The Daily Journal recognized Manatt’s Joe Laska, a partner in the firm’s litigation practice, in this year’s list of the top 40 lawyers under the age of 40 in the state. He is one of only 20 lawyers in Northern California to be selected for the list, which also features 20 lawyers in Southern California.
For this year’s list, editors considered hundreds of nominations and selected honorees based on the impact of their work and how it has affected the state of the law, a particular industry, or society. The Daily Journal’s annual list also takes into account a candidate’s impact on the legal community, leadership roles undertaken and time donated to public service activities.
In its profile of Laska, the publication highlights his ability to stay nimble and adapt to meet his clients’ needs as changes sweep the healthcare industry. Laska handles class actions, trials, arbitration, regulatory actions and appeals for major health plans and insurance companies. His clients include Blue Shield of California, Kaiser Permanente, HealthNet Inc, HealthMarkets Inc. and Aflac Inc.
“I’ve been representing insurance companies and health plans my entire career,” Laska said. “Now, with the explosion of healthcare litigation, it’s taken over my practice.”
Laska’s major recent work includes representing Blue Shield and its subsidiary in a victory over a nonprofit advocacy group called Consumer Watchdog. The group alleged that when closing certain health plans and determining rate increases, the company had not complied with California law, resulting in illegally high premiums. Laska and his team spent two years opposing class certification before eventually defeating it. He then served as lead counsel before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, where the panel unanimously agreed with Laska’s argument.
“This one showed how these cases tend to morph,” Laska explained. “The [Affordable Care Act] was taking effect while the litigation was pending. The plaintiffs’ case became a continual moving target because the court allowed three or four amended complaints. We’d challenge their pleadings and the court would agree with us, but give the opposing side leave to amend and they would again adapt their claims to the shifting landscape.”
Republican efforts to repeal the ACA will further complicate healthcare litigation. “We get to do this in real time,” Laska told the publication. “Plaintiffs’ lawyers will be right there with new theories, and we’ll be right there with our clients.”