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Robert S. Safi

Overview

Since joining Susman Godfrey’s Houston office in 2006, Rob Safi has achieved excellent results for plaintiffs and defendants before judges, juries, and arbitrators.  Safi’s peers selected him as a “Rising Star” of the Texas bar the last four years in a row (Law & Politics Magazine, Thomson Reuters, 2010–2013).  He graduated with high honors from The University of Texas School of Law, where he served as Notes Editor of the Texas Law Review and was a member of Chancellors. Before joining the firm, Safi was a law clerk to the Honorable Vaughn R. Walker, then-Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Safi enjoys a diverse practice.  He has represented plaintiffs and defendants in a wide variety of disputes arising from mergers and acquisitions, oil and gas transactions, power purchase agreements, civil rights violations, voter referenda, hospital management contracts, and major construction projects, among others.  He has experience in virtually every segment of the energy industry, and is currently litigating a dispute arising from a billion-dollar sale of oil shale assets.  Safi has worked both sides of the class action bar, most recently playing a significant role for the plaintiffs in litigation arising from unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles.  The ground-breaking settlement in that case is expected to net approximately $1.4 billion in value to the class.

Trials

In October 2011, with Vineet Bhatia and Shawn Raymond, Safi defended an electric utility against claims asserted by one of the world’s “major” energy companies. The claims arose from a wind power purchase agreement. The claimant sought millions of dollars for power production losses associated with curtailments that were ordered by the regional grid operator. The case was tried to a panel of three arbitrators. Safi cross-examined the claimant’s liability expert and presented most of our client’s fact witnesses on direct. In a unanimous decision, the panel rejected all claims asserted against our client – and awarded our client all of its attorneys’ fees.

In June 2009, with Mark Wawro, Alex Kaplan, and co-counsel Barry Scheck, Safi obtained a unanimous jury verdict for George Rodriguez in a federal civil rights action against the City of Houston arising from the much-publicized scandal in the Houston Police Department crime laboratory. Mr. Rodriguez was wrongfully convicted in 1987 and spent 17 years in prison until he won his freedom in 2004 with pro bono assistance from Susman Godfrey and The Innocence Project. A federal jury returned a verdict for Rodriguez and the district court entered judgment in excess of $9 million. While the case was on appeal, the case settled for $3 million – and a public apology from the Mayor of Houston.

In February 2009, with Steve Susman, Safi obtained a unanimous jury verdict in favor of a fuel marketing and trading company that hired us to prosecute claims for breach of a letter agreement for the sale of biodiesel. The defendant repudiated the agreement after one of its investors, Goldman Sachs, decided it didn't like the deal. Safi gave the opening statement at an initial trial on whether the letter agreement was binding. The jury found for our client. Safi then single-handedly developed the claim against Goldman for interference with contract. He handled all depositions and briefed, argued, and defeated Goldman's motion for summary judgment.  The case settled for a confidential sum on the eve of a second trial.

Dismissals

With Neal Manne and Johnny Carter, Safi represented the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County ("METRO") in a lawsuit arising from METRO's plan to build a light rail line in Southwest Houston. The plaintiff claimed that the route violated a voter referendum that authorized METRO to expand its light rail system. We persuaded the trial court to dismiss all of the plaintiff’s claims. The dismissal was affirmed on appeal. See Scarbrough v. METRO, 326 S.W.3d 324 (Tex. App. — Houston [1st Dist.] 2010, pet. denied

Class Actions

Safi currently is working with his partner Marc Seltzer, who was appointed Co-Lead Counsel for the Economic Loss Plaintiffs in MDL 2151, In re Toyota Motor Corp. Unintended Acceleration Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation, currently pending in the Central District of California before United States District Judge James V. Selna.  Safi helped design and execute a phase of discovery and motion practice dedicated to choice of law, conducted a far-reaching discovery program related to Toyota’s marketing and sales practices, presented discovery matters to the Court and Special Masters, assembled and coordinated a team of experts, and handled numerous depositions, including the depositions of a senior officer of Toyota and one of Toyota’s key experts on class certification.   On December 28, 2012, the Court preliminarily approved a settlement that is valued at approximately $1.4 billion, including $500 million in cash.  A hearing on final settlement approval is scheduled for June 14, 2013.  Class members should visit www.toyotaelsettlement.com to learn more about their rights under the settlement and to submit a claim.

In MDL 1840, In re Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litigation, Safi was tapped by lead counsel to brief and present oral argument on a key issue related to class certification. The district court certified a class for purposes of liability and injunctive relief. Several large settlements have been obtained to date, and the class will net tens of millions of dollards.

In 2006–2008, with Neal Manne and Shawn Raymond, Safi defended one of the world’s very largest companies against a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act for alleged violations of wage and hour laws.  Safi briefed and argued a key motion that resulted in our client obtaining discovery from hundreds of plaintiffs.  The case settled for a nominal amount that was far less than plaintiffs had originally demanded.

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