Background - Practices (Details)

Trial Work and Mass Tort Representation

Caterpillar Welding Fumes Litigation

Crowell & Moring has served as Caterpillar's national coordinating counsel in welding fume litigation since 2003. At its height, this litigation spanned the country, with thousands of individual and class action suits filed in both federal and state courts from Pennsylvania to California. Crowell & Moring also acted as counsel of record for Caterpillar in the federal welding rod multi-district litigation (MDL) proceeding established in Cleveland, Ohio. Plaintiffs in these cases typically assert claims against manufacturers and sellers of welding consumables (such as welding rods), alleging actual or potential neurological injury as a result of exposure to components of welding fumes. Caterpillar is not a manufacturer of welding products, but primarily was sued for its involvement in a trade association, through which plaintiffs alleged Caterpillar and various other defendants conspired to conceal the potential dangers of exposure to welding fumes. Through an aggressive motions practice strategy, the Crowell & Moring team achieved numerous successes on motions to dismiss in individual cases, culminating in a global summary judgment order from the MDL court dismissing with prejudice all claims against Caterpillar in every pending federal lawsuit. Following the summary judgment order, the vast majority of the state court claims against Caterpillar have been voluntarily dismissed, and Caterpillar remains a defendant in only a few cases.

CSX Solvent Litigation

We have been retained by CSX as national coordinating counsel for litigation arising out of alleged exposure to several chemical substances, including cases arising under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), state-law-based tort claims, and class actions. Our representation includes advising CSX on its overall litigation strategy, developing CSX's expert case, coordinating discovery, briefing key legal issues such as removal and class certification, and preparing dispositive motions. We also serve as counsel of record in a pending FELA medical monitoring class action case filed in a Florida state court, two environmental exposure cases pending in Florida and Michigan courts, and a recent class action suit filed in an Illinois state court. Within the past several months, we also successfully represented CSX in a putative class action filed in New Orleans, which involved a residential evacuation resulting from a leaking tank car. Recently, in a FELA case brought in West Virginia state court by former railroad workers who alleged that they suffered neurological injuries stemming from exposure to chlorinated solvents, we represented CSX in a four-day Daubert hearing. Our flexible approach to coordinating these dockets has allowed us to tailor our response — and involvement — to each particular litigation, maximizing our effectiveness as well as that of CSX's network of local counsel.

Ritalin Consumer Fraud Class Actions

We represented one of the principal defendants, the American Psychiatric Association, in a highly publicized series of class actions alleging fraud in developing criteria for the diagnosis of a childhood mental disorder (ADHD) and the marketing of Ritalin as the treatment. Initially, the litigation consisted of five class actions pending in five state or federal courts, variously alleging state or national classes of up to six million Ritalin users and their families. These cases were pursued by the same plaintiffs' lawyers (Dickie Scruggs and John Coale) responsible for the tobacco, gun, and HMO litigation, who touted the Ritalin cases as their next initiative in targeting a major industry.

As national coordinating counsel in the five class actions, we anticipated a risk of multiple additional lawsuits around the country if the momentum behind the initial filings was not slowed. Our coordination strategy thus focused on a series of early strike dismissal motions designed to attack the legal sufficiency of plaintiffs' complaints and obtain dismissals in one or more cases. Ultimately, we were successful in securing the dismissal of all five class actions. No new Ritalin cases have been filed.

Delrin Litigation

We act as national coordinating counsel for DuPont in polybutylene plumbing litigation involving its plastic Delrin. The litigation consists primarily of property damage claims. The current cases are pending in state and federal courts in the United States, as well as in the courts of three Canadian provinces and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These cases include attempted national, statewide, and providence-wide class actions.

We provide national strategy, class action strategy, coordination of all discovery (including the management and production of over two million documents), and management of a network of local firms. We coordinate and advise the administration national class settlement claims facility of DuPont. We defeated class certification in two attempted national class actions and obtained full faith and credit in a statewide collateral attack on an earlier national class settlement of DuPont.

UTA Ignition Switch Litigation

We represented a major automobile parts manufacturer in litigation arising out of what was at the time the largest automotive recall in history. We coordinated the defense of over a dozen class actions and scores of individual actions, most of which originated in state courts around the country. Our defense included (1) a case removal and consolidation strategy that ultimately resulted in the removal of most of the cases to federal court and their transfer through MDL proceedings to a single federal court in New Jersey; (2) in tandem with counsel for Ford, successful efforts to obtain the dismissal of most of the products liability, breach of contract, warranty, and consumer fraud claims against our client; and (3) coordination with law firms across the country and extensive work with engineering experts to build the expert case that enabled us to defeat class certification three separate times. Ultimately, we obtained dismissal of all of the original putative class actions.

Bridgestone/Firestone Recall Litigation

We were part of a group of law firms representing Bridgestone/Firestone in the leading recall case in the country and the litigation that grew out of that recall. Crowell & Moring previously worked extensively as national coordinating counsel and trial counsel in automotive rollover cases and other major automotive product liability litigation. We were hired by Firestone to develop and present the case that defects in the Ford Explorer, not tire failure, acted as the primary cause of the rollovers and other accidents alleged to be associated with tire tread separation of Firestone tires. We were responsible for trial theme, expert, and evidence development and worked closely with the trial teams around the country in these high-profile, "bet-the-company" cases.

Caterpillar Friction Products Asbestos Litigation

We were retained by Caterpillar in 2002 to serve as national coordinating counsel for the company's asbestos litigation. The cases against Caterpillar principally involve products liability claims arising out of alleged exposure to friction products and gaskets in heavy equipment and engines. In conjunction with Caterpillar, we are responsible for formulating long-term strategy, developing a stable of "national experts" for use across the country, centralizing written discovery and document management, and working with the company's regional counsel to implement trial strategy. Finally, we are working with Caterpillar to develop long-term solutions to the company's asbestos litigation.

Coumadin Consumer Fraud Cases

We represented a major pharmaceutical company, DuPont Pharmaceuticals (now Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharma), as coordinating counsel for a series of consumer fraud and antitrust class actions directed at the company's promotion and marketing of Coumadin®, one of its leading drugs. Plaintiffs, which included consumers, insurers, and the major generic competitor, filed 15 actions in 12 state and federal courts, all but one of which were class actions. We obtained dismissal of several of the state cases based upon First Amendment and Noerr-Pennington protections accorded to the petitioning and related speech of DuPont. In Alabama, we won summary judgment on the basis that the Alabama antitrust statute did not apply to goods shipped in interstate commerce. In Tennessee, we defeated a motion for certification of a nationwide class of consumers. DuPont ultimately settled with its generic competitor through a business deal that proved favorable to the company, and concluded the litigation with an MDL settlement of all consumer and insurer class claims, which settlement was recently affirmed by the Third Circuit. In re Warfarin Sodium Antitrust Litigation, 212 F.R.D. 231 (D. Del. 2002), aff'd, ___ F.3d ___ (3d Cir., Dec. 8, 2004).

DuPont Premises Liability Litigation

Since 1992, we have served as national coordinating counsel for DuPont with regard to its asbestos litigation. The bulk of the cases involve premises liability claims brought against DuPont by employees of contractors that worked on DuPont sites, although we also handle product liability claims. The cases are filed largely in state court in nearly 20 states and litigated as individual cases and through large-scale consolidations or class actions. Many of the cases are brought by nationally known plaintiff firms such as Peter Angelos, Ness Motley, and Provost Umphrey.

As national counsel, we are responsible for developing long-term national strategy, legal issue development, class strategy, coordinating a centralized discovery effort, overseeing trial strategy, and managing a large network of firms. We also participate directly in the key joint defense groups and are counsel of record for all cases pending in the federal asbestos MDL proceeding in Philadelphia, all class actions, and selected appeals. We also serve as co-trial counsel for all asbestos cases against DuPont in Baltimore.

Liberty Mutual Silica Litigation

We were retained by Liberty Mutual in 2003 to serve as national strategic counsel to advise Liberty and its principal policyholders on developing long-term strategies to collapse the burgeoning docket of silica and mixed-dust claims. We work directly with the national counsel of key policyholders on big-picture initiatives, including the federal MDL proceeding, expert development, and applying recent tort reform initiatives to the litigation.

Air Crash Disaster Cases

We represented DuPont in two major air crash disaster cases, the 1998 crash of Swissair Flight 111 off the coast of Nova Scotia and the 1999 crash of EgyptAir Flight 990 off the coast of Nantucket. These two mass litigations, involving over 100 separate lawsuits against our client, included product liability claims such as negligence, strict product liability, and breach of warranty. We served as co-trial counsel and coordinated the various cases in MDL proceedings and in state and federal courts. In Swissair, we filed a motion to dismiss on behalf of DuPont and the court granted the motion late last year. In EgyptAir, in response to a similar motion, plaintiffs' counsel voluntarily dismissed all claims.

Luzenac Talc Litigation

We serve as national strategic counsel for Luzenac in claims arising from the company's talc products. Our role is largely strategic, although we have worked with the company on expert development, discovery management, and various technology issues. We have also worked with jurisdictional counsel on developing case-specific strategies.

Building Product/Property Damage Litigation

We were retained by a major asbestos manufacturer, Eagle-Picher Industries, to supervise all litigation nationwide regarding claims of property damage filed by states, cities, and school districts. Prior to the company's bankruptcy, we achieved one of the most successful win-loss records in the litigation, obtaining dismissal of 108 of 150 cases filed. We also successfully tried and won the first case brought by a state attorney general. At the height of the litigation, we coordinated cases in over 16 states involving 20 law firms.