Toxic Tort



Since the health risks of toxic and hazardous waste contamination first garnered public attention and triggered a tidal wave of litigation and regulation in the 1970s, Wilson Elser has been on the front lines of toxic tort and mass tort litigation. 

With 45 years of experience defending related claims, our practice attorneys and supporting professionals work nationwide as one integrated team and command considerable respect. Our trial experience and historical perspective give us insight into legacy issues and the foresight to advise on current and emerging toxic tort trends. 

Wilson Elser is at the forefront regarding the legal ramifications of the Green New Deal and its potential effects on toxic tort litigation. From the government’s mandate on electric cars to its pledge that the United States transition to 100% renewable, zero-emission energy sources within 10 years, companies are facing potential hard times.

  • In all the key environmental forums, we defend corporations and insurance carriers in personal injury/ wrongful death and “asbestos in buildings” lawsuits – from New York to the U.S. Virgin Islands to California.
  • We serve as national, regional and local defense counsel, handling routine tasks with speed and efficiency yet trying cases in court when it best serves our clients’ interests.
  • We simplify scientific concepts so that they can be readily understood and advance – not hamper – litigation objectives.
  • We serve on the national trial teams of major manufacturers to develop, cross-examine and present Daubert/Frye challenges to scientific experts in epidemiology, immunology, neurology, pathology, rheumatology, risk assessment and toxicology.
  • We provide consistency in claims management, and our sophisticated electronic systems and web-based tools allow for the efficient handling of large-scale, document-intensive cases.
  • Our attorneys serve on national trial and science teams for several clients in both mature and emerging toxic tort claims. Consequently, we identify and retain the most competent experts, strengthening credibility when exploring potential resolutions.
  • We enjoy considerable experience in cross-examining and challenging the testimony of experts presented by plaintiff law firms, we are familiar with most plaintiffs’ experts in mature toxic tort claims and we have the resources to challenge plaintiffs’ experts in emerging claims.

Our attorneys are familiar with all substances that are typically at the heart of toxic tort defense litigation, including:

  • Asbestos

    While more than 50 nations have banned asbestos, the United States still permits limited use, and the use of asbestos in China, India, Russia, Brazil and many other developing countries is expanding.

    In both premises liability and products liability matters, we coordinate the representation of many defendants in personal injury, wrongful death and asbestos in buildings lawsuits. In litigating these matters, we develop a joint defense system for achieving effective, cost-efficient results.

    We represent product manufacturers and distributors as well as premises owners, and we litigate matters relating to asbestos exposure in various contexts, including, but not limited to, chemical plants, commercial plants and buildings, powerhouses, refineries, residences, schools, shipyards and steel mills. We are familiar with the types of exposure sustained by workers in all fields, including pipe coverers, boilermakers, carpenters, tapers, sheet metal workers, plumbers, steamfitters, shipyard workers and U.S. Navy personnel. We defend companies involved in the manufacture and distribution of a broad range of asbestos-containing products such as gaskets, packing and sealing products, boilers, pumps, compressors, evaporators, joint compounds, household appliances, tiles and friction products.

    While we recognize the wisdom of resolving most asbestos cases prior to the expense and vagaries associated with a jury trial, our attorneys have significant trial experience in defending personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits relating to asbestos exposure in state and federal courts and have obtained numerous defense verdicts.

  • Talc

    Several of Wilson Elser’s Toxic Tort attorneys count talc litigation as an integral part of their practice. Clients comprise manufacturers and retailers of various fragrances and cosmetic products, including body and foot powders. Many of these companies no longer actively manufacture or sell any talc-infused products, having previously divested themselves of related lines. Others have acquired a separate entity with connections to talc products and their alleged effects. The defense of this litigation thus often involves careful consideration of corporate structure defenses, related transactional documents and “product line successor” issues. Where appropriate, early dispositive motions are filed when the alleged years of product use do not overlap with our client’s ownership period.

    Nearly all the cases involve plaintiffs who suffer from mesothelioma, a terminal form of cancer, and as a result, the matters are assigned preferential trial dates, sometimes merely five to six months after the initial filing date. The litigation moves very fast, and the plaintiffs’ counsel are highly skilled national litigators who focus their practices exclusively on these cases. Our attorneys nonetheless enjoy an outstanding record of success defending talc-related claims.

  • Benzene

    We regularly represent defendants in benzene exposure cases alleging acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), myelodysplasia (MDS) and other forms of leukemia; blood illnesses; and cancer. Clients represented include (1) chemical, major petroleum and petrochemical companies that supplied benzene, gasoline and other products that contain or are alleged to contain benzene as an ingredient and (2) non-traditional defendants such as automotive and construction parts companies that supplied products alleged to contain trace amounts of benzene. We have a proven record of early, aggressive motion practice on scientific issues in bringing these cases to swift and successful conclusions.

  • Lead

    Wilson Elser’s trial attorneys, many with local and national reputations for excellence, handle the defense of individuals and corporate clients in lead paint exposure cases. Our defense verdicts in lead poisoning cases have been recognized, in publications such as the New York Law Journal, as some of the top noteworthy defense verdicts of the year. Our team has widely lectured at and chaired national lead paint seminars on topics such as the presumed notice provisions of local statutes on landlords; causation issues; refuting damages; trial tactics; and insurance coverage issues. In addition, our attorneys have authored books on lead paint poisoning litigation published by national groups such as the American Bar Association.

  • Mold

    Our experience in defending mold cases is unsurpassed on both a local and national level. We vigorously defend against the liability of the claims and the causation of the injuries. We successfully argue that the alleged medical conditions of various plaintiffs are not causally related to the type of mold found in the premises (e.g., aspergillus, penicillum, cladosporium and stachybotrys) or that the interior mold spore count is less than or no greater than the mold spore count outdoors that would cause a deleterious effect on health. Through our network of highly regarded experts, our team supports the defense that reliable medical research, peer studies and scientific data do not establish specific causation in interior mold exposure cases.

  • Chemicals, Solvents and Other Toxins

    Wilson Elser’s Toxic Tort Practice has extensive experience in all types of traditional toxic tort claims as well as the newest emerging claims. For example, we have always been one of the leaders in defending manufacturers, distributors, retailers and employers in cancer claims of exposure to petroleum-related chemicals in products such as solvents, adhesives, automotive materials, paints and acetone.