Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C.
Don M. Downing is a former Missouri Chief Deputy Attorney General and managing partner of the St. Louis office of one of the region's largest law firms.
As Chief Deputy Attorney General - Missouri's top appointed legal officer - from 1993 to 1995, Mr. Downing was the lead lawyer in cases involving consumer protection, antitrust, environmental, securities and many other areas of law. He appeared before the Supreme Court of the United States four times, including one case he personally argued. He also argued cases on behalf of the state six times before the Missouri Supreme Court, and tried substantial cases in federal and state court. Mr. Downing was responsible for hiring, training and supervising more than 170 assistant attorneys general.
His private practice has focused on complex commercial and class action litigation. He has represented large and small businesses in complex commercial disputes, including class actions, banks in insurance coverage litigation and other commercial disputes, Big Four accounting firms in securities and malpractice litigation, and cities, school districts and other public entities in actions against providers of products and services.
Mr. Downing has also represented farmers in numerous cases. He was appointed national co-lead counsel for thousands of plaintiff farmers and other businesses in multi-district litigation involving contamination of the U.S. rice supply by genetically modified rice. He was lead trial counsel in three bellwether rice trials, and obtained plaintiffs' verdicts totaling in the millions of dollars. Mr. Downing led a negotiation that resulted in a global settlement for farmers of $750 million. Additional settlement payments to affected businesses have brought total settlement payments to over $1 billion.
He has represented hundreds of farmers in several states and recovered millions of dollars in cases involving defective cotton seed and crop damage caused by herbicide drift. He has obtained a multi-million dollar settlement for a class of farmers in a federal court lawsuit against the federal government. He also has represented farmers in several states in antitrust claims against seed and technology providers.
In 2015, Mr. Downing was appointed national co-lead plaintiff counsel in multi-district litigation involving U.S. corn growers’ claims that actions by Switzerland-based Syngenta with its genetically modified strains of corn led to the loss of a chief market for U.S. corn, causing them economic harm. In 2017, in the first certified state class action bellwether trial, he and the three other co-lead plaintiff counsel won a $217.7 million verdict on behalf of Kansas corn farmers. That verdict amount equaled 100 percent of actual damages requested by co-lead counsel. Following the verdict he was named a recipient of a 2018 “Influential Lawyer” award by Missouri Lawyers Weekly.
In 2018 he and the other co-lead plaintiff counsel obtained a $1.51 billion settlement of the nationwide class action lawsuit, believed to be the largest agriculture litigation settlement in U.S. history. It was named the Largest Plaintiff’s Settlement in 2018 by Missouri Lawyers Weekly.
Additionally, Mr. Downing has represented thousands of consumers in class action litigation against cellular telephone and internet service providers, drug companies, hospitals, and other entities that engaged in deceptive and unfair trade practices. For example, Mr. Downing served as co-lead counsel in a pharmaceutical class action that resulted in a $220 million settlement for Missouri consumers.
A native of Kennett, Missouri, Mr. Downing earned a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Missouri in 1979, and his law degree from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1982, where he served as an editor on the Missouri Law Review. After graduation from law school, Mr. Downing served as law clerk for the Honorable Edward L. Filippine, District Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Mr. Downing was appointed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators in 2009, serving as Chairman in 2014. Mr. Downing has served on the University of Missouri Law School Foundation Board of Trustees and the Law Library Campaign Committee. He received the Law School's highest award, the Citation of Merit. He is also an active member of the University of Missouri Jefferson Club, serving as the chairman of its annual St. Louis regional dinner. He also has served on numerous other boards and advisory boards. In 2013, he was selected by the judges of the Eastern District of Missouri to serve on the merit selection panel for the appointment of a United States Magistrate Judge.
He is licensed to practice in Missouri and Illinois, as well as before the Supreme Court of the United States, the Eighth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern and Western Districts of Missouri, and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.
Mr. Downing was named the Best Lawyers®2018 St. Louis Litigation- Banking and Finance “Lawyer of the Year,” the Best Lawyers 2016 St. Louis Banking and Finance "Lawyer of the Year," the Best Lawyers 2015 St. Louis Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions-Plaintiffs "Lawyer of the Year," the Best Lawyers 2014 St. Louis Litigation - Banking and Finance "Lawyer of the Year," and Best Lawyers 2013 St. Louis Litigation - Antitrust "Lawyer of the Year." He is also listed in The Best Lawyers in America in the categories of Commercial Litigation, Mass Tort Litigation/Class Action - Plaintiffs, Litigation - Antitrust, and Litigation - Banking & Finance. He has an AV Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, which is the highest given. Mr. Downing has been annually selected to Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers [among the top 5 percent of lawyers in Missouri and Kansas] since 2006, in the area of Business Litigation. He has been named among the Top 50 attorneys in St. Louis and the Top 100 attorneys in Missouri and Kansas by Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers. He is included in the 2012 Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America.