Mass Torts and Industry-Wide Litigation


PRACTICE

Abbie Eliasberg Fuchs
Leader

PROFILE

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.

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 professionals to create inter-disciplinary litigation management teams that provide comprehensive, personalized defenses within fee structures that maximize their clients’ return on investment.

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.

Our mass torts and industrywide 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.

OUR SERVICES

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

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%.

 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 M. Winchester, is recognized by the Courts as a thought leader 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. 

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 practice, 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

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.

Our 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.

LEADER

Abbie Eliasberg Fuchs
Member

TEAM

Cynthia Weiss Antonucci
Member

Brian A. Bender
Member

Jacqueline Cavallaro
Associate

Kimberly A. Connick
Associate

Judi Abbott Curry
Member

Thomas A. DeSimon
Member

David J. Dino
Associate

Frederick H. Fern
Member

Anthony Fiumara
Senior Counsel

Terrance P. Flynn
Member

Abbie Eliasberg Fuchs
Member

Tahesha C. Gilpin
Associate

Pamela B. Goldsmith
Member

Stanley Goos
Member

Ross B. Hofherr
Associate

Kelly E. Jones
Member

Devika Kapoor
Associate

David H. Kochman
Member

Eric H. Lindenman
Senior Counsel

Michael J. Masino
Member

Joanna E. Menillo
Associate

Jenna C. Murray
Associate

Omar Nasar
Associate

Andrew J. Orenstein

Matthew M. Quirin
Associate

Jaime L. Regan
Associate

Steven J. Rice
Member

Syed Kazim Rizvi
Associate

Alexander D. Rosati
Senior Counsel

Robert A. Schaefer, Jr.
Senior Counsel

Steven A. Stadtmauer
Of Counsel

Mary R. Topfer
Associate

Bradley M. Wanner
Associate

Alan M. Winchester
Member