Product liability, mass tort and class actions: toxic tort - defense in United States
Arnold & Porter covers the full spectrum of toxic tort work, such as class actions, MDLs, appeals and environmental matters. Anand Agneshwar in New York and Los Angeles-based Pamela Yates jointly head the product liability litigation practice, while Brian Israel leads the environmental group. Recent highlights include representing Monsanto and Bayer as national counsel in the RoundUp litigation, and defending Honeywell in several class actions, including a consolidated class action arising out of the presence of a toxic chemical in the groundwater and municipal water supply of Hoosick Falls in New York. In other work, the team is defending Pfizer in asbestos litigation. Other names to note include senior counsel Philip Curtis in New York, William Hoffman, Michael Daneker and San Francisco-based Peggy Otum. Les Sotsky retired in January 2018. Unless otherwise noted, all named partners are based in Washington DC.
Jones Day provides comprehensive advice to clients from a wide range of industries on product liability litigation, mass torts and class actions arising from natural disasters, industrial accidents and chemical exposure. Los Angeles-based David DiMeglio, of counsel Nancy MacKimm in Houston and Sharyl Reisman in New York are the key contacts in the practice. Atlanta-based Stephanie Parker heads the wider business and tort department, and of counsel Paul Pohl in Pittsburgh is also recommended. In recent highlights, the team represented Chevron in a lawsuit filed by the City of Richmond relating to an accidental refinery fire, and successfully acted for CBS Corporation in a lawsuit regarding the liability for injuries caused by third-party asbestos added to a producers’ equipment after its sale. Frank Bayuk joined from King & Spalding LLP in March 2018.
King & Spalding LLP’s toxic and environmental torts practice group is headed by Carol Wood and spans a multitude of sectors, including energy, environmental, climate change and asbestos litigation. Led by Tracie Renfroe, the team successfully defended ConocoPhillips subsidiary Burlington Resources in an ISCID arbitration against Ecuador’s US$2.5bn environmental contamination counterclaims for soil and groundwater contamination and ecological injury. Further, Los Angeles-based Alexander Calfo and Julia Romano continue to represent Johnson & Johnson in talc litigation. Other clients include Shell, Monsanto and Chevron. Robert Meadows, Elizabeth Taber and associate Megan Nishikawa in San Francisco are also recommended. Frank Bayuk departed for Jones Day in March 2018, while Craig Stanfield joined in January 2018 from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. Unless otherwise noted, all named partners are based in Houston.
The toxic tort litigation department at Kirkland & Ellis LLP has vast experience handling toxic tort claims arising from chemicals exposure, water contamination and air pollution, among others incidents. In recent highlights, Chicago-based Kevin Van Wart and Bradley Weidenhammer successfully defended DuPont, General Electric and other government contractors in several lawsuits, in which plaintiffs alleged radioactive emissions from Washington State’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation caused cancers and other diseases. In addition, Eugene Assaf and Michael Williams in Washington continue to act as national counsel and lead trial counsel for BASF Catalysts in several asbestos-related product liability lawsuits. Other standout highlights include representing BP America in the ongoing Gulf of Mexico oil spill litigation, where it recently reached a settlement in a Louisiana case, and acting for Dow Chemical in a drinking water contamination action brought by the Suffolk County Water Authority. Jay Lefkowitz in New York and Kimberly Branscome in Los Angeles are other names to note.
The ‘efficient, creative and nimble’ Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP is based in New York and stands out for its asbestos exposure and personal injury litigation expertise. The team is jointly led by San Francisco-based Darren Teshima and Kristen Fournier, who is ‘exceptionally talented at organizing incredibly complex and challenging litigation’. Together with ‘top flight trial attorney’ Morton Dubin and John Ewald, Fournier continues to act for longstanding client Dow Chemical in personal injury lawsuits relating to exposure to asbestos and plant explosions. In other work, the group is defending Solvay against claims arising from the use of lead pigment in residential paint. Notably, Johnson & Johnson has instructed the team as national counsel for all cases alleging that asbestos-contaminated talc products caused cancer.
Baker Botts L.L.P.’s product liability, mass tort and toxic tort litigation group is regularly involved in wrongful death, personal injury, and Proposition 65 claims arising from environmental tort, water contamination, air pollution, chemical products and chemical exposure. Jointly led by Tynan Buthod in Houston, and Joshua Frank and Kent Mayo in Washington DC, the practice is noted for ‘working to understand the client's needs before moving forward to determine an action plan’. Buthod represented LyondellBasell alongside Houston-based Macey Stokes in a wrongful death claim alleging that a truck driver who died from acute myelogenous leukemia was exposed to harmful quantities of aromatic hydrocarbons. Further, the team defended Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions in class actions filed after an alleged backflow event resulted in a four-day water use ban in the City of Corpus Christi, and was also instructed by Assertio Therapeutics in the nationwide opioid litigation. Louie Layrisson was promoted to partner in January 2018 in the Houston office.
The environmental litigation and toxic tort practice at Greenberg Traurig LLP handles national and international environmental and toxic tort matters in a variety of industry sectors. Practice head David Weinstein and Christopher Torres in Tampa are defending Mosaic Fertilizer in several environmental lawsuits and class actions, including a case in which the plaintiff alleges that she was harmed by lifelong exposure to hazardous air pollutants and other toxins from one of the client’s manufacturing facilities. In other work, the team is defending National Foam and related entities as national counsel in over 100 class actions relating to the contamination of the groundwater and municipal water supplies close to military bases, airports and fire training academies. Other names to note include department co-chairs David G Mandelbaum in Philadelphia and Steven C Russo in New York. Chicago-based Francis Citera is also recommended. Tim Swickard joined the Sacramento office from Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP in March 2018.
The ‘superbly diligent and clear-headed’ product liability, mass tort and consumer class actions practice at Latham & Watkins LLP is headed by Thomas Heiden in Chicago and Gwyn Williams in Boston. In recent work, Chicago-based Mary Rose Alexander and Robert Howard in San Diego represented Monsanto in an ongoing public nuisance claim filed by major West Coast municipalities and several states seeking to compel defendants to remediate vast water bodies. Other highlights include defending Chevron in a C-137 release contamination case, and acting for Southern California Gas Company in regulatory agency matters involving the natural gas leak at the Aliso Canyon underground storage facility. Kelly Richardson in San Diego is another name to note.
McDermott Will & Emery LLP represents manufacturers and oil and gas companies in environmental, chemical and asbestos-related litigation. Terrence Dee leads the practice in Chicago alongside Miami-based co-head Anthony Upshaw, who is acting for Monsanto in products liability mass tort actions related to the manufacturing, sale and distribution of polychlorinated biphenyl. In another highlight, James Pardo in New York is defending Exxon Mobil in water contamination cases involving its use of methyl-tertiary butyl ether. Environmental and toxic tort litigator Ellen Tenenbaum and oil and gas industry expert Peter Sacripanti are other key contacts in the New York office. Amy Doehring departed to Akerman LLP in July 2018.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP’s product liability, tort and insurance practice handles personal injury, wrongful death and product liability litigation relating to environmental, chemical exposure and water contamination claims. Key figures in the team include practice head Paul Zevnik in Washington DC and Los Angeles-based Yardena Zwang-Weissman. The team is defending Cotter Corporation and Exelon Corporation in a toxic tort class action alleging contamination of plaintiff’s home and properties by the release of radioactive materials originating from Manhattan Project operations during World War II. Additionally, the team is acting as coordinating counsel for the Southern California Gas Company in litigation and investigations arising from the natural gas leak at the Aliso Canyon storage facility. Craig Stanfield joined King & Spalding LLP in January 2018 and David Luttinger left for Covington & Burling LLP in March 2018. Kelci Atkins and Kyle Poe were promoted to partner in October 2018.
Headed by Steven Jansma, the products, pharmaceuticals, medical and mass tort department at Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP has expertise in environmental litigation, groundwater contamination cases, chemical exposure and natural disasters claims, and specializes in the defense of companies from the energy industry. Stephen Dillard and Jessica Farley acted for major oil and gas and chemicals companies in MDLs relating to groundwater contamination. Also recommended is Brett Young, who often represents clients in toxic exposure lawsuits. All named partners are based in Houston.
Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP’s expertise spans environmental and chemical exposure litigation and class actions, from property damage and personal injury claims arising from chemical exposure and release of hazardous substances in the environment, to water contamination and cost recovery actions for remediation of groundwater. Mark Anstoetter and David Erickson jointly lead the toxic tort and exposure practice in Kansas City. David Swaney and Anthony Martinez were promoted to partner.
Steptoe & Johnson LLP’s toxic tort team handles mass tort actions arising from catastrophes, chemical products and environmental contamination and has significant trial experience. Practice head Robert Shuftan in Chicago is ‘a highly intelligent and experienced strategist with broad knowledge of the industries in which his clients operate’. The team continues to represent Beazer East in an environmental site case, and is defending Growmark against claims that plaintiffs developed cancer as a result of using a glyphosate product. In other highlights, Los Angeles-based Jason Levin is representing Elster American Meter as the manufacturer of an allegedly defective gas pressure regulator in a personal injury case filed after an explosion occurred in an apartment complex. In January 2018, Anthony Anscombe and Stephanie Sheridan joined from Sedgwick in Chicago and San Francisco respectively.
Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP
Noted for its trial expertise, Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP is regularly involved in sector-related mass torts and class actions. Chicago-based Sean Gallagher is defending United Technologies as lead counsel against claims of personal injury and property damages arising from an alleged cancer cluster in Florida. In Denver, Sean Grimsley and Jameson Jones are representing ConocoPhillips in nationwide litigation relating to climate change from the sale and marketing of petroleum products. The team is also acting for Walgreens in opioid-related litigation.
Jointly headed by Richard Morgan and David Lutz in Minneapolis, Bowman and Brooke LLP is regularly involved in chemical exposure cases, but also handles water contamination claims. Orlando-based Jon Hernan is representing WM Barr in personal injury and product liability claims involving chemical exposure and accidents; this recently included a wrongful death lawsuit involving acute exposure to hazardous chemicals while using a product manufactured by the client. Other work includes acting as lead trial counsel for Mack Trucks in asbestos-related cases, and defending Daikin Applied in asbestos litigation.
Dechert LLP is well known for representing pharmaceutical companies in chemical exposure claims, and also has experience in water contamination matters. Sheila Birnbaum and Mark Cheffo, who jointly head the team from New York, are defending Pfizer in product liability litigation relating to the antidepressant Zoloft, which allegedly causes birth defects in children when taken during pregnancy; the duo is also acting for Purdue Pharma in multiple cases concerning opioid medication. Los Angeles-based William Oxley continues to act as lead trial counsel for Union Carbide in asbestos litigation across the US. Nathan Hoffman in Chicago and Hope Freiwald in Philadelphia are also recommended.
Noted for its ‘depth and bench-strength’, Dentons is particularly active in asbestos litigation, as evidenced by its representing an industrial mineral company in the talc powder litigation and successfully defending a landfill management company against a wrongful death claim alleging the deceased’s exposure to asbestos at a tire plant caused mesothelioma. San Francisco-based Lisa Oberg leads the practice; Jayme Long and Brad DeJardin in Los Angeles are other names to note. Dara Mann departed to Squire Patton Boggs in May 2018 and Michael Sandgren joined from Selman Breitman.
The product liability and mass torts practice at DLA Piper LLP (US) is headed by Christopher Campbell and specializes in chemical exposure litigation. The team is defending e-cigarettes manufacturer NJOY in a civil action alleging that vaping products require Proposition 65 warnings. Further, Matthew Holian in Boston and Baltimore-based John Wellschlager are acting as national counsel for BASF Catalyst in talc powder and asbestos litigation related to its predecessor Engelhard. The firm’s client base also includes Porsche, Northrop Grumman and AM General.
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
Headed by Daniel Nelson in Washington DC, the environmental litigation and mass torts group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP has experience handling chemical exposure and environmental claims for clients in a wide range of sectors, including food and beverages and automotive. Recent highlights include acting for International Paper Company in a mass action lawsuit alleging that emissions from a mill in Alabama caused or exacerbated diseases and property damage, and representing Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz USA in a putative nationwide class action relating to an alleged misrepresentation of emissions characteristics of diesel vehicles. Los Angeles-based Theodore Boutrous is another key member of the practice.
The product liability and mass torts practice at Goodwin has particular expertise in chemical exposure and water contamination cases. Led by Boston-based Mark Tully, the team continues to represent Gulf Oil and Cumberland Farms in litigation, in which plaintiffs allege that the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether is contaminating drinking water. Also in Boston, Richard Oetheimer is defending Northrop Grumman against an asbestos-related wrongful death claim. Washington DC-based William Hanlon and practice head Joanne Gray in New York are also recommended.
Jointly led by Richmond-based ‘strategic thinker’ Alexandra Cunningham and Georgia Lucier in Houston, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP is particularly active in asbestos litigation and also handles environmental matters for clients in the energy sector. In one highlight, the ‘forward-thinking’ team is representing Alfa Laval as national coordinating counsel in asbestos-related cases. Based in Houston, Thomas Taylor and Joseph Blizzard are additional contacts in the practice group.
Jointly led by New York-based Henninger Bullock and Daniel Ring and Michael Olsen in Chicago, Mayer Brown regularly represents clients from the technology, energy and consumer goods sectors in water contamination and chemical exposure claims. Notably, Michael Lackey in Washington DC is defending Veolia in putative class actions and individual cases relating to allegations of wrongdoing in the Flint Water Crisis, while Ring represented 3M in a lawsuit alleging that chemicals were released in the East Metro area of Minneapolis. The firm’s client roster also includes Arkema and Murco Wall Products.
With particular strength in the consumer goods sector, the Richmond-based team at McGuireWoods LLP handles product liability litigation and class actions arising from chemical exposure, catastrophes and environmental contamination. Stephen Busch acted for Universal Corporation and Universal Leaf Tobacco as lead trial counsel and coordinating counsel in several lawsuits alleging that exposure to herbicides and pesticides used in the cultivation of tobacco in Argentina caused birth defects in children. In other work, practice head Diane Flannery is representing Lumber Liquidator as lead counsel in 140 class actions relating to the sale of Chinese laminate flooring containing high levels of a carcinogenic chemical.
Morrison & Foerster LLP is noted for its work in the food and beverages industry. Indeed, the team is acting for the Hershey Company, the National Confectioners Association and Barry Callebaut in litigation and negotiations relating to the allowable levels of lead and cadmium in chocolate, and is also defending several coffee companies against claims that manufacturers and retailers are required to provide cancer warnings on coffee. In an environmental matter, the team represented a government contractor in a putative class action involving personal injury and property damage claims resulting from environmental contamination. Erin Bosman in San Diego leads the team; James Schurz and William Tarantino in San Francisco are also recommended.
Led by Mark Jones and David Dukes in Columbia, the team at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP regularly acts for manufacturers in the pharmaceuticals and medical devices sector and specializes in asbestos exposure cases. Recent highlights include acting for Purdue Pharma in opioid litigation, and representing Honeywell in a series of lawsuits brought by plaintiffs alleging that the client’s products cause serious diseases such as mesothelioma. Other members of the practice include Michael Brown in Baltimore, Charleston-based Mark Phillips and James Irvin in Columbia.
Nixon Peabody LLP handles chemical exposure claims and environmental litigation. Jointly headed by New York-based Joseph Ortego and Vivian Quinn in Buffalo, the group defended Brookhaven National Laboratories in a contamination class action relating to an alleged migration of various chemicals and other toxic material from a lab, and also obtained dismissal of an action filed against Boston Capital regarding lead paint exposure claims. Other clients include Cummins and PestSure. David Tennant left in July 2018 to found his own law firm.
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP
The products liability and mass torts group at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP is based in Washington DC and specializes in environmental and asbestos-related litigation. Headed by Michael Lyle, the team represents manufacturers in class actions and mass torts and is recommended for its trial expertise. Eric Lyttle is also a key member of the practice.
Reed Smith LLP
The Houston-based mass and toxic torts team at Reed Smith LLP is led by Ricky Raven and represents oil and gas companies as well as manufacturers in personal injury, wrongful death and product liability litigation relating to chemical exposure and environmental claims. Stan Perry is also recommended. Belynda Reck left in October 2018 to join K&L Gates.
Tucker Ellis LLP
Led by newly appointed practice head Laura Kingsley Hong, the Cleveland-based mass tort and product liability group at Tucker Ellis LLP stands out for its expertise in asbestos exposure cases, recent examples of which include representing Johnson & Johnson and Carrier Corporation in lawsuits claiming that the use of products allegedly containing asbestos caused plaintiffs’ mesothelioma. The team also acts for Electrolux as co-national coordinating counsel in all asbestos-related litigation in the US. Jeffrey Healy is another name to note.
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP is headed by New-York-based Arvin Maskin and is increasingly active in high-profile water contamination cases. In New Jersey, Diane Sullivan and Allison Brown are acting for Respol in environmental litigation filed against multiple defendants regarding the pollution of the Passaic River. Acting alongside New York-based David Lender, Sullivan is also representing Procter & Gamble as trial counsel in an action filed by the Suffolk County Water Authority alleging that the client manufactured and distributed products that leached a possible carcinogenic chemical into public drinking wells.
Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell LLP
Denver-based Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell LLP has considerable experience in asbestos litigation and environmental claims. In a recent highlight, the team represented Michelin and Goodrich in a class action alleging groundwater contamination by benzene and other chemicals from a long-closed tire manufacturing plant in Oklahoma. Michael O’Donnell and Erik Nadolink are the key contacts in the practice group.