Photo of Derek S. Whitefield

Derek S. Whitefield Member

Areas of Practice


Bar Admissions

  • Michigan, 1985
  • California, 1993
  • Texas, 2005

Court Admissions

  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, 1985
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit, 1988
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, 1994
  • U.S. District Court, Central District of California, 1994
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, 1995
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of California, 1995
  • U.S. Supreme Court, 2011


Wayne State University, J.D., cum laude

Honors College and James Madison College at Michigan State University, B.A.

  • Phi Beta Kappa

Derek S. Whitefield's national trial practice is focused on the defense of product manufacturers, business entities, and insurers. Mr. Whitefield is the former Leader of the Firm's Product Liability Practice Group, and an elected member of the Firm's Executive Board. Mr. Whitefield is recognized among the top six lawyers nationwide for automotive product liability, mass tort and class actions by Legal 500 US 2021 and clients quoted in Chambers USA 2021describe Mr. Whitefield as “a very smart and diligent lawyer who is easy to work with and a team player; he is well known and well respected in the field."


  • Mr. Whitefield has tried and co-tried high exposure product liability cases throughout the U.S.
  • Mr. Whitefield is one of the most knowledgeable lawyers in the country regarding automotive crash safety. He serves as trial, support, and discovery counsel to several automotive manufacturers in airbag cases.
  • Mr. Whitefield has experience defending many types of products, including all aspects of motor vehicles, lift trucks, power tools, home appliances, and other industrial and consumer products.
  • Mr. Whitefield provides advice concerning vehicle data recording, data privacy, driver distraction, and product liability avoidance, including design review and development of warnings, manuals and brochures.
  • Mr. Whitefield has experience handling class action, unfair trade practice, environmental, commercial, automotive finance and insurance litigation. He has represented Japanese, German and Korean companies, including preparing and defending their corporate witnesses at deposition and trial.
  • Mr. Whitefield started his legal career with Dykema in 1985, served on the GM Legal Staff between 1988 and 1993, and then returned to private practice representing business entities in product liability and commercial litigation. He re-joined Dykema as a Member and founded its Los Angeles office in 2003.
  • Angelotti v. The Walt Disney Company, 192 Cal.App.4th 1394 (2011). Stunt performer deemed employee of production company and therefore claims were barred by exclusive remedy provision of worker’s compensation statute.
  • Mines v. Honda, 305 A.D.2d 271 (2003). Court held sanction of dismissal was proper where plaintiff failed to comply with discovery orders.
  • Free v. General Motors, 2003 Wash. App. LEXIS 617 (2003). Court held jury received correct instruction on test for defect that focused on objective test rather than the subjective consumer expectation test.
  • McCabe v. Honda, 100 Cal.App.4th 1111 (2002). Court held summary judgment is improper if the product does not meet the ordinary consumer’s safety assumptions under the facts and circumstances of the case.
  • Pruitt v. General Motors, 72 Cal.App.4th 1480 (1999). Court held deployment of an air bag is not part of everyday experience and so the consumer expectation test for defect should not apply.

Memberships & Involvement

  • State Bar of Michigan
  • State Bar of California
  • State Bar of Texas
  • American Bar Association
  • Los Angeles Bar Association

Community/Civic Activities

  • Prior representation of Inmate on Death Row through the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project, pro bono to clients of LA County Bar Association's HIV and AIDS Legal Service Alliance (HALSA)

Named a Nationwide Leading Lawyer in Product Liability: Automobile Law and Product Liability: Consumer Class Actions Law by Chambers USA, 2020-2021

Named a Leading Lawyer by The Legal 500 United States for Dispute Resolution - Product Liability, Mass Tort and Class Action: Automotive/Transport (2016-2021); Transport: Rail and Road – Litigation (2019-2021) 

“Top Verdicts of 2019,” Los Angeles Daily Journal

Named a Litigation Star by Benchmark Litigation, 2014-2020

Recognized in Southern California Super Lawyers® for Personal Injury: Products Defense, Civil Litigation Defense, and Class Action Mass Torts: Defense, 2006-2020

Recipient of an AV® Preeminent™ Rating by Martindale-Hubbell

Detroit Bar Association, Barrister of the Year, 1990-1991