Karen M. Sullivan


E ksullivan@wfbm.com
T (714) 634-2522
| F (714) 634-0686


Karen Sullivan has focused her practice for over 15 years on both product liability litigation ranging from consumer to industrial products and environmental litigation involving petroleum, diesel, benzene, diacetyl, asbestos, mold and other chemicals. She also has a proven track record in handling aviation, construction and commercial litigation.

Throughout her career, she has successfully represented companies and businesses by way of obtaining favorable rulings on complex and innovative dispositive and discovery motions and securing numerous dismissals through creative defense strategies.  Karen has extensive experience with law and motion practice and the handling of all phases of discovery (including expert intensive cases) in both complex and single party actions.  She has established a thorough understanding of complex scientific and medical epidemiology and issues resulting in much success during mediation and trial.

Karen was a member of the trial team featured on the Daily Journal’s 2013 Top 20 Defense Verdicts for its win in the carbon dioxide and petroleum exposure case of Gutierres v. Balch Petroleum, et al.

Representative Successes
  • Hensel Phelps v. Tremco – Summary judgment granted for the product manufacturer in a complex construction case where plaintiff alleged defects in a high rise condominium building.
  • Gutierres v. Balch Petroleum, et al. – Obtained a defense verdict for a general engineering contractor after a 5-week jury trial involving claims of exposure to carbon monoxide and other exhaust fumes.
  • Sacoy v. Rust-Oleum Corporation, et al. – Summary judgment granted for client on failure to warn and preemption in a product liability case.
  • Garcia-Singer v. Does 1 thru 100, et al. – Demurrer granted for a spray paint and chemical product manufacturing company in a solvent exposure case, which led to a dismissal with prejudice. The court agreed that plaintiffs’ overbroad description of categories of paints was not in compliance with the California law of Bockrath v. Aldrich Chemical Co., et al. requiring plaintiffs to identify specific products. This case has resulted in further narrowing of product identification in complaints by plaintiffs’ firms, helping prevent fishing expeditions by plaintiffs in toxic tort cases.
  • Gregorio v. 3M Company, et al. – Summary judgement granted in benzene exposure case.
  • Billing v. Akzo Nobel Paints LLC, et al. – Obtained summary adjudication of claims for punitive damages, breach of implied warranty, and negligence per se for a protective paint and coating manufacturing company in a case involving alleged benzene and other chemical exposure. The court agreed that the failure to identify a managing agent in response to written discovery was sufficient to defeat a claim for punitive damages. Further, the court agreed that insufficient and vague discovery responses prevented plaintiffs’ recovery for the causes of action of breach of implied warranties and negligence per se. The granting of this motion led to a nominal settlement by the client who was the last remaining defendant.
  • Sample v. Flint Ink Corporation, et al. – Obtained summary adjudication of spouse’s claim, and the punitive damages claim, in a case involving alleged exposure to printing chemicals.
  • Vega, et al. v. 3M Company, et al. – Summary judgment granted for a protective paint and coating manufacturing company in a case involving claimed exposure to printing chemicals. After almost two years of litigation, and despite the fact that there were dozens of records of sales of our client’s product to decedent’s former employer, as well as numerous witnesses who identified our client’s product at decedent’s former employment, the Court agreed there was no evidence that the decedent was present when the cans of spray paint were used, and thus no evidence of any actual exposure.
Industry Involvement

Professional Affiliations:

  • DRI, Women in Law

Speaking Engagements:

  • “Emerging Trends in Toxic Tort Litigation: From Hair Straighteners to E-Cigarettes” CPCU Conference in Wisconsin (March 2016)
  • “Hair Straighteners: The New Leukemia?” HarrisMartin Conference in Long Beach (December 2015)
  • “Recent Update in Toxic Tort Litigation” Chicago (September 2015)
  • “Benzene Litigation: From the Mountains to the Sea” Chicago and NYC (December 2014)
  • “2011 Year End Review of Toxic Tort Litigation” (New Hampshire (2012)
  • “Environmental Trends: Popcorn to Petroleum” CPCU Conference in Wisconsin (April 2011)
Beyond the Office

In her spare time, Karen enjoys running, snow-skiing, watching basketball and spending time with her husband and son.

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