Mass Torts and Industry-Wide Litigation
Practice Area

Harris Beach mass tort and industry-wide litigation attorneys have represented foreign and domestic clients of all sizes and industry affiliations in many of the most complex and precedent-setting mass torts filed in the last 30 years.  We are noted for our proprietary approach to large case management and e-discovery litigation support. Our attorneys are recognized as thought leaders on emerging issues; are active members of industry groups; and are sought-after educators who write and speak for bar associations, trade councils, companies and insurers. The Harris Beach Mass Torts and Industry-Wide Litigation Practice Group provides clients with the kind of experience and goal-oriented advice needed to achieve efficient, cost-effective results in large-scale litigation.

Special Litigation Requires Special Counsel

Litigation isn’t always a one-on-one endeavor. Frequently, large groups of defendants – even entire industries – are targeted by large groups of plaintiffs in cases involving claims of negligence, products liability, false advertising, public nuisance and other similar torts. These proceedings, which are typically coordinated in some fashion, often seek recovery for personal injuries or property damage arising out of a single occurrence or a discrete series of events (i.e. a product recall or an environmental release). However, they may also seek to modify the defendants’ business practices by asserting novel theories of liability designed to prompt judicial legislation. If the subject matter is compelling, mass torts can even attract significant media attention.

Whatever the plaintiffs’ aim or the media’s interest, mass tort litigation is a complicated and expensive process for defendants. While all cases proceed through the same general stages, mass torts are typically more difficult to resolve. As the number of interested parties increases, so does the volume of filings, disclosures, motions, coverage issues, potential conflicts and confidentiality concerns. Special court rules may apply; judges may exercise their right to control the proceedings; some of the defendants may opt to act as a group; individual defendants may need to manage their defense in multiple jurisdictions; brands may need to be protected; crisis-management strategies may have to be deployed; various levels of insurance and re-insurance may be implicated. In addition to the cost of the litigation itself, the threat of multi-million dollar verdicts can cause irreparable harm to a company’s reputation and financial stability.

Our mass torts and industry-wide litigation group brings a wealth of knowledge to bear on every matter it handles. Our attorneys understand the needs of their insured and self-insured clients and craft individualized, goal-oriented litigation plans to satisfy each of them. Group members focus on “shortest route” solutions and use the firm’s broad array of practice groups and staffers to create inter-disciplinary litigation management teams that provide comprehensive, personalized defenses within fee structures that maximize their clients’ return on investment.

Relevant Credentials

Harris Beach Mass Torts and Industry-Wide Litigation Practice Group attorneys are recognized for their ability to handle cases in which complex scientific and legal issues overlap. Group attorneys hold degrees or licenses in fields such as pharmacology, nursing, industrial hygiene, education, food and beverage operations, law enforcement and computer science. Others have held key positions in government, including United States Attorney for the Western District of New York.

Decades of Defense Work

For over 30 years, our mass torts and industry-wide litigation attorneys have put their knowledge to work as national, regional and local counsel in dozens of class actions, mass torts and multi-district litigations venued in federal and state courts throughout the country. They have defended manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, purchasers, property owners and other entities ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies.

Representative industries and products include:

  • Consumer Products
    • Computer keyboards
    • Fast food
    • Hair dye
    • Microwave popcorn
    • Pesticides
    • Residential windows
  • Drugs and Nutritional Supplements
    • Androstenedione (“Andro”)
    • Blood products
    • Diethylstilbestrol (“DES”)
    • Digitek
    • Ephedra
    • Fenfluramine/Phentermine
      (“Fen Phen”)
    • Hormone replacement therapies
    • Phenylpropanolamine (“PPA”)
    • Metoclopramide
    • Vaccines
  •    Manufacturing and Distribution
    • Aircraft
    • Asbestos
    • Benzene
    • Firearms
    • Laboratory chemicals
    • Lead paint
    • Methyl Tert-Butyl
      Ether (“MTBE”)
  • Medical Devices
    • Birth control devices
    • Breast implants
    • Contact lenses
    • Latex gloves
    • Pain pumps

Harris Beach attorneys routinely defend cases involving claims such as negligence, manufacturing/design defect, failure to warn, breach of warranty, public nuisance and consumer fraud. We also have tested novel legal theories or damages claims such as negligent distribution, market share liability, Sick Building Syndrome, Gulf War Syndrome and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Our representative matters include such notable mass torts as World Trade Center Disaster Site Litigation, IBM Workers Semi-Conductor Litigation, In Re Diet Drugs (Phen-Fen) Litigation, In Re DES Litigation, Infusion Pain Pump Litigation, Happyland Social Club Fire Litigation, Asbestos Floor Tile Litigation and class actions such as NAACP v. American Arms (hand gun distribution), Pelman v. McDonald’s (fast food obesity claims) and multi-district litigations involving silicone breast implants, Digitek, Zicam, Factor VII and Ephedra.

Creative Case Management

Our Mass Tort and Industry-Wide Litigation Practice Group does not take a one-size-fits-all or volume-based approach to case management. The institutional knowledge gained from being involved in every aspect of mass tort litigation for 30 years enables our group to handle each case individually and to make prompt, effective decisions as the litigation unfolds. Our attorneys can serve as national, regional or local counsel; sit on litigation steering committees; manage phased discovery; draft case management orders and operate under joint defense/expert sharing/confidentiality agreements. We can also handle large-scale document management/production, engage in alternative dispute resolution, file complex dispositive motions, negotiate mass/structured settlements, challenge experts whose opinions are based on “junk science” and take whatever other action is required to further the client’s litigation strategy.

Range of Services

Mass torts typically require defendants to manage high volumes of written and computerized information, attend many depositions and maintain a large number of individual plaintiff files. In some cases, this information has to be coordinated in different jurisdictions; in others, a central message has to be communicated to media outlets. We are able to provide these services seamlessly and cost-effectively by leveraging other firm resources, thereby minimizing the need for additional retentions and vendor engagements. One of the most commonly used resources is e-discovery.

Our E-Discovery (e-infoSM)

The attorneys in the e-info Practice Group are leaders in the areas of applying dataset analysis and computer-assisted predictive coding to the challenges of complex litigation and investigations. This benefits our clients with substantial improvement in the analysis of their documents while lowering the total cost through increased efficiencies. Our e-discovery predictive-coding solutions are powered by software which acts as an efficiency engine to leverage attorneys’ analytical skills and Technology-Assisted Review (TAR) to increase accuracy in review by up to 70%, dramatically reduce review timeframes by up to 50% and cut client costs by up to 50%.

E-Discovery has become a significant cost component of litigation and government or regulatory investigations. It is also an area fraught with risk since sanctions and claims of spoliation are now common in large litigation cases. As a law firm with state-of-the-art technology, Harris Beach is well positioned to meet the defensibility and cost challenges associated with e-discovery. We leverage predictive-coding to make e-discovery reasonable for any litigation, regardless of size or industry, and we provide these services to a wide range of organizations, including national law firms. We have routinely been named as a “Go To” law firm for litigation e-discovery in the In House Law Departments at the Top 500 Companies as published by Corporate Counsel. The e-info Practice Group leader, Alan Winchester, is recognized by the Courts as an expert in this area and has been appointed to chair the Operations e-Discovery Working Group. This group has drafted legislation and participates in the training for judges to improve the practice of electronic discovery.

The e-info team frequently assists our mass torts and industry-wide litigation group by overseeing electronic discovery, establishing client-specific secure extranet systems and maintaining our paperless document management system, brief bank and expert/transcript databases.

Industry Leadership

Our mass torts and industry-wide litigation attorneys belong to and support a wide variety of organizations, including the American Bar Association; New York State Bar Association; New York Trial Lawyers Association; New York Women’s Bar Association; Defense Research Institute; Council on Litigation Management; American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics;  American Society for Pharmacy Law; American Pharmaceutical Association; American Association of Nurse Attorneys; National Association of Insurance Women; American Chemical Society; The Sedona Conference; and the Emerging and Environmental Claims Managers Association. Because our attorneys constantly monitor developments in their areas of expertise, they are regularly asked to author articles for, and deliver speeches to, these and other groups on topics related to past experience, as well as emerging issues such as climate change litigation, “greenwashing” and nanotechnology.

Non-Legal Professional Services through our Subsidiary

Harris Beach recognizes that client solutions often involve more than just legal needs. Consequently, we offer a unique, comprehensive approach to meeting our clients’ pressing non-legal challenges through our affiliated consulting subsidiary, HB Solutions LLC.

HB Solutions’ consultants provide controversial and crisis management services to help clients identify the branding problems posed by a mass tort; develop, implement and maintain a response plan; train affected personnel; and take necessary steps to preserve their public standing and market share.

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Defense includes occupational toxic exposures as well as consumer toxic exposures.
  • Biomedical Products
  • Chemicals and Chemical Products
  • Cosmetics, Health, and Beauty Products
  • Food and Food Supplements, Pet Food
  • Indoor Air Quality
  • Medical Devices and Equipment
  • Nanotechnology
  • Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs
We also provide crisis counseling and risk management such as:
  • Advising on Regulatory Changes and Coordinating Regulatory Compliance
  • Defending Investigations on Enforcement Actions
  • Developing Compliance Programs
We assist our clients with reducing liability risk in:
  • Labeling
  • Marketing
  • Packaging
  • Sales
  • Testing