Sullivan & Cromwell’s Products Liability Group has extensive experience handling high-profile and complex products liability cases. The Group advises and represents clients in numerous matters relating to the liability risks associated with a wide variety of products and raw materials. The range of products we have addressed includes asbestos, lead paint, pharmaceuticals, welding rods, automotive vehicles, construction materials, gas, manufacturing equipment, pacemakers and toxic chemicals.
We often act as national coordinating counsel or senior advisers to companies facing mass tort liability on account of sales by them, or by their alleged predecessors or alter egos, of allegedly defective products. In addition, we regularly advise clients concerning:
- Product liability implications of potential mergers, acquisitions and corporate reorganizations
- Appropriate strategy for structuring operations and relationships with affiliates so as to minimize product liability risks
- The drafting and construction of indemnities undertaken in connection with joint ventures, partnerships, mergers, acquisitions, sales and other transactions
- The potential impact of products liability litigation upon companies in which banking clients are interested because of share positions held or investment advice they wish to provide
S&C vigorously represents clients in a wide variety of asbestos and other products liability litigation matters. We have acted as national coordinating counsel or senior litigation adviser in highly complex lawsuits involving multiple jurisdictions, disparate issues and numerous local counsel.
Clients which S&C has advised or represented on products liability matters have included, among many others, Chadbourne & Parke, CSR, Diageo, Global Industrial Technologies, Harbison-Walker Refractories Company, Inco, New National Gypsum Company, Schmid Laboratories and Turner & Newall.
Products Liability Highlights
Significant victories in litigation concerning allegedly defective or falsely advertised products include, among others, the Firm’s representation of:
- CSR, as senior lead counsel in national asbestos litigation, developing and spear-heading a defense strategy resulting in dismissals of CSR for lack of personal jurisdiction from tens of thousands of actions and important precedential decisions by the Supreme Courts of Texas, Minnesota and Rhode Island. Recently, the Firm obtained settlements totaling more than A$ 280 million on behalf of CSR Limited in asbestos insurance coverage litigation against more than 60 insurers worldwide.
- Diageo, ending four years of litigation relating to allegations that Diageo's advertising practices “targeted” persons under the legal drinking age. After plaintiffs’ legal theories were repeatedly rejected by trial and appellate courts in a series of decisions in class actions filed across the U.S., plaintiffs agreed to terminate all remaining actions and appeals. Diageo paid nothing.
- New National Gypsum Company (“New NGC”) in successful efforts to resist attempts of asbestos plaintiffs’ counsel and others (a) to impose successor liability upon New NGC under the terms of the plan of reorganization of the former National Gypsum Company, (b) to terminate the bankruptcy court’s channeling order and injunction protecting New NGC from asbestos claims, and (c) to modify the bankruptcy order providing that New NGC may never be sued for punitive damages. We also advised New NGC in connection with the negotiation and consummation of a settlement arrangement under section 524 (g) of the Bankruptcy Code pursuant to which it received a permanent injunction against future asbestos claims.
- Turner & Newall plc (“T&N”), as national coordinating counsel prior to T&N’s entry into the Asbestos Claims Facility of the Wellington Group, in respect to thousands of cases arising from the manufacture and distribution of asbestos products. In addition, we represented T&N in successful insurance coverage litigation that resulted in T&N obtaining coverage for asbestos litigation under lost insurance policies of a former subsidiary of T&N which had dissolved two decades earlier. We also represented T&N in connection with litigation against the Pennsylvania Insurance Guarantee Association (“PIGA”) concerning PIGA’s responsibility for asbestos litigation against T&N under a settlement agreement reached between T&N and an insurer that subsequently became insolvent.
- Chadbourne & Parke in obtaining dismissals of tobacco litigation against it in several jurisdictions.