James C. VlahakisAttorney
James Vlahakis brings over twenty years of experience to Atlas Consumer Law. As a former defense attorney, James has defended corporations in numerous types of consumer-based class actions.
In James’ twenty-plus years as a defense attorney, he litigated high profile civil rights cases as well as defended hundreds of consumer-based class action. For example, Mr. Vlahakis defended the first wave of “junk fax” cases that were filed pursuant to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). James has also defeated cellular telephone based TCPA class actions and has even decertified a certified TCPA class action. James also filed one of the first successful Petitions For Declaratory Relief before the Federal Communications Commission, which led the FCC to grant a waiver to his client. James has also litigated countless consumer claims brought pursuant to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.
After close to twenty years in the trenches, James is using his vast experience to help aggrieved consumers, with a focus on litigating class action based TCPA and FDCPA lawsuits. Additionally, James is representing consumers in data breach and privacy based class actions. For example, James led the pack in 2017 by filing a trio of lawsuits against Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., and Uber Technologies.
James is a member of a team of lawyer who have been appointed by the presiding judge in a proposed class action against Apple Inc., In re Apple Inc. Device Performance Litigation, 18-MD-2827, which alleges that Apple purposefully slowed down older model iPhones with nefarious software updates to induce consumers to purchase new phones. James filed suit the day after the new broke and was profiled on ABC 7-Chicago, WGN-TV. In a December 21, 2017, story that was published hours after the lawsuit was filed, the Chicago Sun Time wrote that “Apple violated customers’ loyalty, forcing many to fork out the money for a new phone.” The article quoted James as saying:
“Corporations have to realize that people are sophisticated and that when people spend their hard-earned dollars on a product they expect it to perform as expected,” he said. “Instead, Apple appears to have obscured and concealed why older phones were slowing down.”
In the days and weeks after this lawsuit was filed, James tirelessly responded to hundreds of phone calls, emails and submissions from aggrieved consumers from throughout the United States and around the world who wanted to join the suit against Apple.
With regard to In re Uber Technologies, Inc., Data Security Breach Litigation, James began to investigate and draft his clients’ privacy based claims against Uber before news broke that Uber had hidden an earlier data breach from riders and consumers. When the news broke, James returned early from an outing with his two sons to finalize and file the case of Harang, et al., v. Uber Technologies, et al. Unlike the two dozen data breach lawsuits that were filed, the Harang v. Uber case highlights that Uber has hidden from riders the fact that so-called “anonymized” rider data can be reversed engineered to identify the starting point and drop off points of riders. The lawsuit also alleges that Uber’s Apple based app. utilized a hidden exception which may have allowed Uber to capture data from rider’s smartphones which, if true, would have exceeding the type of data necessary for the ride-share app. to function. James intends to resist Uber and Apple’s efforts to force individual arbitrations of Harang and other similar cases.
And as to Facebook, James filed the case of Comforte, et al. v. Facebook, Inc., et al. days before Facebook finally admitted to having user data improperly mined by third-party apps. James chose to file suit after he reviewed 2011 and 2012 audits of Facebook by the Ireland based Data Protection Commission where the audits pointed to the vulnerability of user data to nefarious third-party apps. Facebook ignored and downplayed these concerns. Of the sixty proposed class actions that we filed against Facebook, Comforte was the only case to focus on these, and largely unheeded prior audits. Additionally, as an early filer, James also chose to rely on well-vetted new stories published by The Guardian, a United Kingdom based new organization, rather than cower before Facebook’s lawyers who had threatened to sue The Guardian for libel.
Notable Cases and Accolades:
As a former defense attorney, James defended governmental officials in numerous high-profile civil rights lawsuits involving wrongful death claims, excessive force and false arrest. In many of these cases, James served as a specially appointed States Attorney or as a specially appointed Assistant Attorney General. For example, James successfully defended the Illinois Department of Human Services and a private corporation in a federal class action brought by the ACLU on behalf of a class of individuals committed by the State of Illinois pursuant to the Sexually Violent Persons Act. James’ clients prevailed in comprehensive, “landmark” ruling in the case of Hargett v. Adams. In a 2008 Chicago Daily Law Bulletin publication which honored James as being one of “forty lawyers under forty” to watch for, one of leaders of the treatment program, described Vlahakis' "ability to quickly grasp the intricacies of mental health treatment" as "phenomenal.” In the same publication, attorney Daniel Dyslin praised James’ demeanor despite him facing “years of earth scorching discovery." According to Mr. Dyslin:
“Particularly impressive is James' ability to maintain, what I can only describe as, confident control over the litigation. Never daunted by the odds, it is in face of greatest adversity that James rallies the strongest. He is rock solid in his representation and is well-respected amongst his colleagues."
In a first-of-its-kind case, James reversed a district court ruling which had held that a privately employed psychologist was not entitled to the dismissal of a case on the basis of the defense of qualified immunity. In reversing the district court, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Sain v. Wood held that the underlying facts did not demonstrate the existence of a constitutional violation, and held that the psychologist acted within the bounds of accepted professional judgment. This case was notable for the fact that the psychologist was able to assert qualified immunity despite being employed by private contractor with the State of Illinois. In a 2008 Chicago Daily Law Bulletin publication which honored Mr. Vlahakis and others, Barry Alperts, the senior partner opposing Mr. Vlahakis in this case said the following:
“Vlahakis exemplifies the characteristics that remind us, and the public, of who we are and what we stand for as lawyers. No doubt he is destined for great accomplishments professionally in the years to come.”
James defended a handful of police officials in a series of high-profile torture and wrongful conviction cases brought by attorney Jon Loevy, of Chicago's firm of Loevy & Loevy and other top-notch civil rights attorneys. Close to a dozen law firms were involved where many of the defendants invoked the Fifth Amendment. In a 2008 Chicago Daily Law Bulletin publication, Loevy described James’ involvement as follows:
“What impressed me most about Mr. Vlahakis was that was always able to maintain professionalism and even temperament no matter how 'hot' the proceedings. This was a case where passions and emotions ran high, but Mr. Vlahakis was invariably able to maintain a professional tone. His presence was invaluable in ensuring the case did not blow up from the sheer pressure of it all."
Patrick Ouimet, of Sarles & Ouimet, opposed Mr. Vlahakis in a contentious wrongful death case involving numerous defendants. Oiumet described Mr. Vlahakis in a 2008 Chicago Daily Law Bulletin publication as follows:
"Mr. Vlahakis was tenacious in strategy, well-versed in law, and gracious and professional to all other counsel witnesses. In short, Mr. Vlahakis was, and still is, a lawyer's lawyer."
James is thankful for, and humbled by the comments of his former clients and opposing counsel, and hopes to live true to these observations as he embarks on the second phase of his career – where his goal is to zealously and ethically represent consumers who have been mistreated by corporate defendants and governmental officials.
Undergraduate School: Michigan State University, B.A., 1992
- Super Lawyers 2020
- U.S. District Court, Northern, Southern and Central Districts of Illinois
- U.S. District Court, Northern and Southern District of Indiana
- U.S. District Court, Northern and Central Districts of California
- U.S. District Court, District of Colorado
- U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri
- U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin
- U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan
- U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit