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Toxic Tort Law

Walsworth’s toxic tort lawyers have extensive experience litigating cases involving every major toxin at issue in the last twenty years. We have represented a variety of clients, including manufacturers, distributors, retailers, material suppliers, property owners, end-users and public utilities, to name a few.

We have handled cases involving anywhere from one to tens of thousands of claimants, brought either as class actions, aggregate actions, or separately filed lawsuits spanning multiple jurisdictions. Cases we have handled include matters filed or removed to federal court, under diversity principles and under the federal Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), as well as those placed in the federal multidistrict litigation program.

Our philosophy is to work closely with our clients to develop a defense strategy unique to each client and each case in order to obtain the client’s stated objectives in the most cost-effective way. Our case-ending approach to litigation has resulted in numerous early dismissals, successful rulings on motions for summary judgments, defense verdicts at trial and favorable settlements, all with as little impact to our clients’ bottom line as possible.

Not only are our toxic tort lawyers well-versed in all aspects of litigation discovery and pretrial fact investigation, but we have developed relationships with many of the premier defense experts in the field and have gained a comprehensive understanding of the complex science and medicine involved in defending these claims.

Our reputation as a defense firm with skilled litigators at the forefront of the latest developments in toxic tort litigation has also resulted in invitations to speak and share our knowledge with clients and at industry conferences.

The chemicals at issue in cases we handle are extensive and include:

  • Benzene and other petroleum hydrocarbons including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel
  • Volatile organic compounds and organic solvents
  • Pesticides
  • Formaldehyde
  • Styrene
  • Diacetyl
  • Paint
  • Mold
  • Lead
  • Silica
  • Welding Fumes
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Carbide
  • Tungsten
  • Asbestos

Representative Successes

  • Harkin v. Refinery Labor Company – Successfully secured a defense verdict for a refinery labor company in a personal injury mesothelioma case alleging exposure to asbestos during work at a San Francisco Bay area refinery. Following four weeks of trial, the jury found that no asbestos exposure was attributable to the defendant company.
  • Desimone v. Select 1 Realty – Represented owners and managers of a leased residential property where the plaintiffs/tenants claimed that a four-month-old baby died as the result of exposure to mold, allegedly caused by water leaks in the home. Following the retention and review of the case by our expert, the defense position was that the baby died as the result of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The plaintiffs ultimately accepted an extremely low value settlement.
  • LaMonica v. Consumer Products Company – Secured a defense verdict for a worldwide consumer products company in a personal injury mesothelioma case alleging exposure from a personal care product allegedly tainted with asbestos and asbestos-containing joint compound products used on the job. After more than three months of trial, the jury returned a resounding 12-0 decision for our client.
  • DePree v. Wholesale Distributor – Secured a non-suit during trial for a wholesale distributor of talc that was used in the manufacture of other products in a case involving a maintenance man who developed mesothelioma.
  • People v. Pacific Custom Materials, Inc. – Resolved a claim, well short of trial and for a modest penalty, on behalf of a manufacturer of concrete aggregate products in a claim for civil penalties arising out of alleged air permit violations caused by exceedances of several regulated chemicals and metals, including lead.
  • Gutierres v. Balch Petroleum, et al. – Obtained a defense verdict for a general engineering contractor after a five-week jury trial involving claims of exposure to carbon monoxide and other exhaust fumes.
  • Graves v. Meredith – Summary judgment granted in favor of a building owner based on the statute of limitations for injuries allegedly related to its “sick building.” The court of appeal upheld the judgment and awarded costs.
  • Environmental World Watch v. Pacific Custom Materials, Inc. – Successfully resolved a claim for a nominal amount well before trial on behalf of a manufacturer of concrete aggregate products defending claims by several surrounding neighbors and community activists alleging personal injury, property damage, and various statutory violations arising out of emissions of chemicals and metals, including lead.
  • Lee v. ITW Food Equipment Group LLC – Summary judgment granted in favor of a refrigeration equipment maintenance company based on no duty of care. Multiple plaintiffs claimed personal injuries as a result of prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide in the workplace.
  • Llamas v. Yosemite Waters – Successfully resolved a lead exposure case for a water company during trial, involving three minors claiming excessive lead exposure allegedly caused by the solder used in a water storage tank.
  • Maxton v. Western Metals, et al. – A unanimous Court of Appeal panel affirmed summary judgment in favor of suppliers of raw materials to a metal fabrication company under the component parts doctrine. The plaintiff claimed injuries resulting from occupational exposure to metal fumes and dust.
  • Cervantes v. Bortz Products, Inc., et al. – Summary judgment granted based on the statute of limitations in favor of a chemical manufacturer and distributor in a personal injury case involving exposure to products containing benzene or benzene derivatives.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Johnson v. Estate of Albert Ross – Favorably settled a case after the claims were severely narrowed on summary adjudication in favor of a residential landlord defending personal injury claims brought by mother and child related to lead and mold exposure in their home.
  • Minor Defendant v. Landlord – Successfully settled a claim in favor of a residential landlord in a case involving an adolescent’s ingestion of paint, which allegedly raised his blood lead count to a dangerous level.
  • Sample v. Flint Ink Corporation, et al. – Obtained summary adjudication of a 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.