Practice/Industry Group Overview
Morris Polich & Purdy LLP has more than 35 years of experience providing cutting-edge representation in environmental, chemical and toxic exposure matters, including litigation, regulatory compliance, enforcement and business transactions.
We represent clients at every level of the supply chain in individual, mass tort and class action litigation seeking damages for injuries, diseases and deaths allegedly caused by exposure to chemicals or other environmental hazards. Our extensive experience in this area includes matters arising from exposure in the home, the workplace and from the environment with alleged injuries including various types of cancer, organ disease and birth defects. Morris Polich & Purdy understands the effect that such claims can have upon our clients’ reputations in their industry. Our experience in this area has helped us to develop numerous strategies for seeking early dismissal of our clients from these costly claims. We also advise on risk management strategies in order to avoid toxic tort litigation.
A CROSS SECTION OF OUR EXPERIENCE
The litigators in Morris Polich & Purdy’s Toxic Tort practice area have handled numerous significant injury and mass tort cases over the last 30 years in federal and state courts nationwide, including many California Judicial Council Coordinated Proceedings and Multidistrict Litigations.
- We represented the owner of a 400 acre property that had historically been used as a weapons testing facility. Represented by the Girardi Keese law firm, approximately 100 plaintiffs alleged that they suffered both personal injuries and property damage caused by the release of several contaminants from the site, including hexavalent chromium. The case was settled on terms favorable to the firm’s client. Additionally, the client recovered most of its settlement outlay through an indemnity cross-complaint filed against prior owners of the site.
- We served as national counsel for a latex glove manufacturer in cases filed nationwide. Over the life of the litigation, there were in excess of 250 plaintiffs, who claimed that exposure to latex and airborne proteins caused allergic reactions. The firm was solely responsible for coordinating this litigation in all state and federal courts and was on the Steering Committee for the litigation. We focused on product identification as the threshold issue and developed procedures for early identification of manufacturers and automatic dismissals when plaintiffs could not establish exposure to our client’s product. These procedures resulted in the dismissal of the firm’s client from over 50 percent of its cases before significant case-specific costs were incurred.
- In another case, 350 plaintiffs claimed a wide variety of diseases, including cancers, from ingestion of allegedly contaminated water provided by our client, a public water utility. The case went to the California Supreme Court on the issue of the liability of water providers controlled by the Public Utilities Commission. On remand from the California Supreme Court, the water utility was found not liable, a decision which was upheld in the resulting appeal.
- A partner at our firm served as counsel for a public utility sued by 600 area residents claiming damage caused by exposure to and ingestion of hexavalent chromium in groundwater and the air.
- In the Breast Implant Litigation, we acted as regional counsel for one of the leading manufacturers of breast implants. We directly handled more than 2,500 California cases and supervised 3,500 additional cases in nine western states. We were ultimately able to obtain summary judgment in all cases, which was affirmed by the California Supreme Court in a landmark opinion on the extent of shareholder’s “duty” and the applicability of “negligent undertaking.”
- A partner at our firm represented two defendants in an action brought by 175 workers in various film laboratories in Hollywood. Plaintiffs alleged that exposures to various chemicals used in developing film caused their personal injuries. After three years of litigation, a favorable settlement was achieved.
- A Caltrans employee suffering from cancer and lung disease sued a number of chemical manufacturers contending that his exposure to pesticides used in controlling freeway vegetation caused his injuries. Based on our analysis of voluminous Caltrans records and technical literature, we were able to demonstrate an absence of any causal relationship between plaintiff’s injuries and our client’s product, and we were able to obtain a dismissal.
- We served as counsel for a producer of silica sand regarding silicosis actions brought by 250 plaintiffs. Plaintiffs were workers in a ceramics facility who claimed that the client’s sand was the cause of their silicosis. The case centered on adequate warning. After several years of litigation for a waiver of costs, the cases were dismissed by plaintiffs.
- A partner at our firm was engaged as coordinating counsel for all out-of-state DES litigation on behalf of a major pharmaceutical company. He supervised litigation involving 600 plaintiffs in approximately 35 states and coordinated discovery, briefing and strategy. He prepared experts for deposition and trial in medical and market share areas, supervised the computer database and served as a representative for the client to the Committee of DES National Counsel and a liaison with member companies on issues of common concern.
- We served as coordinating counsel for the manufacturer of polymer-based dermal fillers and defendants’ liaison counsel in the California Judicial Council Coordinated Proceeding statewide product liability litigation brought by dozens of plaintiffs against the manufacturer and its former officers and employees. Over the plaintiffs’ vigorous opposition, we were able to coordinate cases filed in 38 different courts around the state into one JCCP. We were able to settle the majority of plaintiffs’ cases after filing one motion for summary judgment on federal preemption grounds.
- A series of complex cases named our client in allegations involving progressive lung injuries caused by exposure to aluminum oxide and other metal dusts common in metal manufacturing processes. The plaintiffs sued dozens of chemical, machinery and raw material suppliers on negligence, fraud and strict liability theories. We were successful in a summary judgment by convincing the Court to extend the "bulk supplier defense" to manufacturers of grinding and cutting machinery. Before this ruling, no California court had extended that defense to machinery manufacturers.
- We represented a chemical manufacturer in a multi-party products liability case. The plaintiff sued over 30 defendants, alleging injuries from exposure to various chemicals during his employment at industrial manufacturing facilities. We prevailed on a summary judgment challenging the sufficiency of plaintiff’s product identification evidence.
- We were national counsel for the manufacturer of the active pharmaceutical ingredient in the OxyContin Litigation. Our attorneys defended hundreds of lawsuits in state and federal courts. We were successful in defeating attempts to consolidate the lawsuits in federal court, thereby reducing the risk of hundreds or even thousands more tag-along actions.
- We represented a national distributor of pharmaceuticals in various mass torts including Fen-Phen, PPA, Baycol, Rezulin and Vioxx. In the PPA Litigation, we were selected by the defense group to serve as liaison counsel to the plaintiffs, the manufacturers and the Court. Our efforts resulted in the dismissal of most cases against our client, as well as an acceptance by manufacturers of our client’s tender of defense. Our strategy in the PPA Litigation has now been adopted in other mass tort litigations, thereby streamlining the acceptance of our client’s tenders.
- Our client, a roofing contractor, was sued by several teachers and students who alleged injuries caused by exposure to chemicals emanating from roofing system components during roofing work at several schools in Southern California. At a binding arbitration, we established that the roofing system could not have caused the alleged injuries.
- Three workers at a water treatment plant were killed when they were exposed to sulfur dioxide. Their heirs sued our client, a construction subcontractor who built the structure where the exposure allegedly occurred. We established that our client's work did not cause the release of sulfur dioxide.
- Our client, a premises owner, was sued by tenants alleging a long list of bodily injuries caused by long-term exposure to significant levels of mold. Our attorneys convinced the trier of fact that the scientific evidence did not support the plaintiffs’ theories.
- We obtained a dismissal of a wrongful death case against a supplier of adhesive products used in furniture manufacturing. Plaintiffs alleged that the decedent’s exposure to our client’s adhesive products during his employment as an upholsterer caused the decedent to suffer fatal liver disease and liver cancer.