.
- Hebrew National Putative Nationwide Class Action. Won dismissal with prejudice of a putative nationwide class action brought against ConAgra Foods, Inc. This was the third victory for the Blackwell Burke defense team (following published decisions in federal court and the Eighth Circuit) in litigation in which the plaintiffs alleged that the ConAgra’s Hebrew National brand beef products were not “100% kosher as advertised.”
- "Popcorn Lung" Litigation. Won a complete defense victory as first-chair trial counsel in a month-long jury trial in the first consumer "popcorn lung" case to go to trial. Won summary judgment in the first "popcorn lung" case resolved in federal court by refuting plaintiff's primary argument that consumer exposure to popcorn vapors was comparable to industrial-level exposure. Both cases were affirmed on appeal.
- Asbestos Exposure Trial. Won a complete defense verdict in seven-figure asbestos exposure case in St. Louis, Missouri for one of the world's largest global innovation manufacturing companies. Successfully demonstrated that the plaintiff did not have silicosis, but instead had a rare, non-occupational and misdiagnosed vascular tumor.
- Toxic Tort and Mass Tort Litigation. National coordinating and national trial counsel for complex toxic tort and mass tort litigation for Fortune 500 clients in claims involving exposures to, among other substances, asbestos, benzene, silica, and diacetyl in state and federal courts nationwide, often in jurisdictions known to be hostile to corporate defendants. Cases have resolved with trial court victories and favorable settlements. Other litigation is ongoing.
- General Mills East Hennepin Environmental Class Action. Defended General Mills, Inc., against class action claims brought by residents claiming vapor intrusion from groundwater contamination from a former General Mills facility on East Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. Class certification was reversed by the 8th Circuit Court.
- Walmart Wage and Hour Class Action. Minnesota trial counsel for Walmart in three-month wage and hour class action in Minnesota in which the class made allegations of rest break and meal period violations, as well as claims for uncompensated off-the-clock work.
- Yo-Plus Consumer Class Action. Defended General Mills, Inc. against a class action, on behalf of California purchasers, alleging that Yo-Plus probiotic yogurt does not promote digestive health as advertised. General Mills retained Mr. Blackwell as first-chair trial counsel after the court granted class certification. Blackwell Burke then obtained de-certification of the class’s claims for damages, including its claim for punitive damages. The case settled shortly after the de-certification decision.
- Nature Valley Putative Nationwide Class Action. Won complete defense victory on behalf of General Mills, against allegations of mislabeling and false advertising related to the company’s snack bars.
- Fuel dealer franchise litigation. Won summary judgment in favor of Exxon Mobil Corporation in suit challenging “zone pricing” as illegal price discrimination. Also won summary judgment for the same company in class action by franchisee dealers challenging fuel pricing and won concurrent Third Circuit appeal from denial of preliminary injunction.
- Electronic Components Jury Victory. Won a summary jury verdict in favor of Vishay Intertechnology Inc., a global electronic components manufacturer (and third-party defendant) against breach of implied warranty and product defect claims.
- Contractual Indemnity Trial. Won defense victory on behalf of General Mills in contractual-indemnity claim filed in the Northern District of Georgia. CSX Transportation sought reimbursement for a settlement of $16 million it paid to a former General Mills’ employee following a serious railcar accident at General Mills’ Convington, Georgia facility in 2005. The settlement was made pending CSX’s appeal of a $20.5 million jury verdict against it, based on the jury’s finding that CSX was at fault for the accident. The Court dismissed CSX’s indemnity claims against General Mills, agreeing that it was not contractually required to indemnify CSX for claims arising from CSX’s sole negligence.
- Khoury v. ConAgra Foods. Member of the trial team which successfully defended international food manufacturer ConAgra Foods, Inc. Consumers claimed disease from exposure to microwave popcorn vapors. After a month-long trial in the plaintiffs’ counsel’s home court in Jackson County, Missouri, a jury found in favor of ConAgra Foods on all claims resulting in a complete defense victory. The case was affirmed on appeal.