Mass Tort/Occupational Exposure

Ulmer & Berne mass tort/occupational exposure practice has been actively involved in the defense of innumerable toxic tort claims for over 25 years. Because of our thoroughness, timely reporting and outstanding results, our clients – who have been sued due to alleged exposures to a variety of industrial chemicals, lead, silica, and asbestos-containing products – have been and remain extremely pleased with our work.

We focus on client contact – clients are always timely apprised of all significant developments — and use our expertise, aggressiveness and thoroughness to properly handle these types of claims, usually involving various types of lung disease and/or cancer. Our insight and evaluative skills allow us to deftly handle cases, formulating strategies appropriate to each individual case in order to achieve the best results. At the same time, we strive to prudently staff each case, taking into account the particular needs of the client. We litigate on a variety of theories including conventional tort/product liability claims, intentional tort claims and workers’ compensation claims.

The primary legal allegation of theories in the product liability claims are usually “failure to warn” and strict liability. Defenses to these claims include state-of-the-art arguments with respect to the allegedly defective condition of the product itself, and significant issues with respect to causation of the individual condition from which the claimant allegedly suffers. Ulmer & Berne has experience in all aspects of these cases and have used a variety of safety, medical and epidemiological experts to defend them.

We maintain a good relationship with co-defense counsel and often join efforts on certain issues for both strategic reasons and cost effectiveness. We also have earned significant respect from plaintiffs’ counsel due to our legal creativity, aggressiveness, thoroughness, and results, which insures to the best interests of our clients.

Representative Experience

Ulmer & Berne is responsible for the day-to-day management of thousands of cases that are on the active trial docket in Ohio. We routinely obtain summary judgments or voluntary dismissals on behalf of our clients in the vast majority of all cases filed.

  • Serve as national coordinating counsel for eight companies (four in the asbestos, and four in the silica litigation) in thousands of cases filed across the country.
  • As national counsel, we actively defend asbestos cases in some of the country’s more challenging jurisdictions including West Virginia and Madison County, Illinois. We have developed and implemented national defense strategies for our clients not only in traditional product liability cases, but also in premise liability cases.
  • National counsel responsibilities also include developing responses to discovery in all jurisdictions and the review of historical documents as a predicate to preparing discovery answers. National counsel responsibilities also commonly include supervising local counsel in various jurisdictions and resolving all discovery disputes.
  • Successfully defended direct employee-employer workplace injury claims, otherwise known as intentional tort claims, alleging exposure to various toxins including asbestos, petrochemicals, lead, and silica products.

Ulmer & Berne has served or now serves as liaison counsel between plaintiffs’ attorneys and dozens of defense counsel in thousands of asbestos and silica claims.

  • Defend toxic exposure cases including not only asbestos and silica exposure but also lead paint and lead pigment cases (including class action work); the alleged development of lung cancer through exposure to depleted uranium, arsenic, and chromium; the alleged development of lung disability through exposure to formaldehyde and related resins; and workplace injury claims based upon exposure to industrial solvents.
  • With respect to silica, Ulmer & Berne represents a variety of clients including sand distributors, grinding wheel manufacturers, clay distributors, and respiratory protection manufacturers.
  • Participated in the Ohio Silica Defense Core Committee, comprised of a group of attorneys who were the primary force behind the defense of the silica cases in Ohio. We took an aggressive approach on behalf of numerous silica defendants when the litigation was initially filed. We had clients dismissed from numerous claims and obtained summary judgments in many claims.
  • The firm broke new ground in Ohio with a major ruling from the Trial Court on the Sophisticated Purchaser Doctrine, ultimately compelling dismissal of almost the entire silica docket.
  • With respect to asbestos litigation, Ulmer & Berne clarified Ohio’s Product Liability Act in a novel argument before the Trial Court and, when a major national plaintiff firm appealed, before the Eighth District Ohio Court of Appeals; we then created new law in Ohio before the Ohio Supreme Court in a related case, both cases limiting the liability of asbestos plaintiffs to sue suppliers/distributors/contractors in strict liability.
  • Obtained summary judgment for two companies in thousands of claims brought in state court on the grounds of preemption by the Boiler Inspection Act. The grant of summary judgment was affirmed by the Appellate Court and Ohio Supreme Court – the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari, which ended the asbestos litigation in Ohio against those two clients.
  • Successfully appealed a trial court decision dismissing certain claims without prejudice for failure of service/commencement within the statute of limitations, and obtained, in the Court of Appeals, dismissal with prejudice in over 1,100 claims for our client.
  • Participated in the creation of the reinstatement criteria for the federal asbestos multidistrict (MDL) litigation and successfully argued for the inclusion of a requirement that plaintiffs’ counsel dismiss (peripheral) defendants before the cases can be reinstated and remanded, resulting in considerable savings to the clients.