Ms Sheila L. Birnbaum > Dechert LLP > New York, United States > Lawyer Profile

Dechert LLP
Three Bryant Park, 1095 Avenue of the Americas
NEW YORK, NY 10036-6797
United States

Work Department

Product Liability and Mass Torts


Sheila L. Birnbaum is co-chair of Dechert’s product liability and mass torts practice and focuses on complex product liability, mass torts and insurance litigation. She is one of the country’s preeminent product liability defense lawyers, having served as national counsel or lead defense counsel for numerous Fortune 500 companies in some of the largest and most complex tort cases in the United States. She has also argued many influential appeals in appellate courts across the United States, including the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Ms. Birnbaum has won three cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Campbell where the Supreme Court reversed a US$145 million punitive damages award against the company as unconstitutionally excessive. She won a unanimous victory in the U.S. Supreme Court in Warger v. Shauers. The case resolved a long-standing circuit split regarding the application of Federal Rules of Evidence 606(b), which generally prohibits testimony of jurors about statements made during deliberations when the testimony is offered in an inquiry into the validity of a verdict. She also successfully argued Buckley v. Metro Worth, a landmark case involving medical monitoring and risk of injury.

In addition to her legal achievements, Ms. Birnbaum has led an active career as an academic, becoming the first tenured woman professor of law at Fordham University Law School, and was a professor of law and associate dean at New York University School of Law. 

She has received numerous other honors, including the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award from the American Bar Association, the John L. McCloy Memorial Award from the Fund for Modern Courts and the Law and Society Award from the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. She is also the recipient of the New York University Law Alumni Award for outstanding achievement in the legal profession, the George A. Katz Torch of Learning Award and the Milton S. Gould Award for Outstanding Appellate Advocacy. Ms. Birnbaum was honored with the Louis D. Brandeis Award by the American Jewish Congress and an award from Touro Law School for achieving the highest standards of professional excellence. She is a member of the Hunter College Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Benchmark Litigation Annual Awards and the New York Law Journal.


Member of Council (1989-present), American Law Institute; Member, Advisory Committee to the Restatement of the Law of Product Liability, Complex Litigation and Insurance Law; First President and Founding Member, Judges and Lawyers Breast Cancer Alert


Hunter College, B.A., 1960, cum laude; Hunter College, M.A., 1962; New York University School of Law, LL.B., 1965; Hunter College, LL.D., 2009, Honorary Doctorate of Laws

Lawyer Rankings

United States > Dispute resolution > Product liability, mass tort and class action - defense: pharmaceuticals and medical devices

(Hall of Fame)

Sheila L. BirnbaumDechert LLP

With a strong East Coast presence and also continuing to strengthen its offering from California, the ‘engaging and responsive‘ team at Dechert LLP has the resources to handle a tremendous range and volume of major product liability disputes facing pharmaceutical/devices clients, irrespective of location. Much of the work the practice handles, however, is in the context of national counsel in large aggregated matters, where it adds real value, not only by dint of its strategic aptitude but also being ‘totally abreast of the underlying subject matter’. As well as their aptitude at trying cases, the attorneys are also very adept at securing excellent results for clients utilizing dispositive motions – including in the context of Daubert challenges. New York-based co-heads Mark S. Cheffo  and Sheila L. Birnbaum have amassed a huge amount of experience and success in the area, often in the role as national co-ordinating counsel and trial counsel. Managing partner of the Los Angeles office Kimberly Branscome also handles life sciences-related matters as part of her broad-based product liability skillset. ‘Calm and knowledgeable’ New York-based Rachel Passaretti-Wu is also recommended andgets great resultsfor clients.

United States > Dispute resolution > Product liability, mass tort and class action - defense: toxic tort

Dechert LLP has strong market presence in the product liability and mass torts space from its East coast stronghold, as well as more recently from a burgeoning California-based offering – a corollary of which includes a significant amount of toxic tort work for consumer goods, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing companies. The well-known practice c0-head, Sheila L. Birnbaum is well-versed in the relevant science, the substantive law and litigation strategies relating to a range of product liability/mass tort matters and has, throughout her career, achieved many notable victories at both a trial and appellate level. ‘Calm and knowledgeable‘ in her approach, Rachel Passaretti-Wu ‘gets results‘ for clients in toxic tort and product liability matters; she recently played key role for Saint-Gobain in toxic tort-related matters regarding its use of materials containing perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Managing partner of the firm’s Los Angeles office, Kimberly Branscome has been pivotal to the firm’s growth on the West Coast. Mark S. Cheffo co-heads the team alongside Birnbaum. All named practitioners are based in New York, unless otherwise noted.