Maynard welcomes seasoned trial lawyer Helen Kathryn Downs. Ms. Downs joins the Firm’s Birmingham, AL office as a Shareholder in the Litigation Section. Her practice focuses on the areas of products liability, including pharmaceutical and medical device defense, mass torts, banking litigation, and commercial litigation. She has advised Fortune 50...Read More
Helen Kathryn's Profile
A seasoned trial lawyer and adept communicator, Helen Kathryn Downs has advised major corporations for more than two decades, mitigating risk and identifying compelling legal defenses.
Prior to Maynard, Helen Kathryn founded a forward-looking law firm – Law in Motion: Downs, LLC. This woman-owned firm embraced the latest neuroscience to enhance persuasion and client results. The firm also offered advisory and litigation services for cutting-edge technologies, such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, artificial intelligence, drones, and robotics, as well as more traditional practice areas, primarily products liability, mass torts, and banking litigation.
Recognitions of Helen Kathryn’s skills include Courtroom Viewing Network's “Top 10 Defense Verdicts” (2015), Mid-South Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, Who's Who Legal: Product Liability Defence, Who's Who Legal: Life Sciences, and her 15th anniversary with an AVPreeminent rating by Martindale-Hubbell.
She is a lifelong student of effective communication, creative thinking, and legal innovation. Clients and colleagues describe Helen Kathryn as a candid strategist – pragmatic, perceptive, and fiercely curious. Based on client feedback, she adroitly translates complex information into plain terms, swiftly building credibility with judges, jurors, and other lawyers. Her personal warmth, authenticity, and incisive analysis bolster her skillset. Helen Kathryn obtained a B.A. from UNC-Chapel Hill and J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. At UVA, she and her partner, Jason Brener, won the Lile Moot Court Competition, and she received the Stephen P. Traynor Award for Oral Advocacy.
“HK's uniquely engaging style, combined with her legal savvy, technical knowledge, and invaluable perspective, wowed our team. We've gained vital new insights into managing the risks and benefits of connected products.”
“Helen Kathryn is a smart trial lawyer and shrewd negotiator; she consistently delivers results with her brains and charm.”
“I can’t think of a better litigator to work with when it comes to multiparty cases involving complex issues and multiple personalities. As Defense Liaison Counsel for asbestos litigation in Alabama for the last eleven years, I have witnessed Helen Kathryn eloquently argue issues that favorably impacted outcomes not only for her own clients but for co-defendants as well. I had the pleasure of watching Helen Kathryn utilize her inherent skills, calm persuasiveness, credibility, and uncompromising professionalism to shut down an unruly opposing counsel and leave him speechless – a first in the history of Alabama asbestos litigation. She is number one in my book.”
“While the litigation could be highly contentious at times, Helen Kathryn always adhered to the highest standards of professionalism and integrity. She never allowed the intensity of pretrial and trial proceedings, hostile questioning from the bench, or unfair attacks and duplicitous arguments from opposing counsel to adversely impact her conduct and demeanor toward the judge, attorneys, or witnesses involved.”
“She was able to deal firmly but compassionately with adverse witnesses in a way that resonated with the jury, without compromising our core themes for trial. She has outstanding instincts and knows when to stand firm on an issue and when compromise is in the best interest of the client. If I had a bet-the-company, nuclear-event type of case and needed an attorney who could organize a trial team, act as lead counsel, and guide that team through one of the most challenging courtroom environments a company can face, Helen Kathryn would be at the top of my list.”
“Helen Kathryn’s masterful control over adverse witnesses on cross-examination combines equal parts zeal and genteelness: The witness knows that he or she will face a swift and embarrassing correction upon straying from the wealth of facts HK has at the ready, but the jury sees simply a polite—if direct—exchange that emphasizes the key themes HK seeks to reinforce through the witness.”
“She’s the hardest working attorney I have ever been around . . . and I’ve been around.”
“HK’s approach to creating key trial graphics reminds me of an artisan who’s passionate about crafting small-batch bourbon. Thought, time, and effort are invested in distilling complex elements into a product that has balance and clarity, with visual and sensory appeal. The result is promptly digested by most everyone.”
“In meetings with high-level executives, Helen Kathryn got to the crux of the matter using effective graphics that reduced extremely complex litigation to a concise set of‘home-base’defense themes (as she calls them). She then ferreted out each executive’s strengths and weaknesses and tailored her witness preparation to those personal traits. She somehow managed to motivate senior investment bankers at JP Morgan Securities to want to perform well for her.”
“Helen Kathryn and I interviewed about 15 employees over two days. I actively participated but had Helen Kathryn take the laboring oar when talking with these witnesses. With her strong interpersonal skills, she quickly developed a rapport with the potential witnesses and put them at ease, even those who were visibly uncomfortable meeting with lawyers. Her strong interviewing skills elicited key information and generated candid exchanges. Based on the compelling narratives that Helen Kathryn developed, the Company was able to resolve a putative nationwide class action early in the process.”
“When it comes to communicating at trial, Helen Kathryn has that rare ‘gift’ – the ability to put the jury at ease with her endearing style while establishing trust from the outset of the case. Even after late nights of preparing in the trenches, I have seen her not miss a beat when presenting her client’s story. Simply put, Helen Kathryn has a way of making the fruits of her tireless effort appear effortless. I can say with conviction that any corporation or individual receiving counsel from Helen Kathryn is definitely in good (and persuasive) hands! ”
“In 45 years of practicing law, I’ve rarely seen anyone better than HK at getting people to open up and talk, even those who started out against us.”
Helen Kathryn's Experience
- Counseled U.S. and global executives of Fortune 500 company on mitigating risk and best practices when designing connected products.
- Analyzed emerging regulations, guidelines, and best practices in the U.S. and Europe impacting privacy and the use of facial recognition.
- Defended manufacturer of automated industrial equipment in personal injury litigation.
- Served as local counsel for a pharmaceutical company in the MDL opioid litigation.
- Defended a Fortune 500 financial institution in federal court against consumer fraud claims.
- Handled depositions throughout the state for a manufacturer in asbestos litigation.
- Defended a PPE manufacturer in product liability cases in federal court.
- Defended a real estate company against employment discrimination claims in federal court.
- Represented consumers against car dealerships in Fair Credit Reporting Act, fraud, breach of warranty, and deceptive trade practices cases in court and arbitration.
- Drafted privacy policies to comply with increasing regulation for a consumer product manufacturer.
- Performed legal services for a local non-profit, including HIPAA-compliant contracts and policies.
- Worked as outside general counsel for Birmingham start-up Dippi LLC.
- Litigated a hotly contested guardianship and conservatorship proceeding pro bono.
- Responsible for the defense, preparation, and trials of product liability cases in multiple states, including Texas, New Jersey, Missouri, Tennessee, and Alabama, managing teams of trial lawyers across the country; coordinating a cohesive approach to discovery; selecting, preparing and examining fact and expert witnesses; mastering extensive medical literature and research to combat specific and general causation; formulating powerful trial themes and graphics; and connecting with judges and jurors.
- Defense verdict for Ethicon, Inc., and Johnson & Johnson in pelvic mesh trial in Dallas, Texas
- Prepared comprehensive case analyses for various corporate defendants, including legal, commercial, and reputational angles, and built projections and decision trees to illustrate options.
- Presented oral argument and helped obtain an appellate win in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, affirming a judgment for Target Corporation in trademark litigation.
- Argued three Daubert motions and ultimately prevailed on summary judgment after a two-day hearing in Louisiana state court, relying heavily on effective graphics.
- Multiple favorable judgments for Target Corporation in premises liability litigation.
- Structured alternative fee arrangements and effective project management, embracing tools to improve client services and reduce costs.
- Participated in multiple pitches to clients and potential clients in response to Requests for Proposals, with demonstrated success in marketing.
- Secured favorable trial court rulings and regulatory approvals for Fortune 500 consumer manufacturer following a hard-fought public relations campaign, as well as an extrajudicial win/win for the client’s pulp processing plant, city residents, and local leaders.
- Conducted extensive internal investigation for a Fortune 500 global financial institution to defend a $650 million lawsuit for securities fraud, obtaining summary judgment for the bank in multiple rounds of litigation and successfully defending appeals (without opinions).
- Successfully resolved a putative class action against a Fortune 500 financial institution alleging improper handling and “robo-signing” of affidavits filed as an adversary proceeding in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Alabama
- Obtained pre-certification summary judgment for a Fortune 500 financial institution in a putative nationwide class action alleging violations of the Truth in Lending Act, which was affirmed by the Eleventh Circuit following oral argument (without opinion).
- Guided numerous lawsuits to successful resolution with help from talented colleagues through proactive detective work, effective legal strategies, dispositive motions, mediation, and trial.
- Served as second chair at trial in a combined product liability and medical malpractice trial defending an Italian manufacturer, Esaote, S.p.A.
- Represented Merck & Co., Inc., throughout Alabama in the VIOXXâ pharmaceutical litigation and worked with medical experts designated in various VIOXXâ MDL and New Jersey cases through discovery and trial.
- Led internal investigation into the cause of an explosion at a plant owned by the client’s largest customer, with witnesses, data, and laws spanning the U.S., Canada, and Italy.
- Orchestrated collection, preservation, and review of millions of documents in complex disputes, leveraging technology to handle the reviews efficiently.
- Spearheaded an internal investigation that uncovered an employee’s multi-layered scheme to steal from the client’s expense reimbursement system, collaborating with the U.S. Secret Service to gather evidence of the employee’s computer crimes.
- Served as second chair at trial representing an individual plaintiff, Kelsey Oliver, in a personal injury action in state court, which resulted in a plaintiff’s verdict.
Helen Kathryn's Accolades
- Who’s Who Legal: Product Liability Defence, 2015-present.
- Who’s Who Legal: Life Sciences, 2018-present.
- Martindale Hubbell AV-Preeminent Rating (with an AV or AV-Preeminent rating for more than 15 years), as well as a Judicial AV-Preeminent Rating.
- Best Lawyers: Product Liability Litigation – Defendants, 2013-present.
- Best Lawyers: Commercial Litigation, 2019-present.
- Mid-South Super Lawyers, 2016-present.
- Alabama Super Lawyers, 2012-2015.
- U.S. News – Best Lawyers: Best Law Firms, 2021.
- Courtroom Viewing Network’s Top Defense Verdict, 2015.
- Inaugural Class, Alabama State Bar Leadership Forum, 2006.
- Inaugural Class, MOMENTUM Women’s Leadership Program, 2001.
- Top 40 under 40, Birmingham Business Journal, 2001.
- Bullshooter – First Place, BBA Sporting Clays, 2007.
Helen Kathryn's Publications
- Christy Jones, Helen Kathryn Downs, Chad Hutchinson, Voir Dire, IADC Training Manual (3rd ed., 2017).
- Helen Kathryn Downs, The Internet of Things (IoT): Is It Viable and Transformational, a Security Headache, or the Regulatory Wild, Wild West?, Banking Traditions, Alabama Bankers Association, Inc., Vol. 27, Issue 4, Winter 2016.
Helen Kathryn's Speaking Engagements
- Speaker: Defeating Products Claims: Absence of a Safer Alternative Design, International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC) Webinar.
- Speaker & Moderator: Nothing to Hide: How 100 Years of Technological Advances Impact Privacy, IADC Virtual Annual Meeting.
- Speaker, Applying the Latest Neuroscience to Litigation and Persuasion, JPMorgan Chase Legal Department – Chicago, IL.
- Speaker, Catching the Waves: Using Brain Science to Predict and Persuade, FedEx World Headquarters – Memphis, TN.
- Panelist, Be Smart about Smart Products, a/k/a The Fascinating, Mind-Boggling, Game-Changing, Terrifying, No Good, Very Bad Internet of Things, American Bar Association (ABA) Women in Products Liability Regional CLE Program – Washington, D.C.Panelist, IoT and the Healthcare Industry: Creating Smarter Healthcare for 2018, The Knowledge Group Webinar.
- Panelist, Information Governance: The Strategic & Holistic Management of Your Key Corporate Asset, Ascent Conference for Women In-House Counsel – Atlanta, GA.
- Panelist, Handling the Consumer Fraud Class Action, IADC Webinar.
- Speaker, Strategic Risk Analysis for New Connected Consumer Products: Successful Defense of IOT-related Enforcement Actions & Civil Litigation, Client Presentation and Materials – Charlotte, NC.
- Moderator and Panelist, Galvanizing Your Practice through Social Media, IADC Midyear Meeting – Carlsbad, CA.
- Speaker, The Discovery Battlefield is Changing (Again): Are You Technologically Fit for Service? Birmingham Bar Association – Birmingham, AL.
- Speaker, Changes and Challenges as Dodd-Frank Matures, Hispanic National Bar Association Corporate Counsel Conference – Atlanta, GA.
- Speaker, Legal Considerations for Industrial Machine Safety, Rockwell Automation on the Move Regional Conference, August 21-22, 2013 – Birmingham, AL.
- Moderator and Panelist, Case Highlights for Business Litigators: 2012-2013, Business Torts & Antitrust Section, Alabama State Bar Annual Meeting – Point Clear, AL.
- Speaker, Optimum Game Plan for Tackling an Adverse Witness, Rockwell Automation Counsel Summit – Milwaukee, WI.
- Speaker, The Unwritten Rules in Litigation: A Case Study – Birmingham, AL.
- Panelist, Witness Preparation: Avoiding Ethical Quagmires, ABA Women in Products Liability Regional CLE Meeting – New York, NY. • Speaker, Innovative Techniques for Case Investigation, Chase Bank USA, N.A. – Chicago, IL.
- Panelist, Litigating in the Face of the Amended E-Discovery Rules: Post-Implementation and Practice Tips, ABA Section of Litigation Regional CLE Meeting – New Orleans, LA.
- Speaker, Products Liability Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, ABA Joint Committee CLE Meeting – Avon, CO.
- Speaker, Mediation and Negotiation Strategies, Bank One, N.A. – Chicago, IL.
- Speaker and Moderator, Women in Products Liability Regional CLE Meetings, 2006, 2008, and 2009.
State Bar: Alabama
U.S. District Court: Alabama (Northern, Middle, Southern)
U.S. Court of Appeals: Eleventh Circuit