All crises — whether arising from a corporate emergency, a catastrophic event or negative publicity — require a coordinated response on an expedited timeline. Sidley has a proven track record in helping clients manage toxic tort crises requiring the quick action, strategic insight, and litigation know-how critical to protecting a company’s business and reputation. Working closely with our clients in both responding to and handling toxic tort crises, we provide tailored solutions to address the circumstances of all situations.
Toxic tort lawsuits seeking damages for alleged injury from, e.g., environmental chemical releases or spills, fires or explosions, derailments, and crashes have been trending in recent years, and we have handled hundreds of these suits in dozens of states. We offer vast experience in all phases of complex toxic tort litigation, including multi-jurisdictional (including multi-national) cases, multi-plaintiff cases, class actions, consolidated state proceedings, and multidistrict litigation. While we often litigate and try individual cases, our greatest value lies in implementing successful strategies for pre-trial resolution of multiple cases or claims arising out of the same toxic tort crisis. Sidley’s Toxic Tort Crisis Management team has deep industry-specific experience across our litigation, regulatory, and governance capabilities. We use an industry-focused approach to draw upon the deep and relevant experience of our lawyers across practice areas to deploy swift, well-planned responses to short-term, immediate problems, while protecting the company’s position and well-being in the long-term.
Major companies and their boards seek our counsel in emergency situations because we provide thoughtful, seamless advice for multi-faceted toxic tort crisis situations. Harnessing our firm’s global resources, Sidley is able to quickly assemble the right team for complex compliance, regulatory and litigation matters spanning multiple legal disciplines.
Comprehensive, Multidisciplinary Experience
We have decades of experience serving as our clients’ first response team in the face of public crises – including toxic tort emergencies, governmental inquiries, and litigation – to establish and manage both initial and long-term legal strategies, and assist with remediation efforts. Our work includes:
- Internal investigations, including responses to whistleblower complaints
- Response to investigations by the EPA, TSB, CSB, DOJ, SEC, state Attorneys General, and other oversight bodies (including state counterparts)
- Advising boards, audit and special committees
- Counseling on compliance, governance, and litigation risks and potential exposure arising from alleged misconduct, investigative findings, and negative publicity
- Environmental accident response
- Pre-litigation preparation, including risk assessments and retention of key opinion leaders
- Defense of mass tort litigation and multidistrict litigation(MDL) involving product liability, product defects, derailments, air crashes, industrial accidents, and toxic tort exposures
- Cybersecurity breach incidents response and prevention
- Congressional inquiry or subpoena response
- Managing legal, policy, political, or public relations considerations related to an investigation or event
- Securities disclosure issues
- Sexual misconduct and other employment-related allegations
We understand the level of trust that is required to handle the challenges that arise during and after a toxic tort crisis. Our lawyers know how to balance internal and external effects, relationship dynamics, and optics. We have decades of experience serving as our clients’ first response team in the face of public crises, establishing and managing both the initial and long-term legal strategy.
Our team includes a number of former U.S. federal and state prosecutors and officials, many of whom served at high levels within the DOJ, SEC, and other key investigative and prosecutorial arms of the government. Several of our lawyers also served in the White House Counsel’s Office, and in other senior positions at government agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Agriculture. With firsthand knowledge of how government agencies conduct investigations and prosecutions, we are able to help clients navigate these processes efficiently and effectively.
While no crisis or situation is the same, Sidley has the appropriate experience and expertise to guide you. Our team has provided on-the-ground legal counsel for many significant headline-grabbing toxic tort incidents, including pipeline leaks, refinery explosions, and fires at chemical plants and other industrial facilities.
Representative experience includes:
- Representing commercial sterilization company Sterigenics U.S., LLC as it confronts litigation, regulatory, and legislative threats arising from the use of ethylene oxide as a sterilizing agent for millions of critical medical devices and surgical kits sterilized by the company under contract with its customers. Sidley is providing strategic crisis management support, preparing and implementing toxic tort and environmental litigation defense strategy, and counseling the client in its approaches to regulatory agencies, including the EPA and FDA.
- Representing GE as national coordinating counsel and as a member of its asbestos litigation trial team. For almost three decades, Sidley has assisted GE in obtaining dozens of summary judgments and dismissals in numerous asbestos cases.
- Represented a refinery in an Indiana class action seeking damages for personal injuries, property devaluation, and medical monitoring following a flood that caused groundwater infiltration into homes. A defense verdict following a lengthy jury trial was secured and preserved through an appeals process that ended in the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Defending Superior Refining Company and Husky Energy in litigation arising out of a refinery explosion. Sidley was onsite within hours, handling immediate crisis management and responding to government inquiries and investigations by the U.S. EPA, CSB, OSHA, and others. We are also assisting with pre-litigation claims and defending class action and multi-plaintiff litigation claiming breach of contract, emotional distress, personal injuries, and property damage.
Click here for a pdf of our Toxic Tort Crisis Management and Strategic Response brochure.