Toxic Tort Litigation
Businesses that make, use or dispose of chemicals and other potentially hazardous substances can face serious liability from claims of unsafe exposure by workers, neighbors or other third parties. Liability can occur even if the claims involve exposure decades ago, when the product may have been widely used and its health effects were not known.
Pepper Hamilton LLP is experienced in defending businesses against such "toxic tort" claims. We represent manufacturers and users of many chemicals and other substances in defense against individual claims and purported class actions for bodily injury and loss of property value due to exposure or proximity to hazardous materials, including hazardous waste sites. The firm defends miners and manufacturers of asbestos-containing products in workplace personal injury claims, and defends against class actions by owners of buildings demanding the removal of asbestos-containing building materials.
Toxic tort litigation frequently is related to state and federal environmental enforcement activity. Pepper is experienced in civil and criminal defense of enforcement actions and citizen suits involving all major federal environmental statutes, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, Superfund, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and many state and local environmental laws. The firm also counsels clients about environmental regulatory compliance efforts.
Our toxic tort engagements include representing:
- a glass manufacturer in defense of a federal class action by adjacent property owners seeking to recover response costs and property damages, including diminution of value, resulting from alleged contamination by arsenic used in manufacturing operations over a 70-year period; jury ruled in favor of client on all counts after four-week trial
- one of the world's largest technology and manufacturing companies in coordinating its nationwide defense against hundreds of asbestos premises liability personal injury claims
- a major information technology company in its defense against a 282-plaintiff federal lawsuit alleging loss of property values and health hazards as a result of dumping of solvents at a local farm by a predecessor company during the 1960s; the case was settled for a fraction of plaintiffs' pre-trial demand
- a tire manufacturer in defense against thousands of asbestos personal injury cases; most have been settled on very favorable terms for our client
- a chemical company in its defense against multiple occupational cancer claims resulting from exposure to bis-chloromethyl ether; the cases were settled for less than expected, and the litigation resulted in a procedure that resolved subsequent BCME claims without litigation
- a chemical company in its defense against multiple occupational cancer claims resulting from exposure to ethyl acrylate and methyl methacrylate; the cases were settled for reasonable amounts
- a manufacturer of asbestos-containing products in its nationwide defense against occupational asbestos exposure claims; of about 1,000 claims in the Philadelphia area, we settled 14 for a total of less than $150,000, tried one case to a plaintiff's verdict that was subsequently settled for $35,000, and secured dismissal on nearly all the rest
- a petrochemical company in its defense against a claim by a truck driver that his leukemia was caused by benzene exposure at a company plant; the case was settled for a small amount
- a chemical company in defense against a 100-plaintiff action alleging neurological injuries from chronic exposure to methylene chloride; the litigation was settled for a nominal amount
- a chemical company in its defense against a purported class action alleging that our client's industrial landfill contaminated nearby wells with trichloroethylene
- a rail company in multiple claims alleging injury caused by PCB contamination of a railroad yard; those cases were settled favorably for our client; we also helped negotiate consent decrees in a related Superfund cost recovery action and successfully sued the successor to a bankrupt railroad to share in those costs
- manufacturers of cutting and honing oils used extensively in heavy industry in successfully defending against litigation claiming that the lubricants cause cancer
- a natural gas utility in defense against a personal injury claim and government enforcement activity involving the accidental release of small amounts of mercury during removal of natural gas regulators from homes
- a natural gas utility in defense against personal injury, property damage, property value diminution and medical monitoring claims related to groundwater contamination from waste disposal from a manufactured gas site; settled claims by 20 families for a total of $90,000
- a tire manufacturer in defense against personal injury and property damage claims by 40 families alleging groundwater contamination from a landfill; cases were settled for $10,000 - $15,000 per family
- a petrochemical company in defense against a purported class action asserting property damage as a result of a pipeline rupture; class certification was denied
- a diversified manufacturing and chemical company in defense of multi-plaintiff litigation claiming injuries from exposure to fumes from packing materials; the case was settled for a small sum
- the owner of a paper mill in defense against personal injury and wrongful death actions involving a 99-vehicle collision on an interstate highway allegedly caused by dense fog from the client's plant
- a medical device manufacturer in class action litigation claiming that the materials used in making syringes was toxic to bovine embryos; the case was settled favorably to our client
- a chemical company in defense against litigation claiming extensive crop failure was due to a soil fumigant manufactured by our client; summary judgment was affirmed based on the Economic Loss Doctrine
- owners and operators of nuclear power plants and nuclear fuel processing plants in defense against personal injury and property damage litigation involving alleged radiation exposure
- an information technology company in ongoing litigation by workers claiming a variety of adverse reactions to hazardous substances in the workplace.
Pepper lawyers have taken leadership roles in the toxic tort bar (a partner chaired the Toxic Tort Committee of an American Bar Association Section; others have served in similar capacities for state and local bar associations) and speak and write frequently about toxic tort law.