Products Liability & Mass Torts

Thompson Coe knows how to prepare an effective defense to product liability and mass tort litigation that can involve huge damage claims, can take years before reaching trial, and can threaten the future of any company. When plaintiffs target “deep pocket” defendants like healthcare product suppliers or vehicle manufacturers and their insurers, with emotional arguments that run counter to sound science and good law, we respond with the right strategy for settlement, trial or appeal.

Practice Highlights: Products Liability & Mass Tort Lawyers
  • Leading partners have collectively tried more than 350 cases, including more than 15 large product liability and mass tort cases to verdict
  • Co-counsel on a products liability case recognized as one of the “Top Defense Wins of 2005" by the National Law Journal and the Defense Research Institute
  • Team members certified in Civil Trial and Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and selected by professional peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America
  • Experienced Texas multi-district-litigation litigators
  • Well respected in trial and appellate courts throughout Texas.

Whether claims allege injury from design or manufacturing defects, failure to warn, product misuse or hazardous exposure – our experienced trial lawyers develop the best defense on scientific, technical and legal grounds.

Whatever the product or technical focus, our lawyers speak the language of our clients and understand their business. We have defended product liability cases involving industrial machinery and equipment, commercial and consumer products, medical devices and pharmaceuticals.

Our clients include Fortune 500 companies with significant risk exposure, and we have served them as local counsel and liaison counsel in multi-jurisdictional cases, as well as regional and national defense coordinating counsel.

We are frequently able to dispose of cases before trial, obtaining summary judgments or dismissals in our clients’ favor, and are experienced at negotiating settlements or pursuing alternative dispute resolution to resolve matters without the expense of litigation.

However, our litigators also aggressively bring matters to trial. We use a thorough understanding of procedural rules and focused expert testimony to decry pseudoscientific allegations and attack the claims of plaintiffs’ experts, while relying on the effective defense provided by our own network of expert witnesses to structure cases for summary judgment or settlement.

When necessary, our appellate lawyers identify issues for appeal, should the outcome of the case dictate one, and we have secured precedent-setting appellate victories in product liability matters before the Texas Supreme Court.

Mass Torts

Thompson Coe trial and appellate lawyers use their product liability and toxic tort experience to provide mass tort litigation and risk management counsel for a wide range of clients. We focus on matters arising in Texas and the Southwest, where our familiarity with the elected judges in local and state courts, and with the federal judges in these jurisdictions, can be a critical advantage in even the most complex cases.

However, we have handled individual claims, mass consolidations of “pattern” tort litigation, and environmental exposure clusters involving cases in multiple jurisdictions nationwide.

The experience of our mass tort lawyers with major cases and substantial issues ensures that all our mass tort defense work is litigated aggressively from the start. By presenting plaintiffs’ counsel with a credible trial threat, we are often able to approach settlement discussions more effectively.

At trial we rely on our relationships with nationally renowned technical, scientific and medical experts to protect our clients from pseudoscientific allegations and attack the claims of plaintiffs’ experts. Using this strategy, we have handled the defense of clients that face mass tort claims involving:

  • Asbestos
  • Silica
  • Chemicals
  • Welding rods
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Medical devices and products.
Products Liability

Thompson Coe’s product liability experience is deep and broad. Among the wide range of products our lawyers have defended are:

  • Chemical products, including adhesives and paint
  • Industrial equipment, such as augers, rock crushers and welding rods
  • Component parts in structures (steel girders), power distribution (transformers) and motor vehicles
  • Respiratory protection products
  • Consumer products, ranging from automobiles to furniture.

Our lawyers have served as first and second chairs in products liability litigation in state and federal courts throughout Texas (often as state or regional coordinating counsel), and in multiple jurisdictions nationwide. We bring to each of these cases a combination of trial and negotiating skill, case management sophistication, solid technical knowledge and innovative defense strategies to defend our clients and protect their business objectives.

Appeals

Reflecting Thompson Coe’s sophisticated appellate practice, our appellate lawyers are able to accompany trial counsel as part of the overall trial team, boosting our record on product liability appeals. Two examples illustrate the sophistication of our appellate capabilities.

  • Ford Motor Co. v. Ledesma: The Texas Supreme Court reversed the trial court in our appeal of this product liability lawsuit that alleged failure of a pickup truck’s spring and axle assembly, finding that the jury charge that defined a manufacturing defect was erroneous. We had identified this issue long before the case was ever tried, and the trial court’s adverse verdict gave us the opportunity to appeal – and ultimately to change the future jury instructions made in such cases.
  • Wright v. Ford Motor: The plaintiffs in this case, the first of its kind, alleged that the driver of a pickup truck struck and killed a child because the truck was designed with a “blind spot.” We secured a jury verdict for the manufacturer, which was upheld by the Court of Appeals. The appellate court supported our argument, based on a review of 2003 Texas tort reform changes, that the manufacturer was not liable in a products liability action if it complied with applicable federal safety regulations. This “presumption” argument was an ahead-of-the-curve strategy that will have wide application in future product liability litigation.

Industry Experience

Although our products liability and mass torts litigation encompasses a wide range of business sectors, Thompson Coe has particular strength in these areas:

  • Medical Devices and Pharmaceuticals: We served as defense counsel for a major pharmaceutical company in the fen/phen litigation throughout Texas, and have also defended claims involving such products as asthma inhalers and surgical devices. In this work our lawyers have conducted numerous examinations of expert physicians, including pulmonologists, pathologists, radiologists, orthopedic surgeons, internists, and other treating physicians and medical care providers.
  • Motor Vehicles: We have represented one of the U.S. “Big Three” vehicular manufacturers as regional coordinating counsel in litigation throughout Texas. Our lawyers have defended a number of cases alleging equipment malfunction and other similar products liability matters, and have secured several precedent-setting appellate victories. And, that representation has occurred during some of the most trying times for a client.

    We bring to each of these cases a combination of trial and negotiating skill, case management sophistication, solid technical knowledge and innovative trial and negotiation strategies—and then we work closely with in-house counsel for the successful defense of our client. We also bring a sense of long-term perspective which can only be gained from real trial and appellate experience.

OTHER MANUFACTURING LITIGATION 
Because of the size and complexity of their business activities, the vehicle and equipment manufacturers that we represent are involved in litigation encompassing a host of contract disputes and business torts. Our lawyers have the technical knowledge and courtroom skill to represent our clients in lawsuits alleging breach of contract claims, and in distribution and franchising disputes with vehicle and equipment dealers.

Summary:  Skill that combines practice strength and industry depth

Product liability and mass tort claims are bet-the-company litigation. Companies must hire a skilled law firm that doesn’t require a learning curve to develop the right technical understanding and trial or negotiation strategy. At Thompson Coe, clients work with partners who have comprehensive experience in resolving many such disputes, and can use it to tailor a defense strategy developed to meet each client’s unique needs.