Quinn emanuel trial lawyers

Product Liability and Mass Torts Litigation

Introduction Print

The lawyers in the Product Liability and Mass Torts Group at Quinn Emanuel are nationally recognized leaders in the field and have been twice named the “Product Liability Practice Group of the Year” by Chambers USA (2015, 2014).  Our lawyers have been involved in many of the most significant complex tort and consumer fraud litigations of the last 30 years, many of which were and are considered “bet-the-company” matters.  Our lawyers pioneered the “national counsel” model of handling mass tort litigation, serving in this capacity in cases involving pharmaceutical drugs, asbestos, chemicals, silicone gel breast implants, smokeless tobacco, diet drugs, medical devices and equipment, genetically modified crops, alcoholic beverages, laptop computers, consumer products, and building materials.  Our attorneys have also been involved with some of the highest-profile mass torts and crises of recent time, including the Fukushima nuclear accident, the BP oil spill, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.

Quinn Emanuel is frequently chosen by Fortune 100 companies to oversee their most significant cases.  For instance, we serve as national counsel to Pfizer Inc. in cases involving the company’s cholesterol-lowering medicine, Lipitor; the antidepressant medication, Zoloft; and its epilepsy and neuropathic pain medication, Neurontin®.  Likewise, we are national products liability counsel for Colgate-Palmolive Company, lead national counsel for The Coca-Cola Company in defense of purported class actions challenging the allegedly deceptive marketing of vitaminwater® beverages, and national counsel for State Farm in homeowners’ coverage cases arising out of Hurricane Katrina and Storm Sandy.

In addition, our lawyers have  successfully served as appellate counsel in landmark cases in state and federal appellate courts—including the United States Supreme Court—on significant class action and tort law issues.

Our attorneys are widely regarded as some of the premier product liability attorneys in the United States, and have been recognized repeatedly as the “go to” lawyers by numerous legal publications, including Chambers USA (2017, 2016, 2015, 2014), Law360 (2016, 2015), The International Who’s Who of Product Liability Defence Lawyers (2013), The Best Lawyers in America (2017, 2016, 2015, 2014), Fortune (2014). 

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Recent Representations Print

APPEALS

  • In the federal multidistrict litigation, In re Zoloft, several hundred plaintiffs alleged that use of Zoloft, an antidepressant sold by Pfizer, during pregnancy caused children to be born with birth defects. We, as national and lead counsel for Pfizer, led a defense team that secured an important appellate ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in which the court unanimously affirmed the exclusion of the plaintiffs’ key causation expert evidence under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), and entry of summary judgment in favor of Pfizer.
  • In Porter v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., the plaintiffs alleged that use of Zoloft, an antidepressant sold by Pfizer, during pregnancy caused their child to be born with a birth defect known as omphalocele. We, as national and lead counsel for Pfizer, led a defense team that secured an important appellate ruling in the Pennsylvania Superior Court, in which the court unanimously affirmed the exclusion of the plaintiffs’ key causation expert evidence under the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence (which adopts the standard for expert evidence set forth in Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923)) and entry of summary judgment in favor of Pfizer.
  • We represent Pfizer in hundreds of asbestos cases alleging that Pfizer is liable as the "apparent manufacturer" of products manufactured by its former subsidiary Quigley Company.  Plaintiffs have pursued this "apparent manufacturer" theory because all other claims against Pfizer involving Quigley products are enjoined and channeled to a bankruptcy trust, which Pfizer funded with approximately $1 billion.  Pfizer has successfully obtained summary judgment in every "apparent manufacturer" case decided to date, including cases in state and federal court in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington.  On May 31, 2016, in a reported decision, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals unanimously affirmed summary judgment, holding that Pfizer was not an "apparent manufacturer" of Quigley products as a matter of law.  This decision effectively wipes out over 500 pending cases in Maryland state court and sets a valuable precedent for Pfizer as it continues to fight these cases in other courts around the country. 
  • We obtained a unanimous decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, affirming partial judgment in a False Claims Act case against Pfizer.  In this qui tam action, a former employee alleged that Pfizer promoted Lipitor, its top-selling cholesterol-lowering medicine, “off-label,” claiming that Pfizer sales representatives and marketing materials promoted Lipitor for use by certain patients whose cholesterol levels were not low enough to warrant treatment based on national cholesterol guidelines.  The Second Circuit  affirmed the district court’s decision to dismiss these claims, rejecting the relator’s entire theory of “off-label” marketing.  It concluded that cholesterol guidelines summarized in the label merely “provide[d] advice and (unsurprisingly) guidance, ‘not mandatory limitation.’”  The Court also questioned whether the conduct alleged – off-label marketing by sales representative or through promotional materials – could even constitute a false claim to the government.
  • We successfully represented Colgate-Palmolive Co. in an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit challenging the denial of Colgate’s motions to vacate orders remanding two asbestos-related cases to state court.  The court of appeals, sitting en banc, agreed with our argument that 28 U.S.C. 1447(d)’s prohibition on “review[]” of  remand orders does not preclude “vacatur” of a remand order pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(3) due to fraud, misrepresentations, or other misconduct in procuring that order.  This ground-breaking decision provides a powerful new tool for the defense bar and ensures that federal courts are not impotent when plaintiffs and their counsel seek to avoid federal jurisdiction through misconduct.  
  • Our attorneys won one of the most important business cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court for State Farm, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408 (2003), which set constitutional limits on punitive damage awards.
  • We obtained a 9-0 win in the U.S. Supreme Court for Shell Oil in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, 133 S. Ct. 1659 (2013), which held that the Alien Tort Statute does not apply to alleged violations of international law that take place within the sovereign territory of a foreign nation.
  • We obtained a 6-2 win in the U.S. Supreme Court for Wyeth in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, 131 S. Ct. 1068 (2011), which held that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act expressly preempts state-law design-defect claims against manufacturers of childhood vaccines.
  • Our attorneys obtained a 7-2 win in the U.S. Supreme Court for Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company, in Buckley v. Metro North, 521 U.S. 424 (1997), a landmark case holding that asymptomatic workers exposed to asbestos cannot recover for emotional distress and medical monitoring.

CURRENT REPRESENTATIONS

  • We are lead trial counsel for major consumer products company in cases venued throughout the country in which individuals claimed to have contracted asbestos-related diseases from body talcum powders formerly manufactured by Colgate. Since we became involved in 2010, through aggressive litigation strategy, we have achieved dismissals in many cases, held steady the total number of remaining case filings, and have not suffered a loss in any. In 2013, we won a Frye/Parker hearing challenging Plaintiffs’ testing experts in the New York City Asbestos Litigation docket. The judge presiding over that motion noted that the victory was “unprecedented” in New York. Last year, we tried three cases to juries in Los Angeles, and Colgate obtained complete defense verdicts in all three cases. We also obtained a summary judgment victory in San Francisco last year.
  • We are lead national counsel for Pfizer Inc. and Greenstone LLC in an MDL proceeding in federal court in Pennsylvania alleging that the use of certain prescription antidepressant medications during pregnancy caused birth defects to infants exposed in utero.
  • We are representing SEACOR Holdings, Inc., O’Brien’s Response Management, L.L.C., and National Response Corporation in a large number of cases relating to the DEEPWATER HORIZON oil spill clean-up, all of which have been transferred to and consolidated with an MDL in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. In the MDL, the court named us as defense liaison counsel for all defendants that participated as clean-up responders during the response; thousands of claims have been filed against these responders, who were engaged in a variety of aspects of a highly complex clean-up in the Gulf of Mexico, including dispersant operations, skimming of oil, in situ burning, vessel decontamination, and onshore/beach clean-up efforts. We previously obtained a significant victory for SEACOR in In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig DEEPWATER HORIZON in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, No. 2:10-MD-2179, 2011 WL 4829905 (Oct. 12, 2011), aff’d, No. 11-31172, 11-31178, 11-31179, 11-31180, 11-31181, 11-31183, 2012 WL 6203601 (5th Cir. Dec. 13. 2012), when the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the MDL court’s dismissal of all claims related to SEACOR vessels’ emergency response efforts, including their efforts to extinguish the fire aboard the DEEPWATER HORIZON rig, on foreseeability grounds.
  • We are representing a major chemical manufacturer with respect to multiple mass tort claims alleging that toxic chemicals have migrated from a CERCLA cleanup site, purportedly causing personal injuries and diminished property values as to over 1,000 people.
  • We are representing Pfizer in litigation alleging occupational exposure to asbestos products manufactured by Pfizer’s former subsidiary, Quigley Inc, and we recently obtained summary judgment on behalf of Pfizer. Granting Pfizer motion for summary judgment, the federal district court held that the doctrine of apparent manufacturer was inapplicable because Pfizer had nothing to do with the product beyond applying its trademarks to some of the sales and marketing materials. This order potentially impacts hundreds of similar claims.
  • We are representing Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Forest Laboratories, Inc in personal injury litigation alleging that the use of Forest’s prescription medications during pregnancy caused birth defects to infants exposed in utero.
  • We currently represent Vintage Pharmaceuticals, LLC, an affiliate of Endo, in connection with hundreds of claims alleging personal injuries arising from Vintage’s manufacture and distribution of certain generic prescription medications.
  • We are currently national counsel and lead MDL counsel for Pfizer in the defense of thousands of product liability personal injury actions alleging that one of Pfizer’s leading medications caused plaintiffs to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • We are currently representing Intuitive Surgical with respect to medical device personal injury claims relating to its robotics surgical system.
  • We represent affiliates of Koch Industries in defense of class actions and governmental lawsuits relating to the storage of petroleum coke, fugitive dust emissions, and state and municipal regulatory challenges.
  • We are lead trial counsel for Pfizer in cases pending around the country related to the use of a medication used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease. The cases raise cutting edge issues related to the liability of innovator pharmaceutical companies for uses of generic drugs in the wake of new law from the U.S. Supreme Court in Pliva, Inc. v. Mensing (June 2011). On behalf of Pfizer, we successfully defeated plaintiffs’ assertion of the novel theory of “innovator liability” under which they sought to hold brand-name manufacturers like Pfizer liable for injuries allegedly caused by generic products. Although innovator liability has received mostly negative treatment in state and federal courts elsewhere, it has met with some success in a few state courts, and had been untested in New York state court, where Pfizer is headquartered. The New York Supreme Court granted our motion to dismiss the claims as a matter of law, agreeing with our argument that Pfizer did not owe a duty of care to a consumer of a generic medication manufactured by another company.

NOTABLE PAST REPRESENTATIONS

  • We represent Pfizer in litigation alleging that use of Zoloft during pregnancy has caused birth defects in some children.  On December 23, 2016, the Mass Litigation Panel of West Virginia entered an order granting summary judgment in the last two West Virginia cases.  At the outset, there were almost 40 cases pending before the Panel, filed by a Texas attorney seeking to avoid the federal multidistrict litigation.  In 2014, we had successfully obtained dismissal on grounds of forum non conveniens of 29 cases, while others were voluntarily dismissed, leaving only 4 cases remaining in West Virginia state court.  Earlier this year, we successfully moved for summary judgment in two of those cases.  The remaining two were scheduled for trial in mid-January, but as a result of consistent pressure applied by us during discovery, Plaintiffs withdrew their liability expert and we moved for summary judgment.  Rejecting the Plaintiffs’ arguments that an expert witness on the adequacy of the Zoloft label was not required, the Panel granted our motion for summary judgment.
  • We represent a major consumer products company in product liability litigation regarding a cosmetic talcum powder product once manufactured and sold by our client, and recently received a grant of summary judgment on liability on its behalf. Plaintiff alleged that talc is naturally contaminated with asbestos, and that a cosmetic talcum powder product sold by our client exposed Plaintiff to dangerous levels of asbestos and caused the Plaintiff’s mesothelioma. While our client disputes that its cosmetic-grade talc was ever contaminated with asbestos, even taking all of the Plaintiff’s allegations as true, Plaintiff only alleged that some, but not all, talcum powder product containers were contaminated. Under well-settled California law, such evidence is too speculative to create a triable issue of fact regarding whether the plaintiff was exposed to asbestos in a product and thus insufficient for a plaintiff to meet her burden at summary judgment. The Superior Court for San Francisco County agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of our client. This is a critical victory for our client and will impact both pending and potential future cases filed against them in California and potentially other jurisdictions.
  • We represent a major consumer products company in product liability personal injury litigation regarding a cosmetic talcum powder product once manufactured and sold by our client, and recently received a full defense jury verdict on its behalf in the Superior Court for Los Angeles County. Plaintiff alleged that talc is naturally contaminated with asbestos, and that a cosmetic talcum powder product sold by our client exposed Plaintiff to dangerous levels of asbestos and caused the Plaintiff’s mesothelioma. Our client disputes that its cosmetic-grade talc was ever contaminated with asbestos. This is Quinn Emanuel’s third-straight defense jury verdict on behalf of this client in six months. After each verdict, the jurors have credited the strength and credibility of the defense experts, and Quinn Emanuel’s cross-examinations that exposed the analytical gaps in Plaintiff’s theories of the key issues of product defect and causation.
  • We represented Pfizer Inc. in a class action challenging the efficacy of its highly successful antidepressant, Zoloft. Plaintiff claimed she had taken the medication for three years but it had not worked. She sought the return of all monies paid by everyone in California who had taken Zoloft since it was approved in 1991. On August 29, 2014, Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California granted Pfizer’s motion to dismiss, with prejudice.
  • Our attorneys have served as national coordinating counsel for State Farm for hundreds of lawsuits arising out of Hurricane Katrina (and now Storm Sandy), and directed the legal defense at the appellate and trial court levels; representative victories include Wiley v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 538 F.3d 206 (5th Cir. 2009); Broussard v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 523 F.3d 618 (5th Cir. 2008), Tuepker v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 507 F.3d 346 (5th Cir. 2007), and In re: Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191 (5th Cir. 2007), cert. denied, 128 S. Ct. 1231 (2008).
  • Our attorneys successfully represented State Farm in federal and state appellate and trial courts across the country, including the supervision and preparation of winning appellate briefs in the Illinois Supreme Court in Avery v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 835 N.E.2d 801 (Ill. 2005), which resulted in the reversal and dismissal of a $1.1 billion judgment against the insurer, and in Hill v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 166 Cal. App. 4th 1438 (2008), which affirmed summary judgment for insurer in a certified nationwide class action contending the insurer had up to $47 billion in excess surplus.
  • Our attorneys represented Bovis Lend Lease and secured a favorable outcome in the World Trade Center MDL mass tort litigation involving thousands of claims made by emergency workers arising out of the debris removal operations following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
  • Our attorneys represented and provided crisis management counseling to a multinational company in connection with the Fukushima, Japan nuclear accident.
  • We were trial counsel for Wyeth in a nationwide bellwether class action in the State of Louisiana, in which plaintiffs claimed that an implantable birth control manufactured by Wyeth was defectively designed. On the eve of trial, we secured a global settlement ending all matters on terms favorable to defendant.
  • Our attorneys represented a major drug manufacturer in Fen-Phen (diet drug) litigation involving thousands of individual and class action lawsuits, alleging a variety of injuries, including valvular heart disease and pulmonary hypertension. No judgment was ever entered against our client, and it did not pay any money for any settlements.
  • Our lawyers secured a significant victory for Amgen, Inc. when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court ruling dismissing with prejudice the plaintiffs’ claims that Amgen allegedly engaged in a scheme to promote off-label uses of Amgen’s anemia medicines.
  • We obtained a significant victory on behalf of G-I Holdings, Inc. Chief United States District Judge Garrett E Brown. Jr. and Bankruptcy Judge Rosemary Gambardella, both of the District of New Jersey, confirmed the company’s plan of reorganization, which included a global settlement with representatives for present and future asbestos claimants, its largest creditor constituency, to establish a $775 million asbestos trust under 524(g) of the bankruptcy code.
  • Our attorneys represented Pfizer and two of its subsidiaries, Wyeth and Pharmacia & Upjohn Company, in the affirmance of a summary judgment ruling dismissing claims brought against the company in connection with its hormone therapy (HT) medicines. We subsequently were able to leverage this and other victories to achieve a favorable settlement of thousands of individual claims.
  • Our attorneys were lead national counsel for Chiron with regard to a series of matters relating to the production of its flu vaccine. The allegations led to Congressional, SEC, and federal criminal investigations, as well as product liability and shareholder derivative lawsuits.
  • Our attorneys defended Toyobo, a major Japanese fiber manufacturer, in federal and state False Claims Act cases, nationwide consumer fraud class actions, foreign claims, suits and investigation by states attorneys general, and personal injury claims arising from the sale of a high-performance fiber used in the manufacture of hundreds of thousands of bullet-resistant vests.
  • Our attorneys represented Cooper Tire in defense of more than 30 class actions nationwide and a multi-district litigation that arose from claims asserted under state consumer fraud statutes involving the sale of over 170 million tires.
  • Our lawyers secured a victory for Pfizer in its first personal injury case to go to trial in an MDL involving a neuropathic pain medication. The plaintiff, who alleged the medicine caused the decedent's suicide, voluntarily dismissed the case, with prejudice, after just one day of trial.
  • Our attorneys represented Pfizer in its successful motion to dismiss a qui tam action under the False Claims Act in connection with allegations that the company improperly promoted one of its leading medicines for off-label use. Our attorneys previously secured a dismissal of RICO and consumer fraud claims brought against Pfizer making similar allegations.
  • We were lead counsel to Chartis in multi-district litigation and several related class actions involving thousands of claims related to defective Chinese manufactured drywall, as well as litigation seeking compensation from the Chinese and German manufacturers of the defective products.
  • Our attorneys represented Pfizer in its successful motion to dismiss RICO claims alleging Pfizer improperly promoted off-label use for a pain medication.
  • We represented The Home Depot in a consumer class action and defeated a request for a preliminary injunction and class certification in a federal court action seeking to enjoin The Home Depot from nationwide sales of an allegedly dangerous consumer product.
  • We represented major real estate developers, including KB Home, Dell Webb, and others, in numerous construction defect class actions and actions seeking recovery for personal injuries allegedly caused by such defects, mold, and related injuries.
  • Our lawyers successfully obtained decertification of a nationwide class action alleging that Compaq’s notebook computers were defectively designed. The decision remains a cornerstone of class action jurisprudence in Texas and elsewhere. See Compaq Computer Corporation v. LaPray, 135 S.W.3d 657 (Tex. 2004).
  • Our product liability partners bring substantial additional experience to our practice, garnering defense victories (jury verdicts, dismissals, and favorable settlements) for: DePuy AcroMed Corp. (medical devices); AcroMed Corp. (bone screws); Mentor Corporation (breast and penile implants); Union Pacific Railroad in FELA litigation (asbestos); TRW (steering gears); American Broadcasting Corporation (accident); Lincoln Electric (welding electrodes); General Motors (“no air bags”); and Cooper Tire (tires). In addition, one of our partners, as General Counsel for a multinational pharmaceutical company, was ultimately responsible for handling product liability lawsuits globally. Among them were over 900 suits filed in the U.S. alleging a link between the ingestion of a product used for decades by the OTC industry, and hemorrhagic strokes. Six cases were tried to a jury, none of which resulted in a plaintiffs' verdict: The defense won four cases, and the jury was not able to reach a verdict in two cases. All cases were later resolved and the litigation is over.
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