John has long been driven by the desire to make a difference, to help ensure that people are treated fairly. As a lawyer, this led him to devoting his career to protecting the rights of consumers and employees wronged by unethical and unlawful business practices.
Early in his career, he represented consumers in individual cases against auto manufacturers, car dealers, mobile home companies and others who had caused them harm. Now he represents the same type of clients in class action suits, often involving thousands of victims of corporate lawbreaking, such as illegal telemarketing.
John joined Bailey & Glasser in 2005 and has played a leading role in expanding the firm’s successful class action and mass tort practice. “I happen to really like the people I practice with, and I enjoy supporting them however I can,” John said.
John concentrates in class actions and complex litigation. John is the President of the firm, and he also leads the firm’s contingent practice area, which litigates individual, class, and mass actions in fields ranging from ERISA, to antitrust violations, to consumer class actions and product liability class actions.
John is experienced in appellate and trial work, and has tried complex mass and class actions to juries in state and federal court. Most recently, John was co-lead trial counsel in a certified class action alleging TCPA violations against DISH Network in the Middle District of North Carolina. After a five-day trial in January 2017, the jury handed down a $20.5 million verdict, finding DISH liable for more than 51,000 telemarketing calls placed by a defunct DISH dealer to persons whose telephone numbers were on the National Do Not Call Registry. The presiding judge has since trebled the jury’s damages award, bringing the judgment to $61.5 million for all violations.
He has achieved an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the highest possible rating for legal ability and ethical standards.
John chairs the Development Advisory Group for Legal Aid of West Virginia, where he helped devise and lead its successful “Just One” fundraising campaign, which encourages all Bar members to donate the cash equivalent of one billable hour to support legal services for low-income West Virginians. He is president of the board of Our Vote, Our Future, a nonprofit organization devoted to registering and empowering voters and working on issues affecting childhood poverty in West Virginia. He serves on the visiting committee of the West Virginia University College of Law, and on the board of the Childhood Language Center, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help children communicate and succeed by providing high-quality speech therapy services. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Charleston.
In 2018, he was named a Fellow of the West Virginia State Bar Foundation, an honor recognizing those lawyers whose professional, public, and private careers have demonstrated outstanding dedication to the welfare of their communities and honorable service to the legal profession.
Cummins v. H&R Block, Inc.
In a case litigated for five years in venues ranging from the West Virginia trial and appellate courts, to federal district courts in West Virginia and Illinois, to the United States Supreme Court, our lawyers served as lead counsel in winning a $62.5 million multistate class action settlement against H&R Block. The case involved first-impression claims relating to the application of West Virginia’s credit-services organization statute to Block’s refund anticipation loan product. Other firms across the country litigated cases against Block alleging similar claims, without success, for more than ten years. West Virginia’s share of the settlement was $32.5 million.
State of West Virginia v. Microsoft Corporation
Our lawyers served as special assistant attorneys general for the State of West Virginia in antitrust and consumer protection action against Microsoft Corporation; the case settled for a total value of $21 million.
Dillon v. Chase Bank
Our lawyers were class co-counsel with the public interest firm Mountain State Justice, and won a $3.3 million class action settlement for West Virginia borrowers who alleged illegal loan-servicing claims.
Desai v. ADT Security
We served on a team of lawyers that won one of the largest ever vicarious-liability TCPA settlements – $15 million for a nationwide class of consumers subjected to nuisance telemarketing calls.
Shonk Land Company, LLC v. SG Sales Company
We brought and settled ($2.4 million) a nationwide class action alleging illegal fax advertising under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Casto v. City National Bank
$5.5 million settlement in West Virginia class action alleging improper overdraft-fee practices.
Triplett v. NationStar Mortgage
Won $1.5 million loan-servicing settlement alleging illegal assessment of mortgage loan default-fees.
Dunlap v. Wells Fargo Financial West Virginia, Inc.
We litigated and obtained class certification of predatory lending claims for over 100 West Virginia mortgage borrowers. The case, brought under West Virginia's consumer protection statutes, settled for just over $9 million, a sum that wrote down more than $4.9 million in mortgage balances, paid $4.15 million in cash, and helped borrowers repair damaged credit.
Brooks v. City of Huntington
Our team won a 2011 jury trial for 40 Huntington residents whose homes and properties were flooded by a municipal stormwater control system; the total recovery exceeded $1 million. When the City’s system again caused flood damages, we sued again in 2012, and, after another jury trial, obtained a second million-dollar judgment. In 2014, the firm won an appeal at the WV Supreme Court when the court ruled that monetary damages awarded to homeowners and cut by the judge be restored. This decision altered the measure of damage for real property loss that had been in place for more than 40 years and provided that a homeowner could recover both the cost to repair damage and diminution of value damages.
Mey v. Frontier Communications
Obtained $11 million class action settlement against Frontier Communications for telephone calls that violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Final settlement approval pending.
Carter v. Taurus Int’l Mfg., et al., Taurus Pistol Unintended Discharge Case
The firm serves as co-lead counsel in a nationwide product liability class action against firearm manufacturer Taurus alleging design defects in nine pistol models that can result in unintended discharge if the pistol is dropped. Granted final approval from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on July 22, 2016, the settlement’s total possible value has been assessed to be $239 million. The terms of the settlement include a buyback or replacement of almost one million pistols, as well as additional safety training with regards to the defects alleged in the suit. The case is currently on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit by three objectors to the settlement.
Krakauer v. Dish Network. L.L.C.
Obtained a $20.5 million verdict in a class action trial against Dish Network. The class, led by class representative Dr. Thomas Krakauer of Bahama, North Carolina, alleged Dish was liable for more than 51,000 telemarketing calls placed by a defunct DISH dealer to persons whose telephone numbers were on the National Do Not Call Registry. The jury found DISH liable for all calls, and awarded $400 per violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The Court then increased the jury award up to $61.34 million because we proved willfulness.
West Virginia, 1997
Law Clerk, Chief Judge Charles H. Haden II, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, 1996-1998
Memberships and Affiliations
Fellow, West Virginia Bar Foundation (2018)
Trustee, University of Charleston
Member, Visiting Committee, WVU College of Law
Past President, West Virginia Land Trust
National Association of Consumer Advocates
West Virginia and American Associations for Justice
ABA, Litigation Section, Class Actions and Derivative Suits Committee
Director and Secretary, Dickinson Fuel Co., Inc.
President of Our Vote, Our Future, a West Virginia anti-poverty organization
Board Member, Childhood Language Center, Charleston
Chair of the Development Advisory Group, Legal Aid of West Virginia, Inc.
Executive Director, Common Cause West Virginia, 1990-1993
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
A: I mainly represent consumers in class actions. I started out my practice representing consumers in individual cases against auto manufacturers, car dealers, mobile home companies, etc. Now I do similar work, but for large numbers of consumers in a single case. I do class actions against finance companies who charge illegal loan fees; against banks who issue predatory mortgages; and against companies who use illegal telemarketing to sell their products.
Q: What do you like about your practice? What is professionally satisfying?
A: I enjoy the challenge of developing and applying legal theories, of building a case, and of simplifying complicated legal and factual issues by reducing them to their essence.
Q: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve done as a lawyer?
A: I represented a family who owned a homeplace in the Southern West Virginia coalfields where they all grew up, and were raised there by their mother and father; the dad was disabled, blinded in a coal mining accident in the 1930s. They really had no source of income and raised eleven children in this very small home in a very remote part of West Virginia – and the family stayed together by and large.
Fast forward 60 or 70 years, and the family is still having reunions at this home, it’s right on a beautiful little river next to a pretty little creek but because their father and mother died without a will, ownership of the land passed to heirs of 11 children, including cousins, second and third cousins, divorced spouses. Ultimately that created 60 or 70 owners of this 75-acre property.
Eventually, some of the heirs were bought out by a coal company, which was constructing the largest mountaintop removal coal mine in Appalachia. The company wanted the home and land so they could tear down the home and build an impoundment pond.
The clients said no, and the coal company brought a partition lawsuit to force the sale of the property against them. The coal company had, over time, acquired half the ownership interest. The company won, and the property was sold on the courthouse steps to the coal company.
I was not involved in the trial court proceedings, and the family hired me for the appeal. That was my first argument at the West Virginia Supreme Court. We had lost at the trial court and I had 20 minutes to argue my case, and our opponent had 20 minutes. I stood up and said my piece for about 10 minutes and the Chief Justice said, ‘OK, we understand your position,’ and I sat down. My opponent stood up and was grilled for 50 minutes of very tough questioning.
I had 10 minutes for rebuttal and after watching opposing counsel get grilled, I realized I didn’t have anything to say. It was about 7:30 pm and the Chief Justice looked at me and said, “All right, Mr. Barrett, let’s see how smart you are. Do you have anything else to say?”
And I said, “Your honor, it’s been a long day. Have a very nice dinner.”
And we won! The West Virginia Supreme Court held the family’s longstanding emotional and historical ties to their home trumped the financial interest of the coal company because there was no way to compensate the family for the loss of their homeplace. The land could not be sold away.
Q: What ever happened to the house, do you know?
A: The house is still there, and several times I’ve attended their annual family reunion at the property. I take my family and my kids swim in the river and they still talk about the fried chicken the family serves. The case was featured in National Geographic magazine.
You’re just lucky to know people like that. If you’re lucky enough to meet and know people like that.
Q: That’s an amazing story. What cases are keeping you busy these days?
A: Telemarketing (Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA) class actions, mostly. I am co-lead counsel in a TCPA Multidistrict Litigation (or MDL) involving home alarm system telemarketing. We’re doing lots of work against robo callers.
Q: Can you describe for us their current procedural posture, or resolution?
A: The cases are generally in heavy discovery mode.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face?
A: Tracking down records of telemarketing calls, which we’ve gotten pretty good at doing through third-party subpoenas. Sometimes it’s tough getting classes certified because of the call records challenge.
Q: What is the impact on clients or the industry from this case?
A: TCPA class actions are very important in reducing nuisance telemarketing calls. Although federal agencies like the Federal Trade Commission have enforcement responsibilities, there is only so much they can do to stop illegal telemarketing. Class actions supplement and complement their efforts, compensate consumers, and deter companies from violating the law.
Q: How were you hired for those matters?
A: Through referrals from lawyers around the country. Our TCPA work started eight years ago when we got involved in a TCPA class action filed in West Virginia by some lawyers from Boston. We joined forces with them. One of the lawyers was John Roddy, who at the time was with another firm in Boston but about three years ago joined Bailey & Glasser. The other set of lawyers was Matt McCue and Ted Broderick from the Boston area – where I still spend much of my time.
We had crossed paths with John Roddy in the H&R Block case back in 2006. We met outside a courtroom in Chicago when we flew up to oppose preliminary approval of a class-action settlement that would have wiped out our claims. We succeeded.
Q: Tell me about that case?
A: I could write a book about it. We were litigating a case in West Virginia on a theory that one of our partners, Eric Snyder, had come up with while in law school. He came to work for the firm after graduating from University of Pittsburgh law school and filed this lawsuit against H&R Block alleging that their refund anticipation loans – basically rapid refund loans – violated a state consumer protection law that no one had ever alleged was implicated before. There had been lawsuits filed against Block for years on any number of theories, and none were successful. The one apart from our case that was farthest along was brought under a civil RICO theory, which is a very difficult to claim to prove. That was pending in Chicago.
We were probably a month from trial in West Virginia, where ours was filed. We had a certified class, had beaten an arbitration defense, went to the Supreme Court on the arbitration defense, and certiorari was rejected there.
And then a month before trial, we got a call from defense counsel saying our case had been settled. We said ‘What do you mean our case has been settled? We didn’t settle it.’
We got ourselves together quickly and flew to Chicago to oppose preliminary approval. Northern District of Illinois Judge Elaine Bucklo rejected the settlement. We became deeply involved in the case and Brian Glasser led the negotiation of a $62.5 million settlement that ultimately resulted in $32.5 million being paid to West Virginia.
Q: And can you say what the dollar amount of the settlement you opposed was?
A: The settlement we opposed would have paid around $60,000 to West Virginia class members. It’s a remarkable story and outcome.
Q: Is this the type of practice you imagined yourself having while in law school?
A: Yes. I knew when I started law school that I wanted to be a public interest lawyer. Although I work for a private law firm, I think that my cases are important in enforcing state and federal consumer-law rights, helping protect consumers from law violators, and deterring companies from breaking consumer-protection laws.
Q: Did you have a favorite class or professor that was particularly influential in your studies or future career?
A: I loved Boston University Professor Larry Yackle, who taught me constitutional law and federal courts. I find federal jurisdiction fascinating, and have argued two Fourth Circuit cases addressing jurisdiction, including a case for the State of West Virginia (as special assistant Attorney General) defending the right of the AG to bring enforcement actions on behalf of West Virginians in West Virginia state courts.
Q: What do you wish you had known or done differently in school? Or, put another way, do you have advice now for current law school students?
A: When I graduated law school, I had no idea how to serve a subpoena or file a complaint, but it really didn’t matter; that stuff is easy to learn. The law is a fascinating subject from an academic perspective. Take time to think about the law, take classes with the best professors, and don’t worry too much about the nuts and bolts of practicing law.
Q: Is there anything in particular early in your career that you consider key to arriving at your current level of excellence?
A: I went to law school because I wanted to become a public interest lawyer. I had worked before law school as the state Executive Director of Common Cause for West Virginia, which is a governmental ethics and campaign finance reform nonprofit lobbying group. I was 23 years old when I got the job, and I really didn’t know what I was doing, so I had to learn on the job. The most important thing I learned was how to communicate complicated ideas in a simple, understandable fashion. This helped my legal writing, and my thought process about law as well.
Before law school, I was also lobbying for NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League. I went to law school because that’s the type of work I wanted to do.
Q: Did you continue working in public interest during law school?
A: I did. My first summer during law school, I clerked for a legal services group called Appalachian Research and Defense Fund, or AppalRED, which was well known for suing the government over the education system in West Virginia, the foster care program, care for mentally ill and others. It morphed into a group called Mountain State Justice, which I think is one of the best public interest law firms in the country.
My second summer job was clerking for the Civil Rights Division of the West Virginia Attorney General’s office, working on employment discrimination cases involving race, national origin, and gender. We prosecuted complaints filed by West Virginians alleging discrimination in violation of the state Human Rights Act, our equivalent to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Q: So what did you do when you graduated?
A: I had intended to join a small firm doing employment and civil rights cases in Charleston. But I decided instead to clerk for federal Judge Charles H. Haden II, the Chief Judge in the Southern District of West Virginia at that time.
Q: What did you enjoy about that?
A: Seeing lawyers in action in court, watching and participating in trials, learning about federal jurisdiction and learning about what persuades judges.
After that, I joined my friend David Grubb in his private practice, which at the time was solo – literally, just him. We were a two-person law firm doing civil rights lawsuits, consumer protection lawsuits. Keeping the lights on.
I wasn’t as privy to the business side of it, being a newbie lawyer. We had some success and we did fine and grew but I left after three years and hung out my own shingle.
David is still one of my good friends and mentors, he taught me a lot. He was extremely diligent and committed to his cases. And there was also just a broader purpose to what we and he were trying to do. He was a former Nader’s Raider in the 1970s. He founded a statewide progressive organization, the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, affiliated with Citizen Action, which is a nationwide progressive organization.
Q: That sounds perfect for you. Why did you go out on your own?
A: The reason I left was my two good friends in the law were Brian Glasser and Joe Lovett. Brian and I had known each other since I was 14 years old, and met as students at a boarding school in Virginia. Our ties are remarkable. My wife grew up in a house in Charleston, which was sold to Brian’s family, so Brian grew up in my wife’s family’s house. He went to school with my wife’s sister, and his mother and my mother-in-law have been friends for 30 years. Brian and I met at the boarding school, but it seemed we were destined to meet.
Brian left that school after the 10th grade – it was not the place for him. It was Southern and authoritarian, which are two things that didn’t sit well with him. I stayed, he left. But we kept in touch through the years. He was at Harvard when I was at BU, so we met up there as well.
Later on, his grandmother was on the board of Common Cause. She was an amazing lady. We’d drive to board meetings together and she’d keep me up to date on him.
So Brian had just started Bailey & Glasser two years earlier, and Joe Lovett I’d worked with at the AppalRED, and we clerked together for Judge Haden. Joe had started an environmental nonprofit law firm, so I started my own practice working half time with Joe on environmental enforcement cases; part time through my own law firm co-counseling consumer cases with Brian; and part-time on other cases that were strictly mine, generally consumer cases.
My office was actually located within Bailey & Glasser, and I paid them rent and a portion of my fees in exchange for using their staff. I spent at least a quarter of my time co-counseling cases directly with B&G. Before I joined B&G I had actually tried a six-week jury trial with Brian Glasser, and another jury trial with Ben Bailey. We worked great together, so eventually, after three years as a solo, I joined B&G in 2005 as the first partner to join Brian and Ben. We had maybe ten lawyers then, and have grown to about 50 now.
Q: Did you enjoy all that work equally?
A: I did, but I found I was particularly interested in consumer law. My practice over time evolved to focus on consumer cases.
Q: Is there a case or client in your career that stands out as a “favorite” or one that is particularly memorable?
A: Definitely the family that lived near the coal mine, the Caudills.
Q: Tell us about how you interact with clients. Do you view it as important to develop business, and if so, how do you?
A: Good client relationships are critical in a class action practice. A lot of the time defendants will try to “pick off” a class action plaintiff by offering them lots of money to drop their case. It’s a big temptation, but I’m proud to say our clients have been able to resist it. Our clients buy in to the case and the cause in a really remarkable and admirable way.
Q: How did you come to get your position in firm or practice management. Was this something you were always interested in doing?
A: Not really. I guess I’m good at getting things done here. I also happen to really like the people I practice with, and I enjoy supporting them however I can.
Q: What are some of the challenges now in your current leadership role?
A: Managing growth among remote offices, and integrating those offices into the mothership in Charleston. I actually spend about half my time in Massachusetts at our Boston office.
Q: There are many high-quality firms out there. What do you do try to “sell” about your firm to potential recruits – how is it unique?
A: We have a saying here – “No two-handed lawyers.” You know, the sort who say, on the one hand, you could do this, and on the other hand, you could do that.
Clients hire us because they value our advice and judgment, so we give it to them. Also, we try to maintain focus on trial. We’re not settlement lawyers who focus exclusively on settlement. We work hard on our cases and always keep in mind that trial is the focus.
We also have tremendous breadth. There are very few firms that mix a contingent practice with a successful corporate hourly practice, not to mention an active China practice. [The firm has two Mandarin-speaking lawyers who work with Chinese business clients.] The corporate focus gives us insight into how corporate clients think and approach problems. It also gives us a big advantage in negotiating settlements.
Q: Can you share a lawyer you have come up against in a case or negotiation that you admire, and why?
A: At the top of the list are Ben Bailey and Brian Glasser, with whom I’ve worked for the last 13 years. They are exceptional lawyers and exceptional people, but in very different ways. David Grubb hired me as a fledgling lawyer, and really modeled tenacity and extraordinary dedication to his clients and their cases. And Joe Lovett is probably the smartest and most committed lawyer I know. There are so many of them, which is one of the best things about practicing in a small state like West Virginia.
Q: What drives you?
A: That people should be treated fairly. Consumer laws are about fair treatment, fair treatment in lending, consumer transactions, banking transactions. That’s the way the marketplace is supposed to function, and companies that break those fairness rules have an unfair competitive advantage over those that follow them.
The government has the power to enforce consumer laws, but there’s really only so much government can do. So private lawyers, myself included, have incentives to bring those cases representing consumers.
Q: How does working in a private law firm fit with your public interest commitment?
A: I enjoy the firm, l love the people I work with, they’re terrific lawyers and even more important terrific people. We put a premium on getting along. Also, being a part of the firm, the firm can get involved in bigger cases and has the resources to bring in bigger cases whereas as a solo I was limited financially.
I do a lot of recruiting for the firm and I hear from a lot of people who we’re recruiting, they maybe have visited at other firms and they come and have dinner with us and we get a lot of comments about how it’s remarkable people at your firm really seem to like each other.
So I feel I can achieve personal philosophical goals through my practice at Bailey Glasser. What I’m doing now is a natural progression – from working on public interest issues at Common Cause, to representing individual consumers and employees, to class action cases. Now the cases are on a larger scale and the cases involve different skills, there’s much more of a strategic focus in terms of developing legal theories and certifying classes. It feels like a very natural progression.
Q: And I know you are very active outside the firm, as well?
A: The firm encourages its lawyers to be involved in outside activities and provides support for that. For example, one of my activities has been helping to found Our Vote, Our Future. I’m the board president of the group. It’s a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that is focusing on registering and empowering voters and working, more specifically, on issues affecting child poverty in West Virginia. That’s one of the types of activities I feel the firm really supports, not just me but also others in the firm.
And that’s not to say we’re all in alignment politically. We have Republicans and Democrats. We recognize people have different views and we support their involvement no matter what their views.
Q: Can you tell me more about Our Vote, Our Future?
A: We started a paid canvassing organization and this is our first week. We’re knocking door to door, talking to people about voting in the election, registering them to vote, talking about issues that are important to them and to us, such as raising the minimum wage in West Virginia.
We’ve gotten some support from a number of different West Virginia organizations interested in supporting us, and are also raising money through our members.
We’re trying to raise money nationally as well. Some of our canvassers were supplied to us by a community organization that trains people for employment. So it’s actually paying the salary of two of our canvassers for the first two months with the understanding if it works out we will hire them full time.
Q: Where did you get your sense of what matters?
A: One of the things that has affected me in my career, is my parents. My mother grew up in a settlement house in inner city Chicago, her father was a social worker and director of a community center that at the time principally served relocated Japanese families during World War II; she was raised in a settlement house by social worker parents. She raised five kids, and then her first job was working as a social worker, which she did for 20 plus years.
My dad came from a coalmining town in Northern West Virginia. He liked to say there were three pictures on the wall when you walked into someone’s living room there: Jesus Christ, FDR and John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers.
My dad worked his way through college through ROTC and he was in the Air Force as a publicity officer. He was stationed in Milwaukee, where my mom was in college and they met.
My Dad was pretty amazing. He was the athletic director of Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, where I grew up. He resigned from that job in 1969, and in 1970 the Marshall plane crash happened. [All 75 passengers aboard Southern Airways Flight 932, including the Thundering Herd football team, players and fans, were killed.] His successor and whole team died. The people killed were his friends. Had dad not left, he would have been on the plane, my mother would have been too.
Q: Wow. I guess I understand where you get your commitment to ‘what matters’.
A: Yes. And another thing I should say about the firm, what is the phrase? The firm as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I think that’s true for us because we’re a very diverse bunch and doing a lot of different things you don’t usually see happening at the same law firm.
We’re able to make it work, in particular I think, because of the leadership that Brian and Ben provide. They’ve really created an environment where people are encouraged to grow their practices and to be people. It’s that kind of environment that to me accounts for where we are.
We’re helping to get Our Vote, Our Future off the ground now, having board members and others come in and meet with the canvassers. I’m doing that – believe it or not – at the building I first started working in when I was 23-years old for Common Cause, my first real job out of college. And now, 25 years later, I’m talking to canvassers about why what they’re doing is important and how I never thought I’d ever wind up in a position of talking to them as a practicing lawyer. I say, you’re where I was 25 years ago when I was first presented with the opportunity to do work that’s important. Who knows where that opportunity will take them – but I know where it took me. And that’s pretty cool.