Peter K. Stris

Founding Partner

Los Angeles - HQ

Direct: 213.995.6801
Email: pstris@stris.com

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Peter Stris is one of the most prominent business litigators of his generation. The Daily Journal has named him one of California’s “Top 100 Lawyers.” Chambers USA has described him as “a tactical genius and a great leveler.” And the National Law Journal has highlighted his ability “to win even when conventional wisdom held that he barely had a shot.”

Mr. Stris is best known for his appellate practice. He represents a wide range of clients in appeals throughout the country. Reuters has recognized him as one of the nation’s most influential lawyers before the U.S. Supreme Court, where he has argued nine cases. He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, and the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers.

Mr. Stris is also an accomplished trial lawyer. The Los Angeles Business Journal has included him on its list of “Leaders of Influence: Litigators and Trial Lawyers.” He has successfully first-chaired a wide variety of high-stakes business cases to verdict or judgment.

Mr. Stris is often retained when an effective public communications strategy is critical. His work is regularly covered by national press including the New York TimesWall Street Journal, and Washington Post. And he has appeared on numerous broadcast outlets including morning talk shows (Good Morning AmericaCBS This MorningThe Today Show), cable news (Anderson Cooper 360The Rachel Maddow ShowMorning JoeThe Situation Room with Wolf BlitzerThe Beat with Ari Melber), public radio and television (All Things ConsideredNightly Business Report).

Mr. Stris received his J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He earned his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, where, together with Elizabeth Brannen, he won the National Debating Championship.

Mr. Stris routinely serves as lead trial or appellate counsel in a wide range of complex and high-profile disputes. The matters below are representative of his experience:

Intellectual Property Litigation
Mr. Stris litigates a wide range of copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret, and other IP disputes in trial and appellate courts throughout the country. Representative examples include:

Fourth Estate v. Wall-Street.com [Read more here]
In 2019, we prevailed before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of our client (a small Florida company operating a website, later sold to The Motley Fool, LLC) in what has been called the year’s most important copyright decision. Overcoming policy arguments endorsed by multiple circuits and treatise authors, we persuaded the Court that copyright owners cannot sue for infringement until the Copyright Office has formally granted or refused registration. (Our Brief | Opinion | Argument Audio)

Grasshopper House LLC v. Clean & Sober Media LLC, et al.
In 2019, we successfully represented defendants at back-to-back federal trials in this high-stakes Lanham Act false advertising case. (Our clients’ 7-figure pre-trial settlement offer was rejected by the plaintiff who instead sought $65 million in damages, which it asked to be trebled.) Although the jury found a Lanham Act violation, we convinced the court to exclude the plaintiff’s damages expert. A bench trial over equitable remedies and defenses followed, after which the court issued a final judgment denying the plaintiff any monetary recovery. (Order | Denial of Costs)

John Wiley & Sons v. Book Dog Books, LLC, et al.
In 2018, we were retained to appeal a Southern District of New York jury verdict and ultimate award of $39 million in this copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit against our clients (leading sellers of used textbooks). The case settled confidentially about one month after we filed our opening brief with the Second Circuit. (Our Brief)

Berreau v. McDonald’s Corporation
In 2017, we obtained dismissal of this copyright case filed against our client (McDonald’s Corporation) in the Central District of California. (Our Motion | Our Reply | Dismissal Order)

Roe v. Smashwords, Inc., et al. [Read more here]
In 2017, the Sixth Circuit affirmed our 2016 Southern District of Ohio summary judgment defense victory for Smashwords, Inc., the nation’s largest self-publishing platform, in this suit brought by a couple depicted on the front page of a self-published e-book based on NFL player Rob Gronkowski. The case and e-book were made briefly newsworthy after being featured on NPR and TV show Jimmy Kimmel Live. (Our Sixth Circuit Brief | Sixth Circuit Opinion Our Summary Judgment Motion | Our Reply | Order Granting Motion)

Cisco Systems v. Arista Networks
In 2017, on behalf of The Mathworks, Adobe Systems, Oracle Corporation, and other amici, we filed a Federal Circuit brief in this important case involving the scope of copyright protection for software. (Our Amicus Brief)

Smith v. Barnes & Noble, Inc., et al. [Read more here]
In 2016, the Second Circuit affirmed our 2015 Southern District of New York trial court victory for Barnes & Noble in this lawsuit alleging Copyright and Lanham Act violations. (Law360 coverage 1 | 2) (subscription required)

Akamai v. Limelight
In 2016, on behalf of Dell Inc., Facebook, Inc., Red Hat, Inc., Vizio, and other amici, we filed a U.S. Supreme Court brief in this closely watched patent appeal concerning the standard for liability under 35 U.S.C. 271(a) on a method claim where multiple parties perform the required steps. (Our Amicus Brief)

Biosig Instruments v. Nautilus
In 2015, on behalf of Garmin International, Inc., Newegg Inc., SAP America, Inc., Xilinx, Inc., and other amici, we filed briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Circuit in this landmark patent case on the standard for “definiteness” under 35 U.S.C. 112. (Our Supreme Court Amicus Brief | Our Federal Circuit Amicus Brief)

GMPC v. Walker [Read more here]
As lead trial counsel, Mr. Stris successfully defended a privately held design company and its owners in this multi-million dollar trade secret dispute. After a two-week trial in California state court, the jury awarded merely $47,000. For nearly 15 years since then, Mr. Stris has served as the company’s outside general counsel. In that capacity, our firm provides advice on all IP issues.

Americana Juice v. Nestle USA
As lead trial counsel, Mr. Stris successfully defended Nestle USA, a Global Fortune 100 company, in a nine-figure trade secret trial in South Texas state court, achieving a jury verdict one-tenth the size of his client’s pre-trial settlement offer. The case was extensively covered by the McAllen Monitor (Article), which colorfully described Mr. Stris’s closing argument after the jury was asked to award $100 million in compensatory damages: “Holding a lottery ticket, Stris told jurors . . . ‘She thought she had a ticket to the Texas Mega Millions.’”
Pension Litigation
Mr. Stris litigates pension disputes throughout the country. He is also retained by plan sponsors and their executives to provide advice on regulatory compliance and litigation avoidance. For example:

Frommert v. Conkright [Read more here]
For a decade, Mr. Stris served as co-lead counsel for dozens of pensioners in this case against the Xerox pension plan. Xerox was ordered to pay—and paid—more than $22 million to plaintiffs. This epic dispute resulted in a published opinion by the U.S Supreme Court in 2010 (Supreme Court Opinion | Argument Audio) and three published opinions by the Second Circuit, including major victories for our clients in 2013 (Second Circuit Opinion | Argument Audio) and in 2016 ($4.9 Million Fee Order).

Thole v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 140 S.Ct. 1615 (2020)
Mr. Stris and colleagues persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court (Petition) to address whether participants in a defined benefit pension plan had Article III standing to seek restoration of $700 million in losses to their plan.  After briefing  (Merits Brief | Merits Reply) and argument (Argument Audio), the Court rejected our position in a 5-4 decision (Opinion).

Rozo v. Principal Life Ins. Co., 949 F.3d 1071 (8th Cir. 2020)
Mr. Stris persuaded the Eighth Circuit to reverse a grant of summary judgment in a 9-figure certified class action over guaranteed investment contracts sold to ERISA-governed pension plans. (Brief | Reply | Argument Audio | Opinion)

Allen v. Honeywell Retirement Earnings Plan [Read more here]
Mr. Stris and colleagues obtained a $23.8 million settlement (Order and Judgment | Fee Motion) in this complex pension class action in Arizona federal court.

LaRue v. DeWolff Boberg & Associates, Inc., 552 U.S. 248 (2008)
Mr. Stris and colleagues persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court (Petition) to hear this landmark case about the rights of 401(k) account holders. After successful briefing (Our Opening Brief) and argument (Audio), we obtained (Supreme Court Opinion) what the New York Times described as “one of the most important rulings in years on the meaning of the federal pension law . . . .”
Healthcare Litigation
Mr. Stris litigates healthcare disputes throughout the country. He is also retained by medical providers, government officials, and employers to provide advice on regulatory compliance and litigation avoidance. For example:

Montanile v. Board of Trustees [Read more here]
After preserving the key legal issue through briefing and argument in the Eleventh Circuit (Eleventh Circuit Brief | Argument Audio), Mr. Stris and a team of firm lawyers persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court (Petition) to hear this important case about the scope of reimbursement rights available to federally regulated health insurance plans. In an 8-1 decision authored by Justice Thomas (Opinion), the Court adopted the position advanced in our firm’s merits briefing (Our Opening Brief | Our Reply) and argument (Audio). This was the third of three related cases handled by Mr. Stris and our firm before the Supreme Court beginning with Sereboff v. Mid Atlantic Medical Services, argued by Mr. Stris in 2005 (Audio), and followed by US Airways v. McCutchen, briefed by our firm in 2013 (McCutchen Brief).

Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. [Read more here]
Mr. Stris was retained by the State of Vermont to assist in the preparation of a petition for certiorari (Petition) in this important healthcare preemption case. After our petition was granted, Vermont retained our firm to continue as co-counsel on the merits. After briefing (Our Opening Brief | Our Reply) and oral argument by Bridget Asay (who at the time was the Solicitor General of Vermont), the Court rejected our position. Justices Ginsburg and Kagan dissented (Opinions).

Catastrophically Injured Individual v. Health Plan Fiduciaries
Mr. Stris represented a heroin addict who was rendered quadriplegic in a terrible car accident. Insisting that the accident was not covered, our clients’ health plan refused to pay for any of the $1.3 million in medical bills resulting from the accident or to cover any future medical care. Without any need for litigation, Mr. Stris was able to persuade the health plan to do an about face and cover all relevant medical expenses (Our Administrative Letter-Brief) (redacted).
Securities Litigation
Mr. Stris litigates disputes involving both public and private companies in trial and appellate courts throughout the country. He is also retained to arbitrate such disputes before AAA, FINRA, and other arbitral bodies. For example:

Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith, Inc. v. Manning [Read more here]
In May of 2016, Mr. Stris and a team of firm lawyers prevailed before the U.S. Supreme Court in this important securities jurisdiction case. We represent a group of investors who sued several major financial institutions in New Jersey state court for violations of New Jersey law. The suit alleges that defendants’ illegal practices precipitated a loss of over $800 million in investor value. Led by Merrill Lynch, the financial institutions argued that the federal securities laws required the case to be brought exclusively in federal court. Writing for the Court (Opinion), Justice Kagan adopted one basis for affirmance of the decision below advanced by our firm (Merits Brief). Concurring in the judgment, Justice Thomas (joined by Justice Sotomayor) adopted another basis for affirmance advanced by Mr. Stris at oral argument (Argument Audio).

Schueneman v. Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. [Read more here]
Mr. Stris was lead appellate counsel in this 9-figure securities fraud class action against a publicly traded pharmaceutical company and its executives. Plaintiffs allege that defendants provided investors with misleading information about the prospects for FDA approval of lorcaserin, a weight loss drug under development at that time. Under the standards established by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, the facts alleged in a civil securities fraud complaint must establish a “strong inference” that defendants acted with wrongful intent. In March 2014, the Southern District of California dismissed the case, holding that the complaint’s allegations did not support such an inference. Shortly thereafter, lead counsel Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer LLP retained Stris & Maher LLP to brief (Our Opening Brief | Our Reply) and argue (Argument Video) the appeal. On October 26, 2016, the Ninth Circuit reversed 3-0 in our client's favor (Opinion). In November 2017, the parties reached a settlement agreement that would pay $24 million cash and stock to the proposed class.

Parties Confidential
Mr. Stris served as one of three arbitrators alongside the former chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (appointed by President Carter) and a former judge on the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (appointed by President Reagan) in an 8-figure accounting malpractice dispute.
Employment Litigation
Mr. Stris supervises junior firm lawyers who represent both plaintiffs and defendants in a wide variety of employment disputes involving issues such as wrongful termination, retaliation, discrimination, and harassment. In cases involving senior executives, significant damages, or important precedent, Mr. Stris sometimes takes a leading role. Representative examples include:

Halliwell v. Gordon [Read more here]
Within days of deposing defendant, Mr. Stris obtained a highly favorable confidential settlement for the former CEO of Bumble & bumble in a New York state court dispute over compensation arising from the $120+ million sale of the company to Estee Lauder.

Holloway v. Wells Fargo
Junior firm lawyers were retained to litigate this employment case filed in California state court on behalf of a long-time Wells Fargo employee. Asserting a jurisdictional position that has split the circuits, defendants removed the case to federal court. Mr. Stris sought (Motion to Remand | Reply) and obtained (Order) remand.
Other Notable Cases
Fairbairn v. Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund, No. 18-cv-04881 (N.D. Cal.) (pending)
In 2018, we filed a high-profile lawsuit against Fidelity Charitable for its mishandling of a $100 million donation made by our clients, successful hedge fund owners. (New York Times coverage). In October of 2020, Mr. Stris led a team of firm lawyers in the phase I (liability) bench trial. (Bloomberg Tax coverage).

Hillsborough County v. Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., 959 F.3d 1201 (9th Cir. 2020)
Hillsborough County, Florida and Salt Lake County, Utah hired Mr. Stris as lead appellate counsel in this nationally watched appeal with massive economic implications. (New York Times coverage) The appeal challenged a determination that certain local-government claims against Volkswagen were preempted under the Clean Air Act. We persuaded the Ninth Circuit to unanimously reverse. (Argument Video | Opinion)

Sullivan-Mestecky v. Verizon Communications, 961 F.3d 91 (2d Cir. 2020)
We obtained reversal of the dismissal of equitable claims in this appeal about the scope of ERISA remedies. Associate John Stokes led and argued the appeal. (Brief | Reply | Audio | Opinion)

McDougal v. American Media, Inc. [Read more here]
In 2018, we sued AMI, The National Enquirer’s parent company, on behalf of fitness model Karen McDougal, seeking to void a contract designed to “catch and kill” the story of her relationship with President Trump. We alleged that the contract, signed in August 2016, was an illegal campaign contribution. After hiring the former Federal Election Commission chairman and moving to dismiss our lawsuit on First Amendment grounds, AMI quickly caved under immense media and government scrutiny. (Complaint | AMI’s Motion | Settlement)

Microsoft v. Baker, 137 S.Ct. 1702 (2017)
Mr. Stris and the firm were retained to represent plaintiffs, a putative class of consumers, in this design defect case alleging that Microsoft’s popular Xbox360 console scratches game discs during ordinary use. The U.S. Supreme Court appeal, which presented important questions about class action procedure, was briefed by our firm (Our Brief) and argued by Mr. Stris (Argument Audio).

Dollar Gen. Corp. v. Miss. Band of Choctaw Indians [Read more here]
The State of Mississippi retained our firm to prepare and file an amicus brief on a critical question regarding the scope of tribal jurisdiction: whether Indian tribal courts may ever adjudicate civil tort claims in suits against nonmembers. Our Brief, joined by the States of Mississippi, Colorado, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington, marks the first time that any state has ever supported a finding of tribal jurisdiction in a major case before the Supreme Court. Our side prevailed before an equally divided Court.

Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. ex rel. Grimm, 136 S. Ct. 2442 (2016)
Working with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, we filed an amicus brief that Slate called a “trenchant history lesson” detailing the similarity between race and transgender discrimination in the segregation of bathrooms. (Amicus Brief)

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, Inc. v. Fossen
After the Supreme Court called for the views of the United States, Mr. Stris was retained by the former Insurance Commissioner for the State of Montana to serve as lead appellate counsel in this important case about the federal preemption of state insurance law. After reviewing submissions (Our Letter Brief) and meeting with both sides, the United States recommended denial of the petition (U.S. Amicus Brief). The Court subsequently denied the petition, preserving the Ninth Circuit victory for our clients.
Education

Harvard, J.D. (2000)
UPenn, B.A. (1997)

Admissions
“Impressively, Stris has managed to win even when conventional wisdom held that he barely had a shot.” National Law Journal