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.

Ohio’s Asbestos Trust Transparency Act, H.B. 380 (“H.B. 380”), requires plaintiffs in asbestos cases to disclose all claims they have made to trusts established by now-bankrupt companies to pay such claimants outside the tort system. It also allows defendants to seek a stay of the case if they believe there...

Ulmer & Berne announces that Cleveland-based partner James N. Kline has been elected Secretary of the Ohio Association of Civil Trial Attorneys (OACTA) at its annual meeting. OACTA’s mission is to promote fairness, excellence, and integrity in the civil justice system by providing resources and education to attorneys and others...

Ulmer & Berne is ranked in 39 categories in the 2016 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” rankings. Among these, the firm earns U.S. News – Best Lawyers highest rankings in 21 categories. The firm also ranks nationally in 16 categories. Firms included in the 2016 “Best Law...

Ulmer & Berne LLP announces that four of the firm’s attorneys have been recognized in the 2015 edition of Benchmark Litigation as “State Litigation Stars.” The following Ulmer & Berne attorneys were selected in their jurisdictions: Frances Floriano Goins – State Litigation Star-Cleveland Jeffrey F. Peck – State Litigation Star-Cincinnati...

“Michael Nathan Ungar | Ulmer & Berne LLP” Cleveland Jewish News January 15, 2015 Perennial Super Lawyer Michael Nathan Ungar considers settlement of a dispute embroiling Case Western University among his most memorable cases of 2014. Read the full article »

Ulmer & Berne LLP has been ranked within the top 10 percent of all law firms by The BTI Consulting Group, one of the nation’s leading legal industry research firms, in their recently published 2015 BTI Litigation Outlook report. The firm was selected as a “Litigation Powerhouse” and is named...

Ulmer & Berne LLP has been recognized among the 2014 Go-To Law Firms® as indicated by a survey of general counsel at the top 500 companies in the U.S. by American Lawyer Media (ALM). Ulmer & Berne was selected by 15 Fortune 500 companies as their go-to- law firm in...

Ulmer & Berne LLP was named 2014 Ohio Firm of the Year by Benchmark Litigation at the second annual Benchmark Litigation US Awards held at the Essex Hotel in New York City on January 29, 2014. The US Benchmark Awards were based on a six-month research period involving extensive interviews...

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.