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Index of tables

  1. Product liability, mass tort and class action: toxic tort - defense
  2. Leading lawyers

Leading lawyers

  1. 1

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP’s practice - which is jointly headed by New York-based Anand Agneshwar along with Eric Rubel and Lester Sotsky in Washington DC - is experienced in serving as lead or national counsel to clients such as Philip Morris and Atlantic Richfield. Sotsky has been leading the team’s representation of international mining and fertilizer manufacturer Mosaic Company as national counsel in a wide range of environmental litigation, as well as regulatory matters. In 2015, the firm negotiated a significant settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to resolve allegations that Mosaic Company violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) during its waste management procedures. In Washington DC, Michael Daneker successfully defended Honeywell against personal injury claims alleging exposure to chromium ore processing residue during the expansion of the Dundalk Marine Terminal over 20 years ago. New York-based Philip Curtis is also recommended.

Jones Day’s department is headed by Stephanie Parker in Atlanta. Pittsburgh-based Paul Pohl, another key figure, has extensive trial and appellate experience. Head of the Houston office Nancy MacKimm acted alongside New York-based Sharyl Reisman and Washington DC-based Mary Ellen Powers in successfully representing IBM in resolving numerous claims alleging exposure to toxic emissions at a manufacturing facility. David DiMeglio in Los Angeles, along with Caroline Mitchell and of counsel James Dunlop in Chicago, are serving as lead counsel to Chevron regarding various proceedings arising from oil seepage that occurred off the coast of Brazil in 2011 and 2012; the team recently settled a significant number of the civil charges, and achieved dismissal of the entire criminal complaint.

King & Spalding LLP’s ‘invaluable’ team is headed by Atlanta-based Kevin Buster, who is experienced in defending cases involving a broad range of chemical substances, including pesticides, metals and petroleum-based products. The firm has been serving as trial counsel to key client Chevron in over 100 environmental lawsuits alleging groundwater, soil and sediments damage in Louisiana arising from historical oil and gas operations. A team led by Robert Meadows obtained a defense verdict for Chevron in a suit brought by Vermilion Parish School Board, which sought $115m in addition to punitive damages concerning the client’s oil and gas operations. Bruce Hurley led the team in moving the Western District of Oklahoma to deny the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification against Haliburton Energy Services in McCormick, et al. v Haliburton Energy Services, Inc., which involved claims of groundwater contamination and exposure to hazardous substances from historical missile cleaning activities on the defendant’s property.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP is serving as national and lead trial counsel to BASF Catalysts in high-profile cases arising from the sale of talc by legacy company Engelhard, which was acquired by the defendant in 2006. One case is currently pending before the US District Court for New Jersey, with Eugene Assaf and Michael Williams leading the team from Washington DC. Chicago-based Richard Godfrey and Mark Filip continue to serve as lead trial counsel for BP in all litigation arising from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Other clients include Boeing and Dow Chemical.

Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP’s Houston-based department has a strong track record in representing clients before courts and regulators in a broad range of toxic tort matters. Otway Denny successfully defended Enterprise Products against nearly 100 plaintiffs alleging personal injuries arising from a fire at a storage facility in 2011; the team recently won summary judgment on remaining claims. Stephen Dillard is leading the practice’s representation of Chevron Phillips Chemical and ConocoPhillips in an MDL brought by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, which alleges contamination of waters by gasoline products containing harmful methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). Other clients include Cabot Oil & Gas, ExxonMobil and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). Practice head Steven Jansma divides his time between San Antonio and Houston.

Ty Buthod heads the practice at Baker Botts L.L.P., which continues to represent major clients in the chemicals and energy industries in toxic exposure and asbestos cases across the US. Buthod has been defending ExxonMobil in various litigation and recently obtained a significant summary judgment in Virgil Hood and Lorrie Hood vs ExxonMobil, et al. before the 160th Judicial District Court - Dallas County, Texas, where the plaintiff alleged that exposure to ExxonMobil petrochemical products caused the plaintiff to develop acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Kevin Jordan obtained a defense verdict for Union Carbide and Montello in a two-week trial in New Orleans, Louisiana brought by the plaintiff claiming exposure to asbestos as a result of the defendants’ negligence. Michael Cancienne was promoted to partner in 2015. The Houston-based team’s client base includes LyondellBasell, Merck & Co. and AstraZeneca.

Goodwin Procter LLP provides a ‘simply excellent overall level of service’. The ‘marvelousBill Hanlon, who is based in Washington DC, is heading the team’s representation of national counsel to longstanding client Dana Companies in asbestos-related personal injury and wrongful death litigation; recent victories include obtaining dismissal of claims in multiple states on grounds that the plaintiffs could not establish personal jurisdiction. Boston-based Mark Tully successfully defended Cumberland Farms against the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection action seeking to enforce a higher settlement agreement to resolve claims of MTBE-related pollution of natural resources arising from over 50 MTBE cases throughout the US. New York-based Joanne Gray heads the department.

Greenberg Traurig, LLP’s environmental and toxic tort practice regularly handles high-stakes litigation for a wide range of clients in the chemicals industry. Practice head David Weinstein and Christopher Torres continue to defend Coronet Industries against a variety of claims for wrongful death, personal injury, medical monitoring and property damage arising from alleged contamination of groundwater, surface water, soil and air in an area surrounding the defendant’s former manufacturing facility. The firm achieved a substantial reduction of the bundle of more than 1,100 claims, through moving the court to implement a Lone Pine order. Weinstein and Torres are currently representing Mosaic Company in a number of cases alleging hazardous exposure, including one where they successfully moved an action to federal court jurisdiction and obtained a dismissal. Paul Seby joined the Denver office from Holland & Hart LLP. Other partners mentioned are based in Tampa.

Latham & Watkins LLP is highly experienced in handling and winning bet-the-company litigation for major industrial companies and manufacturers. Chicago-based Thomas Heiden, Michael Romey in Los Angeles and Gwyn Williams in Boston are the practice co-heads. Heiden, along with Claudia Salomon in New York plus Peter Wald and Melanie Blunschi (San Francisco), are representing utility company Southern California Edison (SCE) in a $4bn ICC arbitration against Mitsubishi regarding a radioactive leak in steam generators which Mitsubishi supplied to a nuclear power plant operated by the client. Other clients include Philip Morris, Fluor Corporation and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges. The team was strengthened by the promotion of Kegan Brown (New York) to partner; Drew Gardiner (San Diego), Garrett Long and Michael Nelson (Chicago) were promoted to of counsel. Chicago-based Mary Rose Alexander is also recommended.

McDermott Will & Emery LLP’s ‘extremely responsive’ and ‘very knowledgeable’ practice regularly defends key clients in the chemicals industry in a broad range of toxic torts and product liability cases, including asbestos-related litigation. The team is national strategic and coordinating counsel to Honeywell in various asbestos personal injury cases involving its Bendix automotive friction material product, with work being led by New York-based Peter Sacripanti. ‘Excellent advocate’ Terrence Dee joined from Kirkland & Ellis LLP in 2015, and continues to defend Motorola in a series of cases - including class actions - claiming that cellphones cause adverse health effects. Other clients include the American Petroleum Association, ExxonMobil and IKO.

Headed by Paul Zevnik in Washington DC and Brady Edwards in Houston, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP’s practice has a strong track record of representing clients in the energy and manufacturing sectors in asbestos, chemical and environmental exposure cases. Zevnik has been serving as national asbestos defense counsel to ITT Corporation and achieved the dismissal of over 31,000 claims without payment during 2015, which significantly reduced the client’s inventory of pending cases. Los Angeles-based James Dragna is serving as national coordinating counsel to Anadarko Petroleum and its subsidiaries in relation to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and recently won dismissal of claims seeking penalties under state law. The practice recruited Chicago-based Undray Wilks from McGuireWoods LLP and former New Jersey federal prosecutor Harvey Bartle IV in Philadelphia); Brad Nes and Yardena Zwang-Weissman were promoted to partner in Washington DC and Los Angeles office, respectively.

Morrison & Foerster LLP regularly handles environmental and tort liabilities arising from chemical exposure, in addition to which it has strong experience in representing corporations in regulatory and enforcement matters. Los Angeles-based Peter Hsiao is currently representing Curtimade Dairy and the Dairy Industry Environmental Coalition in a lawsuit filed by the city of Corcoran under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) alleging groundwater contamination arising from the clients’ use of nitrate fertilizers. In San Francisco, Michael Steel, Michèle Corash and of counsel Robin Stafford successfully obtained summary judgment for over 30 clients dismissing an action alleging that titanium dioxide (a key ingredient in cosmetics and sunscreens) increases risk of cancer. Other clients include BASF, California Natural Products and Lumber Liquidators.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP’s ‘excellent’ mass torts and product liability practice produces ‘truly outstanding work’. New York-based practice head Laurie Strauch Weiss has particular expertise in advising clients on scientific claims brought by non-governmental organizations and consumer advocacy groups. The team recently achieved a number of significant victories for longstanding client Dow Chemical, including securing a favorable settlement before the New York Supreme Court in an action brought by the Suffolk County Water Authority (SCWA) seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief, arising from alleged soil and groundwater contamination in over 300 wells; the key partners include Weiss, James Stengel, Morton Dubin, John Ewald, Kristen Fournier and San Francisco-based Christopher Vejnoska. Weiss, Stengel and Ewald also successfully represented China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) before the Central District of California in a case where the plaintiff claimed $5.2bn in damages under the Alien Tort Statute, California tort law and RICO rules, among other allegations. Other clients include Union Carbide.

At Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, Sheila Birnbaum in New York) continues to act as national co-counsel for Pfizer in various state and federal personal injury actions alleging occupational exposure to asbestos and silica products at sites maintained by the defendant’s former mining minerals divisions; the team successfully obtained dismissal of a significant number of these actions, as well as winning summary judgment for Pfizer in three state court actions. Led by Washington DC-based Michael Lyle and Eric Lyttle, the firm continues to represent Seacor Holdings and its subsidiaries in cases concerning the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, with the majority of the cases relating to the complex clean-up effort. The team recently obtained summary judgment in favor of Seacor and several of its subsidiaries, which dismissed the remaining post-explosion emergency response claim in the MDL. Faith Gay in New York is also recommended.

Reed Smith LLP’s ‘consistently very good’ team is headed by John Hooper in New York and trial veteran Robert Roth in Chicago, the latter of whom has experience of defending clients in groundwater and airborne contamination cases before the federal courts. Houston-based Stan Perry is serving as national counsel to Shell’s product liability litigation involving benzene, gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, solvents and consumer products; his recent victories include obtaining significant summary judgment for Shell in Burst et al v Shell Oil Co et al, where the plaintiff alleged that her husband’s exposure to benzene led to his death. Chicago-based Maryanne Woo continues to represent longstanding client Johnson Controls and its subsidiary York International in asbestos litigation. Ricky Raven joined the Houston office from Thompson & Knight LLP in 2015.

Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP’s Kansas City-based toxic tort team has seen an increase in regulatory interest from various US government agencies and attention from the press, as well as environmental activists. Practice head Mark Anstoetter is experienced in defending clients in citizen group and government enforcement actions under federal and state environmental statutes. David Erickson is also recommended.

Headed by the ‘outstandingMaja Eaton and Sara Gourley in Chicago) plus Debra Pole in Los Angeles, Sidley Austin LLP’s team is ‘a pleasure to work with’ and has ‘an excellent bench’. Eaton and Tim Kapshandy continue to serve as national coordinating counsel to General Electric in asbestos litigation; they recently obtained summary judgments and dismissals in all of its remaining cases in the asbestos federal MDL, which once comprised over 1,000 claims. In Washington DC, the well-regarded David Buente and Timothy Webster continue to represent Coronet Industries in negotiations with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) concerning site assessment and remediation arising from allegations of exposure to chemicals from the client’s historic phosphate mining operations. Other clients include NCR.

In 2015, Steptoe & Johnson LLP’s Chicago-based group expanded significantly with the recruitment of new practice head Robert Shuftan, Cal Burnton, Anthony Hopp, Derek Smith and Jeremy Goldkind from Locke Lord LLP. Los Angeles-based Daniel Blakey has been representing Monsanto in litigation brought by a plaintiff alleging that exposure to the client’s pesticide products resulted in the plaintiff’s development of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Jennifer Quinn-Barabanov in Washington DC) and of counsel Jennifer Bonneville in Los Angeles continue to serve as lead counsel for key client Shell in a putative class action over groundwater contamination in Florida. Lawrence Riff is now a judge at the Supreme Court of California.

Jeffrey Healy heads the team at Cleveland-based Tucker Ellis LLP, which is highly experienced for defending clients in a wide array of toxic torts, including asbestos, silica, coal dust, welding fume and mold litigation. Healy is currently serving as national coordinating, regional and local counsel for a number of corporations in asbestos and silicosis cases. Trial veteran Laura Hong’s experience includes having represented clients before state and federal courts across the US. Carter Strang regularly handles cases under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

Andrews Kurth LLP’s toxic tort practice is headed by Houston-based Thomas Taylor, whose experience includes serving as regional counsel for a major oil company in toxic tort, chemical exposure and personal injury litigation. Dallas-based Joseph Blizzard has particular expertise in defending clients against product liability and toxic tort claims alleging personal injury and wrongful death. Houston-based Alexis Gomez is also recommended. The firm’s client base includes BP.

At DLA Piper LLP (US), Christopher Campbell (who is now head of the toxic tort sub-group) and Cara Edwards have been leading the New York-based team in representing Pfizer in various litigation, where the firm is serving as national co-counsel and trial counsel - they recently obtained summary judgment from the Superior Court of Alameda County, California for Pfizer in talc litigation involving hundreds of lawsuits across the US alleging that the talc mined and sold by Pfizer between 1962 and 1992 was contaminated with asbestos. Philadelphia-based Nancy Rappaport has been defending AM General in asbestos litigation across the US and recently obtained dismissal of a significant number of cases. Other clients include ExxonMobil and Northrop Grumman.

At Dechert LLP, Philadelphia-based Ben Barnett’s department has a strong track record in handling high-profile litigation on the trial and appellate level. Led by Nathan Hoffman, the firm continues to defend Pfizer in ‘apparent manufacturer’ asbestos litigation arising from the operations of its former subsidiary Quigley before a number of Pennsylvania state courts. The team includes Los Angeles-based William Oxley, who is ‘a very good trial lawyer’, and Philadelphia-based Meghan Kelly, who was promoted to partner. Donald Le Gower is now in-house counsel at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP’s team has considerable experience in defending high-stakes product liability and mass tort litigation before federal and state courts, including the US Supreme Court. San Francisco-based Peter Modlin defended shipping company Matson against a number of criminal, civil enforcement and natural resource damage claims arising from an incident in 2013 where a significant amount of molasses escaped into Honolulu Harbor; in 2015, the team successfully resolved all criminal, civil and administrative claims brought by the state of Hawaii before any lawsuits were filed. Led by Thomas Dupree, the firm is representing CSX Transportation in a personal injury lawsuit arising from a train derailment, chemical spill and subsequent fire that occurred outside of Louisville, Kentucky in 2012. Other clients include Intel, BP and General Electric. Stacie Fletcher was promoted to partner. All partners listed are based in Washington DC unless otherwise stated.

At Mayer Brown, Chicago-based practice co-heads Michael Olsen and Daniel Ring are representing Union Carbide and its former subsidiary Amchem Products (now operating as Bayer CropScience) in asbestos litigation comprising thousands of cases across the country. Evan Tager and Miriam Nemetz in Washington DC, along with Chicago-based Mark Molen are defending CSX Transportation in more than 25 lawsuits involving over 1,200 individuals alleging personal injury and property damage arising from a train derailment in 2012, which resulted in the release of vinyl chloride from a breached tanker car. New York-based practice co-head Henninger Bullock is also recommended.

McGuireWoods LLP’s toxic tort and environmental litigation department is headed by Stephen Busch, who is currently serving as national trial and coordinating counsel for Carpenter Co in personal injury and wrongful death actions arising from catastrophic fires or alleged toxic exposure in connection to the use of certain products. Raleigh-based Mark Anderson represented Duke Energy in appealing a $25m fine imposed by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources for alleged environmental violations regarding coal ash at the client’s site in North Carolina; the firm obtained a $7m settlement with the state. Samuel Tarry and Tracy Walker are also recommended. All partners are based in Richmond unless otherwise noted.

Nixon Peabody LLP’s group has notable trial experience and a strong track record in defending clients across a wide range of industries. The firm obtained a complete defense jury verdict for American Eurocopter following a two-week wrongful death and personal injury trial before the Western District of Texas concerning a helicopter crash; the work was led by New York-based practice head Joseph Ortego, along with Eric Strain in New York and recently promoted partner Thomas Mealiffe in Long Island.

Headed by Arvin Maskin, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP is highly experienced in handling toxic tort litigation for high-profile clients such as ExxonMobil and Seacor Holdings. Led by Diane Sullivan and Theodore Tsekerides, the firm is serving as lead trial counsel for ExxonMobil in a number of state and federal court cases arising from pollution caused by the use of MTBE as an additive in gasoline. Sullivan is also representing Spanish energy company Repsol in litigation regarding the pollution of the Passaic River in New Jersey. All partners mentioned are based in New York.

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