Education

  • Boston University, B.A. (1976) summa cum laude with distinction in English
  • Duke University School of Law, J.D. (1979)

Admissions

  • District of Columbia
  • Massachusetts (Inactive)

Clifford J. Zatz

Partner
czatz@crowell.com
+1.202.624.2810

A calm and fearless courtroom advocate, Cliff Zatz has spent decades “telling stories to strangers” — judges, juries, arbitrators, and mediators — in cutting-edge litigation around the country. Clients have turned to Cliff in unpredictable and often unique cases, including multiple-plaintiff and communitywide toxic tort litigation, high-risk product liability actions, contentious environmental litigation, and, more recently, emotionally charged defamation claims. In each case, he strives to craft a winning narrative, educating and guiding the decision maker through complex factual disputes and battles of the experts.

Cliff has represented clients as diverse as consumer product manufacturers, chemical companies, defense contractors, a wind energy facility, a university, a railroad, and a telecommunications company, among others. He has appeared in the state and federal courts of more than 20 jurisdictions, with major jury trials in Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Florida. Cliff’s representations have established the “sophisticated user defense” as state law, earned a listing as a National Law Journal top 15 defense verdict of the year, protected the First Amendment right to call out racism, and helped fend off “hackability” as an emerging theory of product liability. His “ready for trial” perspective also helps clients strategically evaluate risk, define “win” in light of their business objectives, and position themselves best when settlement is their goal.

Cliff has done pro bono work in such areas as fair housing, e.g., Feemster v. BSA Limited Partnership, 471 F. Supp. 2d 87(D.D.C. 2007), aff’d, 548 F. 3d 1063 (D.C. Cir. 2008); discrimination against the HIV-positive in adoption; the recognition of a cause of action for negligent handgun storage, Jupin v. Kask, 447 Mass. 141 (2006); and voting rights. He leads a Crowell & Moring team challenging SB 202, the Georgia election law passed in the wake of the 2020 election. Cliff has been honored for his pro bono work with Crowell’s “George Bailey” Pro Bono Award and an Idealist of the Year award from City Year.

A longtime National Institute for Trial Advocacy faculty member, Cliff has taught for 19 years in its Washington, D.C., regional program, Building Trial Skills. He also teaches annually in Crowell’s Trial Excellence Academy.

Cliff is an engaged alumnus of Duke Law School. Since 2017, he has served both on the board of the Duke Law Alumni Association and as the law school’s representative on the Duke DC regional board of directors. He received a 2021 Forever Duke Award from the university “in celebration of service to Duke.”



Representative Matters

Mass tort, product liability, and occupational exposure litigation:

  • Defended one of the earliest lawsuits alleging personal injury from exposure to trichloroethylene in groundwater. Thirty plaintiffs' claims of neurological injury, immune dysfunction, and "chronic systemic chemical poisoning" were resolved in a three-day summary jury trial in federal district court in Michigan.
  • Defended two of the nation's largest chemical manufacturers against 25 plaintiffs' claims of occupational asthma as a result of exposure to isocyanates and ethylene diamine in the manufacture of the Gore-Tex® waterproof membrane. After a nine-week trial, the jury returned 75 defense verdicts for the two companies and a co-defendant. Successfully defended the verdicts twice on appeal in Kennedy v. Mobay Corp., 579 A.2d 1191 (Md. App. 1991), aff'd per curiam, 601 A.2d 123 (Md. 1992), which established the "sophisticated user" defense as the law of Maryland.
  • Represented manufacturers of rubber solvent in a four-week trial in federal court in Virginia of three consolidated wrongful death cases alleging that benzene exposure in a tire manufacturing plant caused leukemia.
  • Together with Louisville co-counsel, defended thousands of personal injury and property damage claims brought by workers and neighbors at a Superfund site in southeastern Kentucky. Defended bellwether plaintiff claims of multiple myeloma, childhood leukemia, and other illnesses in a 52-day jury trial in federal court that led to a mass settlement of more than 550 plaintiffs' cases. Won a week-long arbitration of a tort of outrageous conduct action. In another bellwether plaintiff case, won summary judgment after excluding all of the causation experts under Daubert.
  • Defended a major defense contractor in lawsuits in Florida in which more than 300 plaintiffs alleged personal injury, diminution of property value, and emotional distress as a result of occupational and environmental exposure to chlorinated solvents and beryllium.
  • In a first-of-its-kind case at the intersection of cybersecurity and product liability, won dismissal of a nationwide class action in federal court in Minnesota alleging that computerized hotel locks were vulnerable to hacking and were therefore defective and in breach of warranty.
  • Represented a Class I railroad against claims of personal injury and property damage arising out of the derailment of a train carrying Bakken crude oil.
  • Represented a manufacturer of spray sunscreen in two personal injury cases in Virginia and Maryland alleging that the sunscreen ignited and caused severe burns to a jet ski rider and a small child.
  • Defending a medical device manufacturer in mass tort product liability actions in Florida, Texas, and California.
  • Represent a supplier in PFAS litigation, including a purported nationwide class action in the S.D. Ohio and the Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) multi-district litigation in federal court in South Carolina.
  • Successfully opposed, in a four-day evidentiary hearing and on appeal, certification of a class action seeking lifetime medical monitoring for chronic beryllium disease.
  • Serve on the national coordinating counsel team in asbestos litigation for a major telecommunications company, developing trial strategy, dispositive motions, and expert, fact, and 30(b)(6) witnesses.
  • Defending a manufacturer of polyethylene pipe in a case in southern California involving severe burn injuries to a family of three after a natural gas explosion.

Defamation actions:

  • Won dismissal of a federal court action alleging that a university president had defamed four alumni by labeling their fraternity “the face of systemic racism” on campus. The court held that her statements were not “of and concerning” the plaintiffs and constituted non-actionable opinion.
  • Currently representing a national professional association in defamation, false light, and civil conspiracy claims by a candidate for its presidency found to have violated election campaign rules.
  • Represented a foreign defense contractor as plaintiff in an anonymous defamation case in Pennsylvania state court, challenging allegations that it had violated the Iran Sanctions Act.
  • Defended a claim, in federal court in Maryland, by a Department of Defense employee that she had been defamed by a contractor’s criticisms of her performance to her superiors. Resolved the case in early mediation without discovery.
  • Defended a university in a defamation action arising out of an announcement to her colleagues of the plaintiff’s termination.

Environmental litigation:

  • With Louisville co-counsel, won a defense verdict after a month-long jury trial against three coal mining companies that sought $140 million in lost profits as a result of their proximity to a Superfund site. The National Law Journal recognized the victory in its annual list of the country's top defense verdicts.
  • Won a two-week trial before a Florida administrative law judge, defeating a community's challenge to an environmental site assessment and remedial action plan.
  • Led a trial team in defense of the first citizens' suit brought against a wind energy facility under the Endangered Species Act. This unusual "green versus green" trial received national media attention and was reported on the front page of The Washington Post.
  • Brought a Federal Tort Claims Act suit and tried a Fifth Amendment takings case in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims on behalf of a local real estate developer whose property was contaminated as a result of waste handling practices at an adjacent Army garrison.
  • Represents a telecommunications company in a purported class action in state court in Kentucky alleging property damage from the application of an herbicide.
  • Miscellaneous litigation:
  • Won an international trademark dispute, before the American Arbitration Association, on behalf of a leading Italian men's clothing company.
  • Defended a breach of contract action in a jury trial in federal court in Tampa, Florida resulting in a dramatic reduction in the damages sought by plaintiffs.
  • Won dismissal for lack of general jurisdiction, after an evidentiary hearing, of a wrongful death case brought against a Kuwaiti government contractor. Baragona v. Kuwait Gulf Link Transport Co., 691 F. Supp.2d 1346 (N.D. Ga. 2007), aff'd, 594 F.3d 852 (11th Cir. 2010), cert. denied, 130 S.Ct. 3473 (2010).
  • Successfully represented one of the country's largest engineering firms as plaintiff in a product liability and breach of contract action against the United States and its contractors arising from the lease of radioactive cesium capsules for use in sterilizing medical devices.


Insights


Speeches & Presentations

  • "What lessons can be learned from major categories of COVID-related litigation filed in 2020 and how can companies reduce risk in 2021?" Crowell & Moring Webinar (December 8, 2020). Presenters: Sadina Montani, Scott L. Winkelman, Daniel W. Wolff, Clifford J. Zatz, and Allyson McKinstry
  • "Workplace Injury Claims and COVID-19: Anticipation and Prevention," Crowell & Moring Webinar (May 14, 2020). Presenters: Thomas P. Gies, Rebecca L. Springer, Clifford J. Zatz, and Amanda DiSanto.
  • "Anatomy of an Aerosol Product Liability Lawsuit," Southern Aerosol Technical Association, 39th Annual Fall Meeting, Hilton Head, SC (September 25, 2019). Presenter: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "Daubert at 25: Has the Gate Been Kept?" 2018 DRI Toxic Torts and Environmental Law Seminar, Nashville, Tennessee (March 2, 2018). Moderator: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "Cyber Reputation Defense: Protecting Your Online Reputation," Crowell & Moring Webinar (October 10, 2017). Presenters: Clifford J. Zatz, Joseph L. Meadows, Laura Offenbacher Aradi and Chalana N. Williams.
  • "Toxic Torts: Protecting Your Product and Your Company," Southern Aerosol Technical Association, 37th Annual Fall Meeting, Hilton Head, South Carolina (September 22, 2017). Presenter: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • “The Defense of High Stakes Litigation,” Markel Shand Inc., Deerfield, IL. (July 17, 2017). Presenters: Kevin C. Mayer and Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "IoT Litigation and Liability Wake-Up Call," Second Internet of Things (IoT) National Institute, Washington, D.C (May 11, 2017). Presenters: Cheryl A. Falvey, Clifford J. Zatz and Kristin J. Madigan.
  • “On the Frontier of the Internet of Things: Cybersecurity, Regulation, and Litigation in a Hyper-Connected World,” Joint Program, ABA Public Contract Law Section’s Cybersecurity, Privacy, and Data Protection Committee and Science & Technology Law Section’s Homeland Security Committee (April 13, 2016). Presenters: Clifford J. Zatz, Rebecca Baden Chaney, and David Z. Bodenheimer.
  • "Liability Trends in Cybersecurity and Data Privacy," Crowell & Moring's Corporate Counsel Litigation Forum Webinar Series (February 24, 2015). Presenters: Jeffrey L. Poston and Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "It's All About Protecting the Children: Endocrine Disruptors and Continuing Developments in Causation, Dose, and Epidemiology," American Conference Institute's 5th National Forum on Chemical Products Liability & Environmental Litigation, Chicago, Illinois (April 28, 2014). Panelist: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "Does This Chemical Make Me Look Fat? The New Frontier of Endocrine Disruption," 2014 DRI Toxic Torts & Environmental Law Seminar, New Orleans, LA (February 20, 2014). Presenter: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "Obesogens: Are Chemicals Causing the Obesity Epidemic?" 22nd Annual Spring CLE Meeting, ABA TIPS Toxic Torts and Environmental Law and Corporate Counsel Committees, Phoenix, Arizona (April 5, 2013). Panelist: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "State of the Art of Endocrine Disruptor Science, Regulation and Litigation," Webinar (November 20, 2012). Presenters: Cheryl A. Falvey, Clifford J. Zatz, (with James C. Lamb IV, Ph.D., DABT, Principal Scientist, Exponent; Barbara H. Neal, DABT, Senior Managing Scientist, Exponent).
  • "Does Every Exposure Really Count?" 2009 DRI Toxic Torts and Environmental Law Seminar, Phoenix, Arizona (March 20, 2009). Presenter: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "Case Screening Issues in Benzene Litigation," Mealey's Benzene Litigation Conference, Marina del Rey, California (June 12, 2006). Presenter: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "Environmental Tort Liabilities of Government Contractors," Ounce of Prevention Seminar XXII, Washington, D.C. (April 28, 2006). Presenters: Clifford J. Zatz and Beth M. Kramer.
  • "Benzene Case Screening Wrap-Up," Mealey's Benzene Litigation Conference, Phoenix, Arizona (October 17-18, 2005). Moderator: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • “Junk Science—Bunked and Debunked,” ABA Tort and Insurance Practice Section, Toxic Torts and Environmental Law Committee, La Jolla, California (March 12, 1999). Panelist: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • ABA Section of Litigation, Legal Services Advocacy Training Program, Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America - Washington, D.C. (June 2, 1995). Faculty: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • “Legal Issues in Occupational Asthma,” Symposium on “Allergy and Immunology in the Workplace,” 1992 American Occupational Health Conference, 77th Annual Meeting of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine,” Washington, D.C. (May 6, 1992). Presenter: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "Civil and Criminal Liability of Terrorist Acts," Annual Meeting, American Society of International Law and International Law Students Association, Washington, D.C. (April 3, 1992). Panelist: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "Ten Thoughts on Defending a Toxic Tort Case," D.C. Bar Program, "Toxic Torts: a Practical Primer," Washington, D.C. (January 23, 1992). Presenter: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "Toxic Tort Actions at Federal Facilities," Executive Enterprises, Inc. Briefing on Environmental Compliance at Federal Facilities, Washington, D.C. (November 6, 1991). Presenter: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • “How to Represent the Patient and Industry in Occupational Disease,” American College of Allergy & Immunology, 47th Annual Meeting, Plenary Session, Orlando, Florida (November 13, 1989). Presenter: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • Workshop on Summary Jury Trial, National Conference on Dispute Resolution and the State Courts, Baltimore, Maryland (November 17, 1988). Panelist: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "The Attorney’s Approach to Alleged Allergic and Immunologic Injury," Sixth Annual Aspen Allergy Conference, Aspen, Colorado (July 30, 1988). Presenter: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "Summary Jury Trial in Toxic Tort Litigation," Toxic Tort Information Group, Chemical Manufacturers Association, Chicago, Illinois (July 15, 1988). Presenter: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "Chemicals AIDS: Litigating Immune Dysfunction Cases," Symposium on Science in the Courtroom, Third Chemical Congress of North America/American Chemical Society National Meeting, Toronto, Canada (June 9, 1988). Presenter: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "Painting Injury by the Numbers: The Myth of the Omniscient Laboratory,” Symposium, “Immunotoxicology: From Lab to Law," Cornell University Institute for Comparative and Environmental Toxicology, Ithaca, New York (October 16, 1987). Presenter: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "Use of Summary Judgment to Dispose of Fear of Cancer and Risk of Cancer Claims," Toxic Tort Information Group, Chemical Manufacturers Association, Washington, D.C. (October 14, 1987). Presenter: Clifford J. Zatz.
  • "Legal Mechanisms to Combat Terrorism," Hearing before the Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Washington, D.C. (April 23, 1986). Panelist: Clifford J. Zatz.


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Firm News & Announcements

August 18, 2022 The Best Lawyers in America 2023 Recognizes 54 Crowell & Moring Attorneys, Three Selected as Lawyer of the Year
August 19, 2021 The Best Lawyers in America 2022 Recognizes 53 Crowell & Moring Attorneys, One Selected as Lawyer of the Year
August 20, 2020 The Best Lawyers in America 2021 Recognizes 46 Crowell & Moring Attorneys, Two Selected as Lawyer of the Year
August 16, 2019 The Best Lawyers in America 2020 Recognizes 49 Crowell & Moring Attorneys, Three Selected as Lawyer of the Year
August 15, 2018 The Best Lawyers in America 2019 Recognizes 38 Crowell & Moring Attorneys
October 31, 2017 The Best Lawyers in America 2018 Recognizes 40 Crowell & Moring Lawyers
August 18, 2016 The Best Lawyers in America 2017 Recognizes 38 Crowell & Moring Attorneys
May 10, 2016 Mobile Home Residents and City of Richmond Reach Settlement in Discrimination Lawsuit
August 25, 2015 The Best Lawyers in America 2016 Recognizes 39 Crowell & Moring Attorneys
August 18, 2015 Crowell & Moring and Legal Aid Justice Center File Lawsuit on Behalf of Richmond Mobile Home Residents
January 13, 2015 Crowell & Moring Releases Third Annual Litigation Forecast Report and Inaugural Regulatory Forecast
August 28, 2014 The Best Lawyers In America 2015 Recognizes 40 Crowell & Moring Attorneys
September 3, 2013 The Best Lawyers In America 2014 Recognizes 41 Crowell & Moring Attorneys
September 4, 2012 The Best Lawyers in America 2013 Recognizes 44 Crowell & Moring Attorneys
August 30, 2011 The Best Lawyers in America 2012 Recognizes 43 Crowell & Moring Attorneys
August 3, 2010 The Best Lawyers in America 2011 Recognizes 44 Crowell & Moring Attorneys
September 11, 2007 The Best Lawyers in America 2008 Recognizes 34 Crowell & Moring Attorneys