Walter P. DeForest

Walter P. DeForest


Walter’s litigation work has been primarily in the civil area — commercial disputes of all types, including trade secrets, business ownership disputes, real estate agreements, products liability, defamation claims, First Amendment access actions, business and employment contracts, noncompetition provisions, wrongful termination suits, and discrimination and harassment cases. He has litigated numerous cases in the state and federal courts throughout the United States, including cases in Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, California, West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, Iowa and Alabama. He recently tried two significant jury cases to verdict. Walter has appeared before nearly all the federal courts of appeals, the Supreme Court of the United States, and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania as well as numerous arbitration cases.

Walter routinely takes on cases that are highly significant to his clients. The following are examples in just recent years:

In a products liability action, Walter represented the plaintiff corporation, which levied alleged fraudulent misrepresentation and warranty claims that asserted substantial damages stemming from the defendant’s allegedly faulty material. This material was ultimately incorporated into our client’s product, which was subsequently recalled. We prevailed over multiple attempts by the defendant to have the case dismissed, including overcoming summary judgment motions that focused on numerous complex product liability legal issues. The case proceeded to trial and, after we had rested the plaintiff’s case, the matter was amicably resolved.

In a major aviation products liability case, Walter obtained summary judgment in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County for our clients on claims by an upstream aircraft component manufacturer.

In a multimillion-dollar ERISA lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, Walter obtained dismissal of all claims in a purported class action against our client hospitals in Ohio and West Virginia.

Our firm was retained after default judgments had been entered against a bankrupt component parts manufacturer. Walter opened an ancillary action in the Circuit Court of Mobile County, Alabama seeking a declaration of non-liability as to our client, the alleged guarantor or insurer of the obligations of the defaulting party. The defendants removed the case to federal court. Walter obtained a remand to the state court system, successfully making the innovative argument that a bankrupt party is not a “nominal party” for purposes of diversity jurisdiction. The remand ultimately helped achieve a successful resolution for our client.

In a case of first impression under Pennsylvania environmental law, Walter obtained dismissal of a complaint filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, against a purported generator of hazardous waste on the basis that the state Department of Environmental Protection failed to first pursue the owners and operators of the landfill. Subsequently, the plaintiff filed the action in federal court under federal environmental laws, where Walter again successfully obtained dismissal.

Client facing in excess of $20 million in exposure in an aircraft product liability death case in Georgia decided to change lead defense counsel three weeks before trial and came to Walter. In a two-week trial, Walter obtained dismissal of one defendant, tried the case to verdict and obtained a verdict awarding only a comparatively minor amount against the remaining defendant, less than one-tenth of the damages sought and less than had been offered in settlement before trial.

Nationally recognized plaintiffs’ law firm, which challenges acquisitions, sought to stop an acquisition by one of Walter’s clients. Instead of paying a settlement, the client resisted and Walter filed a motion to dismiss. The Court indicated it would deny a stay of the acquisition and rule on the motion to dismiss and the plaintiff withdrew the challenge.

Actions of a leader of a local religious diocese indicated that the endowment of that organization (which was in excess of $20 million in funds) could be the subject of dispute and potential separation from the national church of which the local diocese was a party, Walter brought suit as plaintiff’s counsel on behalf of one of the parishes in the diocese, obtained a consent order protecting the endowment funds and other property, and, despite claims by the group that ultimately did separate, reached the successful result that all the funds remained with those persons who did not leave the national church. A book entitled “The Recent Unpleasantness” was written about this case.

A company which had acquired a high tech business was concerned the former head of the company that had been acquired was starting a competing enterprise. Walter filed suit, litigated the issues that included alleged use of confidential information and alleged breach of non-compete contract issues, and the matter was satisfactorily resolved so that the competing business was not started.

Plaintiffs initiated a lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County asserting claims for declaratory relief, misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract and unjust enrichment against Walter’s clients and others, seeking a declaration from the Court that Plaintiffs were the sole inventors of a vaccine, which is the subject of a Patent on which our clients were identified as co-inventors. The case was removed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and Motions to Dismiss were filed. Plaintiffs also filed for Sanctions. The Court denied the Motion for Sanctions, dismissed the Complaint as it related to federal questions and remanded the remaining claims that were brought under state law back to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. That Court sustained Defendants’ Preliminary Objections and an Appeal was filed in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. That appeal has been dismissed. The matter has been concluded in our clients’ favor.

Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County asked Walter to defend a suit by PSSI Stadium LLC for approximately $20 million to pay for certain expenditures, including seat construction, at Heinz Field. The Court accepted Walter’s argument as to interpretation of the stadium lease and substantial taxpayer funds were saved.

Walter understands and respects the role of inside counsel having been a general counsel himself for nine years.

In addition to representing clients in high-stakes litigation matters, Walter often advises and represents clients in the labor and employment area.

Walter has also served as legal counsel for more than 700 licensing arrangements in the technology area, including both out-license and in-license arrangements, covering a wide range of technologies from artificial intelligence to biomedical. This familiarity with technology has enhanced his litigation capabilities.

Walter was recognized as the 2014 Best Lawyers Lawyer of the Year for Litigation – Labor and Employment, for Pittsburgh, and the 2015 Best Lawyers Lawyer of the Year for Litigation – First Amendment, for Pittsburgh.

If you have a significant claim that you believe is appropriate, or are being faced with a claim that you believe is unmeritorious in commercial litigation, contract disputes, trade secrets, technology, employment, defamation, or the other areas in which Walter practices, he would be glad to speak with you. 

Walter offers a unique capability among mediators because in his 40 years of practice he has litigated both for plaintiffs and defendants, corporations and individuals, and in state and federal courts throughout the U.S. He has been a complex case litigator in cases across the country for more than forty years. Walter has litigated cases in more than 13 states and appellate cases before nine federal courts of appeals and the United States Supreme Court.

Well-respected by both colleagues and adversaries, many of whom have graciously offered their reference for his mediation practice, Walter has consistently striven to be known for his honesty and fairness as well as his deep knowledge of law and procedure that only comes with a lifetime of such litigation experience. He is grateful for the recognition of his peers. With mutual respect and considerable experience, he believes he can serve everyone well in mediation, leaving all who participate thankful for the process.