Practice/Industry Group Overview
For decades, Duane Morris has developed effective strategies for defending clients against asbestos and toxic tort claims. Asbestos is the longest ongoing toxic tort litigation in U.S. history, with far-reaching implications for manufacturers, insurers and the legal system itself. As plaintiffs' lawyers promote aggressive and expansive new theories of liability, increasing numbers of companies who have marginal or nonexistent ties to asbestos now face the threat of years of costly lawsuits. More recently, plaintiffs' lawyers have applied tactics learned in asbestos litigation in bringing mass toxic tort claims against manufacturers of numerous industrial and pharmaceutical products.
At Duane Morris, we craft and implement defense and litigation strategies that match our client's specific needs. From our extensive experience in trying complex toxic torts to verdict, we know that strategic, coordinated case management helps control litigation costs and can lead to better outcomes. Our goal is to defend our clients from present claims and protect them from such claims in the future. We staff our matters as leanly as possible to achieve the best outcome for our clients. Our approach balances sophisticated legal thinking with the essential skills that define excellent trial lawyers: the ability to explain complex scientific facts in simple, yet persuasive terms. Understanding the emotional nature of many asbestos and toxic tort claims, our attorneys draw on both data and empathy to connect with juries. Working with our clients, we target key issues for appeals to make the playing field more level in the products liability arena.
Major companies in industries ranging from food, healthcare, pharmaceuticals to consumer products, automotive and heavy equipment turn to us for representation in national asbestos, toxic tort and products liability litigation. We have acted as one of two science defense coordinators and one of a handful of national trial counsel for Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation in their asbestos litigation. Duane Morris' experience includes product class actions, mass tort defense, and service on clients' national trial teams and as National Coordinating Counsel (NCC) in federal, state and multidistrict litigation. With our appellate practice group, our lawyers obtained the first state supreme court decision eliminating the "each and every breath" theory of causation from asbestos litigation in Pennsylvania. Our lawyers are sought for thoughtful leadership as NCC. We remain on guard for new toxic tort developments and have been published and quoted on best practices as NCC and in multidistrict litigation.
In addition to our experience with asbestos, we routinely represent manufacturing and industrial clients in other toxic torts class actions involving:
- Silica and amorphous silica
- Manganese and welding fumes
- Chemicals, paints and coatings
- Ground water contamination
Strong results in the courtroom require keen preparation and dedicated litigation support resources. As one of the 100 largest law firms in the world, Duane Morris uses industry-leading data management and information sharing technology, backed by highly trained IT staff, to efficiently and effectively handle the immense data needs of large asbestos and toxic tort cases. In addition, our breadth of capabilities and geographic footprint help us assist clients with issues involving a wide range of legal disciplines in jurisdictions across the United States and around the world.
- Obtained decision from Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the “each and every breath” theory of causation lacks general acceptance under Frye in Betz v. Pneumo Abex.
- Designed national defense strategy for manufacturer of welding consumables in manganese exposure cases.
- Spurgeon E. and Mary A. Landis v. A.W. Chesterton Co., et al., Nos. 1541-1542 WDA 2009 (Pa. Super. Aug. 31, 2010) (reversing denial of motion for judgment on the pleadings and holding that the Workers' Compensation Act precludes a former employee from bringing a civil action against his former employer for a work-related asbestos injury, even if the employee's workers' compensation claim is time-barred under the Act).
- Served as national coordinating counsel for industry group in asbestos cases.
- Obtained defense verdicts in asbestos cases as regional counsel for a manufacturing defendant.
- Defended steel company employer in toxic tort case where plaintiff-employee attempted to bypass the worker's compensation bar and claimed that employer intentionally injured employee.
- Participated in and cross-examined experts and prepared post-trial brief in Frye hearing before the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The court ruled in favor of our client, a major automotive manufacturer, and found that the plaintiffs' experts lacked any methodology in arriving at their causation opinions.
- Handled Frye hearing for two Fortune 100 companies challenging the admissibility of plaintiffs' experts' methodology in toxic-tort litigation in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in February 2008.
- National science defense coordinator for two Fortune 100 companies in toxic-tort litigation. Involves expert development and oversight, trial preparation, coordination and strategy. Includes strategic oversight of numerous matters in 2007 and 2008.
- Obtained a defense verdict for a major automotive manufacturer following a five-and-a-half week trial involving a peritoneal mesothelioma claim brought by a 44-year-old gentleman. The matter involved a unique claim for design defect of company’s braking system.
- Obtained a defense verdict for an auto manufacturer following a two-and-a-half week asbestos trial. The jury found that the plaintiff had been exposed to asbestos, but that during the period of exposure, the auto manufacturer had not been negligent in placing asbestos-containing brakes into the market without a warning.
- Defended rubber company in multiple suits alleging personal injuries from exposure to hazardous wastes that were allegedly discarded by the company.
- Served as national coordinating counsel for a pharmaceutical company in its PPA diet and pharmaceutical products liability litigation. Representation includes responsibility for over 250 direct claims and approximately 540 contractual indemnity claims, oversight of local counsel in 18 states, oversight of federal Multi-District Litigation, and the development of corporate and expert witnesses.
- Member of the national asbestos defense team for Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation and a member of their national trial team. Included trying significant case to verdict in the Superior Court of Delaware in 2007.
- Served as national counsel for a contractor defendant in asbestos cases.