Toxic Tort Litigation

Our large and successful toxic tort practice is led by a group of trial lawyers who have emerged as leaders in the defense of industry and insurers in the region’s major toxic tort class actions and mass joinder cases, matters which often involve thousands of plaintiffs and multiple defendants, complex scientific issues and massive document productions.

With nine offices located throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Texas and Alabama, our toxic tort trial lawyers have extensive experience with judges and juries throughout the region, while also representing clients in similar matters in other parts of the United States.

Our attorneys defend suits against business and industry clients, including pipeline owners, refineries, chemical manufacturing facilities, pharmaceutical companies, the oil and gas industry, asbestos products manufacturers, the tobacco industry, railroads, and rail and tank car manufacturers and fleet owners. We have considerable knowledge and experience in challenging class certification that we have emphasized in defeating or limiting the scope of toxic tort cases for our clients.

Our understanding of science and medicine, which are key to the defense of these cases, allows us effectively to present our client’s defense. Our attorneys are skilled in dealing with key types of experts, including toxicologists, pulmonologists, air modelers, engineers, chemists, epidemiologists and others, and the medical causation issues typically present in these cases. We have developed a wide network of expert contacts and maintain an extensive reference library of medical and scientific literature. By their very nature, toxic tort cases are fact intensive and fact determinative; to that end, our paralegals and staff have the training and experience to identify and organize quickly key information gathered from the massive amounts of discovery typically produced in toxic tort cases. The use of in-house state-of-the-art computer technology and support personnel allows us efficiently and effectively to manage the large numbers of claimants and voluminous information characteristic of these cases.

Our toxic tort trial lawyers have experience in class actions, mass joinders and individual cases involving pipeline ruptures, facility releases, facility explosions, railcar accidents, various product and component exposures (tobacco, breast implants, asbestos, silica, benzene, lead paint, ethylene oxide, aluminum, herbicides, pesticides, cadmium, creosote, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, ammonia, isocyanates, formaldehyde and others) and off-site migration by water, air or land. Claims have included the following: physical property damage, diminution of property value, and “stigma” damages; actual physical injury and fear of future injury; cancers, including leukemia and other blood diseases; pneumoconiosis (asbestosis, silicosis and aluminum pneumoconiosis), reactive airways dysfunction syndrome and reactive upper airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS and RUDS); auto-immune dysfunction; neural tube defects; nerve damage; cognitive disabilities; and chromosomal damage; minor complaints of temporary headaches, nausea, and various other medical conditions.

Experience

Representative matters include:

  • Defense of a paint company in a trace benzene multiple myeloma case which resulted in the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana excluding the plaintiffs’ modeling expert witness under Daubert and subsequently dismissing all claims against the client. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s rulings in an unpublished opinion.
  • Defense of United Gas Pipe Line Company in the first two toxic tort class action cases that went to judgment in Louisiana. The first matter, Rivera v. United Gas, involved over 9000 individual claims, and resulted in a St. John the Baptist Parish jury returning a finding of no exemplary damage liability, awarding no compensatory damages to 19 of the 24 bellwether plaintiffs, and collectively awarding $7,500 to the remaining five plaintiffs.
  • Representation of The Dow Chemical Company in Spitzfaden v. Dow Corning Corporation in the Louisiana class action breast implant case.
  • Representation of Occidental Chemical Corporation in defense of a class action arising out of a chlorine release from the company's chemical manufacturing facility based in Louisiana. The release resulted in approximately 11,000 personal injury claims, as well as property damage and business interruption claims.
  • Defense of General American Transportation Company (the railcar owner) and GATX Terminals Corporation (the owner of the bulk terminal where the railcar was loaded) arising out of a butadiene leak and subsequent fire requiring the evacuation of approximately 10,000 residents of New Orleans and the 1-1/2-day closure of the interstate highway. The litigation, involving 8,000 class members, has proceeded through all levels of both the State and Federal courts.
  • Representation of a major railroad in three mass tort cases--one a class action, and two individual joinder cases--arising from a release of trichloroethylene from a railcar resulting in groundwater contamination at the Lake Charles switchyard.
  • Representation of United States Gypsum Company, one of two manufacturing defendants, in asbestos property damage claims for abatement of asbestos brought by nineteen school boards involving approximately 300 Louisiana public and parochial schools and the State of Louisiana involving 55 public buildings.
  • Representation of General American Transportation Company (the railcar owner) in a class action involving approximately 3,000 plaintiffs arising out of a styrene monomer accident which resulted in the evacuation of a large portion of the campus of Southern University and numerous injury claims.
  • Defense of a tank servicing company in two non class action mass tort actions in Central Louisiana arising from claimed environmental impact of hazardous wastes and naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) associated with a former hydrocarbon processing plant.
  • Representation of a chemical manufacturing company in a class action in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where several thousand claimants filed suit as a result of an ethylene dichloride release resulting in alleged groundwater contamination. Claimants alleged damages for personal injury, property damage, and diminution of property values.
  • Representation of Arcadian Chemical Company in defense of a class action in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where over 12,000 individuals filed suit as a result of an explosion of a urea reactor at the company's facility. Claimants alleged damages for personal injury, property damage, fear and fright, business interruption, and inconvenience.
  • Representation of a pipeline company in defense of separate releases of crude oil fumes. These cases involve approximately 4,000 claims for personal injury, property damage, and inconvenience.
  • Representation of Forman Petroleum Corporation in defense of personal injury and wrongful death claims involving allegations of long-term, occupational exposure to benzene and naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM).
  • Representation of Magnolia Chemical Company in a dermal absorption of benzene case.
  • Representation of CF Industries, Inc. in defense of a case, initially filed as a class action, which involved the release of anhydrous ammonia. The incident resulted in approximately 2,500 individual claims for personal injury, business interruption, and inconvenience. The plaintiffs sought to certify a class consisting of persons within a fifteen mile area of the release site. Class certification was opposed and defeated.
  • Representation of the owner of the nation's largest ammonia storage facility in an action that arose out of an ammonia release resulting in over 10,000 claims being made for both compensatory and punitive damages.
  • Representation of an insurer in lead paint litigation involving New Orleans Housing Authority by an 8-year-old girl for alleged cognitive dysfunction caused by ingestion of paint chips.
  • Representation of a group of clients, including Union Tankcar Company, GATX Terminals Corporation, Hertz and Rubicon, in defense of third-party and CERCLA claims arising out of a site in South Louisiana, a matter involving approximately 12,000 claims and several hundred defendants. We were appointed by the Court as liaison counsel for the third-party defendants and the CERCLA defendants.
  • One of our partners managed all asbestos personal injury litigation in Louisiana for Westinghouse Electric Corporation which involved 1,400 plaintiffs' claims, including service on the Medical Committee and responsibility for preparation of 130 plaintiffs' cases consolidated for trial. This also included trial responsibility for defense of 24 of 130 plaintiffs' medical claims in a six-month trial resulting in average low jury verdicts per plaintiff against national plaintiffs' attorney Ronald Motley.