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Mass Tort, Toxic Tort and Product Liability Litigation

Kasowitz’s Mass Tort, Toxic Tort and Product Liability Practice Group has a deep bench of trial lawyers with hands-on courtroom experience.  We provide clients with comprehensive litigation strategies and try complex and significant cases.  For some clients, we conceive and implement a national strategy for the management and litigation of hundreds of cases over many jurisdictions.  For others, our representation concerns the defense or prosecution of just one or several important matters.

We serve as national and trial counsel for Fortune 500 and other companies, large and small, in groundwater contamination, workplace exposure, historical dumping and spill matters, and other toxic tort actions.  We also have extensive national trial experience in a wide variety of product liability actions, including decades of experience in tobacco and asbestos litigation.  We are frequently called upon to confront epidemiological or questionable scientific studies and to defend against novel legal theories, such as nuisance, medical monitoring, and the use of statistical proof of causation.

Notable representations include:

Toxic Tort and Environmental Litigation

  • 3,500 Alabama residents in what The Washington Post described as a “huge victory in a landmark environmental lawsuit” against Monsanto Company and its successor Solutia.  This massive case arose from decades of PCB pollution in the vicinity of a Monsanto plant in Anniston, Alabama.  During a 17-month jury trial in which we obtained $100 million in jury verdicts for a portion of the plaintiffs, the case settled for $300 million.
  • 1,300 Alabama coal miners in claims arising from their exposure to isocyanate-based products in mines.  After a nine-day hearing, we successfully defeated the defendants’ motions for summary judgment, and the case settled favorably for the plaintiffs on the eve of trial.
  • New England Gas Company, a natural gas provider, in the defense of four consolidated environmental contamination suits brought by 200 residents of Tiverton, Rhode Island, who alleged personal injuries, property damage and other consequential losses from contamination of residential soil by cyanide, arsenic, lead, tar and other pollutants.  Plaintiffs claimed that the pollutants, deposited on their land more than 50 years ago, created a nuisance, and caused property owners to suffer emotional distress and diminution in the value of their properties.  The cases settled on the eve of trial for a small fraction of plaintiffs’ demand.
  • Celanese Corporation as national counsel in the defense of a series of toxic tort actions in New York, California and Minnesota filed by hundreds of current and former IBM and National Semiconductor employees, their spouses and their children concerning alleged exposure to solvents used in the semiconductor industry.  During the course of the litigation, we successfully obtained approximately 90 summary judgment dismissals, on various legal theories, which ultimately resulted in a favorable confidential settlement of all plaintiffs’ claims.
  • Southern Union Company in the defense of individual and class action claims for personal injury, property damage and parallel criminal proceedings arising from a spill of allegedly illegally stored mercury.  The civil action was settled and the criminal case was pursued by the Department of Justice against Southern Union.  The district court imposed an $18 million fine under the Resource Recovery and Reclamation Act. We ultimately filed an appeal with the United States Supreme Court, which reversed the fine.
  • Waste Management of Florida in a cost recovery action for a substantial cleanup brought by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).  After we took the deposition of the FDEP’s principal expert, the FDEP agreed to voluntarily dismiss its case with prejudice, without any payment.
  • Celanese in the defense of putative class actions and dozens of individual actions arising out of alleged release of ethyl acrylate from rail cars in New Orleans, Louisiana.  We defeated class certification and obtained dismissal of all the putative class claims in a challenging case brought in a difficult jurisdiction.
  • Allied Waste Industries in the defense of the claims of several hundred residents of a rural community for wrongful death, personal injuries and property damage as the result of alleged groundwater contamination near a sanitary landfill in Texas.  The case was tried to a jury in San Patricio County, Texas, where the court chose a group of “representative” plaintiffs for the trial that included the parents of a young boy that had died of cancer.  The jury found Allied Waste Industries was not liable for the death or personal injuries.
  • Celanese in the defense of claims brought in California federal court for alleged personal injury and property remediation damages caused by exposure to toxic mold.  We successfully obtained summary judgment dismissing all claims against Celanese, which was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
  • Ticona Polymers in the defense of numerous actions filed in Louisiana and Alabama by gasoline stations alleging defective underground petroleum supply lines.  We successfully moved to exclude the plaintiffs’ primary expert in one of the major actions; subsequently, the firm was able to favorably resolve the claims against Ticona.

Product Liability, Class Actions, and Consolidated Lawsuits

  • Celanese in the defense of mass product liability litigation in courts all over the country, arising from allegedly defective polybutylene plumbing systems installed in millions of homes.  In the course of this representation, we successfully defended Celanese in more than 50 putative and certified nationwide and statewide actions, as well as in tens of thousands of individual actions throughout the country.
  • The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in a five-week jury trial of claims arising from the Port Authority’s alleged negligence in connection with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the first major terrorist attack on United States soil. The hundreds of plaintiffs in the action consisted of representatives of estates of individuals killed in the attack, injured individuals and World Trade Center tenants, including several financial services firms alleging business interruption damages. After trial, the New York Court of Appeals dismissed the action on the basis of a governmental immunity defense developed by the firm.
  • Maremont and ArvinMeritor in the defense of automotive and truck product defect claims in multiple states.  We obtained summary judgment decisions in favor of Maremont and ArvinMeritor in several of these cases.
  • Mega Bloks, a manufacturer of children’s toys, in the defense of actions throughout the country arising from children swallowing magnetic parts of the Magnetix product line.
  • Varta Microbattery in the defense of an action by a remote control manufacturer alleging that the company’s batteries caused remote control units to catch fire.
  • Armstrong World Industries in the defense of a putative nationwide class of millions of residential and commercial property owners concerning property damage claims relating to floor tiling.  We successfully defeated the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification.
  • Stryker Corporation, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of joint replacement implants, in the defense of a putative class action alleging that Stryker engaged in an illegal kickback scheme to pay doctors and surgeons allegedly phony consulting fees to induce the doctors to use Stryker knee and hip replacement products in surgeries.  We successfully obtained dismissal of the complaint on numerous grounds, including that the allegations failed to establish any compensable financial harm by purported class members.

Asbestos Litigation

  • ArvinMeritor, Celanese, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Emerson Electric, Heidelberg USA, Rockwell, Southern Union Company and other Fortune 500 companies, as national, regional, and local counsel in asbestos litigation.  We manage and supervise the overall litigation strategy for our clients, and try specific cases.  While some of the lawsuits concern only one plaintiff, others are brought by consolidated groups of plaintiffs, with some involving as many as 10,000 plaintiffs, in jurisdictions as diverse as New York, California, Texas, West Virginia, Illinois, North Carolina, Delaware, Virginia, Ohio, Florida and Georgia, as well as federal courts nationwide.  Most recently, we obtained a complete defense verdict in a mesothelioma wrongful death case tried in state court in Richmond, Virginia.  Our attorneys have been successful in winning defense verdicts for clients in cases across the country involving a wide variety of exposure evidence and claimed injuries.  We also represent clients in so-called synergy product liability cases, which concern the alleged increased health risk arising from combined exposure to tobacco and asbestos.

Tobacco Litigation

  • Cigarette manufacturer Liggett Group, as national and trial counsel in smoking and health litigation in state and federal courts.  For 17 years, our attorneys have successfully defended Liggett in class actions, consolidated actions, third-party payor and governmental actions, and individual personal injury lawsuits concerning claims arising from cigarette use.  We currently manage and represent Liggett in thousands of individual personal injury actions arising from a decertified class action in Florida. In 2011, we won three defense verdicts on behalf of Liggett.
  • Our attorneys have successfully defended Liggett in civil RICO, conspiracy, class actions, and consumer fraud actions brought around the country.  For example, in one of the largest civil RICO actions brought by the United States Department of Justice, we obtained a dismissal in favor of Liggett following a nine-month bench trial brought against the major tobacco companies in federal district court in Washington, D.C.  Liggett was the sole tobacco company defendant dismissed from this civil RICO action.
  • On behalf of Liggett, our attorneys conceived, negotiated and implemented the first-ever settlements of smoking and health litigation, settling health care cost recovery actions brought by states’ attorneys general against the major tobacco companies.  Liggett’s settlements brought revolutionary change to the industry.  One federal district court judge credited Liggett and its settlements as having “changed the face of tobacco litigation in this country.”