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 served two terms until 2019.
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
- Ranked by Chambers and Partners
- Chambers & Partners Diversity & Inclusion Shortlist
- BTI Honor Roll for Class Actions Litigation
- BTI Legal Mover & Shaker
- BTI Client Service MVP (only one in Minnesota)
- BTI Client Service All-Star
- Benchmark Litigation Minnesota Litigation Star
- America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators®
- America's Top 100 Civil Defense Litigators®
- The National Black Lawyers Top 100
- Minnesota Attorney of the Year
- Minnesota Super Lawyers® (Since 2003)
- Best Lawyers in America©- Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions, Commercial Litigation, Products Liability Defense (Since 2014)
- Best Lawyers in Minnesota, Minnesota Monthly Magazine
- 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
- 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
- Fellow, American Bar Foundation
- Mock Trial Presentation: Connecting with Juries and Developing “Good Company” Stories, Grocery Manufacturers Association Legal Conference, Palm Beach Gardens, FL (March 2019)
- Meditation: Learn the Techniques That Can Transform Your Life, International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC) Annual Meeting, Asheville, NC (July 7- 12, 2019)
- 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).
- In re Bair HuggerTM MDL 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. Mr. Blackwell presented the arguments before the Minnesota Pardon Board. 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.
- State of Minnesota v. CenturyTel Broadband Services, LLC et al. Spearheaded successful negotiations on behalf of CenturyLink in partnership with three other law firms, with Minnesota’s Attorney General. The lawsuit was based on nearly 5,000 complaints made to the Minnesota Attorney General’s office about the company’s billing practices. The settlement impacted 12,000 Minnesota customers, who were slated to receive refunds.
- 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 ConAgra’s Hebrew National brand beef products were not “100% kosher as advertised.”
- General Mills, Inc. v. Chobani, LLC. Secured injunction against Chobani for false advertising claims for its Simply 100, Greek-style yogurt. Chobani erroneously claimed that Yoplait Greek 100 was laced with a pesticide that rendered it dangerous. The allegedly "toxic" ingredient, potassium sorbate, was a preservative considered by multiple federal agencies to be a safe and non-harmful food ingredient.
- "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 8thCircuit 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.
- Carlson, Inc. v. Int'l Bus. Machs. Corp. Won a complete defense verdict in this bench trial, securing $14,232,000 in termination payments, plus prejudgment interest for IBM. Plaintiff, a travel and hospitality company, entered into a $646 million ten-year master services agreement with IBM. Carlson sued alleging fraudulent inducement, fraud in performance, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duties.
- Newkirk v. ConAgra Foods. Refuted primary argument that consumer exposure to popcorn additives was comparable to industrial-level exposure. A Washington federal district court rendered a 70-page opinion that excluded plaintiff’s experts on Daubert grounds, granted summary judgment and dismissed all claims in favor of ConAgra Foods, Inc. Mr. Gordon argued the successful motions in the trial court and the winning appeal before the Ninth Circuit.
- Egilman v. ConAgra Foods, Inc. Represented ConAgra Foods in successfully opposing an expert’s petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case involved the issue of whether an expert witness has third-party standing to appeal a district court’s Daubert ruling.
- Paisley Park Enterprises. Former counsel for Paisley Park Enterprises, serving as trusted advisor and counsel for the late Prince Rogers Nelson in all his personal and professional matters.