Jessalyn Zeigler

Committee Chair Corner - Product Liability Committee
Jessie Zeigler
Bass, Berry & Sims PLC

It is my great honor to serve as this year’s Chair of the IADC’s Product Liability Committee. We continue to stay on top of the latest developments in product liability defense, whether it is self-driving cars, smart products/the internet of things, drones, privacy issues, or other emerging issues facing our clients. 

The Product Liability Committee is the IADC’s largest Committee, serving outstanding in-house and outside counsel who represent companies who manufacture, design, and/or sell products. Our Committee members represent companies across all manners of industry world-wide, including the automotive; chemical; consumer products; food and beverage; pharmaceutical; medical device; pulp and paper; construction; industrial; and/or general manufacturing industries.

Some of the highlights as to how we serve our members include:

Monthly calls

Our monthly conference calls occur on the first Monday of the month at 12:00 EST. We share information about new laws, rulings, or cases filed in jurisdictions across the country, as well as what our members are working on and their recent accomplishments. If you are an IADC member and would like to be included, please join our Committee by reaching out to me at the email address above.


We develop programming for upcoming IADC Midyear and Annual meetings. Here is what we have coming up at the Annual Meeting, which will be held July 7 to 12 at the gorgeous Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC.

• Monday 7:30 - 8:30 a.m.

How will existing product liability laws apply to innovative products of the twenty-first century? Today we live with products designed and manufactured with 3D printing, services incorporating artificial intelligence, devices using the Internet of Things, and drugs incorporating genetics/ genomics and personalized medicine. This panel will discuss how these and other advances in technology give rise to new and complicated legal theories of liability and defenses.

• Tuesday 7:30 - 8:30 a.m.

This program will address current thinking and best practices in the use of value assurance plans to resolve diminution of property value claims arising from a pollution event or an ongoing environmental remediation in a mass tort setting

• Tuesday 8:45 - 10:15 a.m.

As companies become multinational and broader-based, litigation challenges grow in complexity and breadth. This diverse panel will discuss the challenges of coordinating United States and foreign mass tort and class action litigations; handling eDiscovery issues when data is stored in multiple countries with different privacy, GDPR, and preservation demands; addressing proportionality considerations; handling privilege protections; and partnering with business units to foster cooperation, trust, and responsiveness. The panel also will address cultural challenges relating to United States mass tort and multidistrict litigations, and how to respond to questions from business partners about how and why certain litigation needs must be met.

• Wednesday 7:30 - 8:30 a.m.

Using an interactive panel format, this program will address the importance of managing attention despite the numerous distractions we encounter every day. The program will focus on three main areas: 1. the problems that arise from our “always on” culture and its constant distractions, including the rise in “mistake based” malpractice claims for attorneys and their professional clients (medical practitioners, financial services experts); 2. science behind attention management; and 3. best practices for maximizing attention management.

• Thursday 7:30 - 8:30 a.m.

*This program is eligible for ethics credit.

Laws governing autonomous vehicles raise a plethora of ethical considerations for society. This panel will explore those issues and how they converge with the rules of professional responsibility.

• Thursday 8:45 - 10:15 a.m.

This panel will address recent attorney general suits against manufacturers and a trend involving the hiring of plaintiffs’ law firms to pursue these cases on behalf of states. Topics to be discussed will include:

  • Preparing for increased criminal and civil enforcement actions in such areas as products liability, consumer fraud, off-label, anti-kickback, and false claims;
  • How enforcers identify companies for investigation;
  • Best practices for responding to a government investigation;
  • Exploring the practical implications of AG’s contingency-fee arrangements with plaintiffs’ counsel; and
  • Analyzing the steady trend of staggering penalties and fines in these cases.

• Thursday 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Eavesdrop while the General Counsel of an auto manufacturing company and legal experts discuss the design of new smart features and how it is influenced by data collection to improve the customer experience; the ongoing relationship with the customer; data security and privacy (GDPR and other statutes); and litigation risks and strategies. Considerations of privacy, data security, big data, and regulatory requirements must be central to how companies design products in today’s global economy.

Please make plans to attend! Retreat to the beautiful mountains of Asheville with programming that will without a doubt be outstanding.

If you have ideas for future programming, please contact Bill Anderson, Vice Chair of Programming for the Product Liability Committee, at


We develop one-hour Webinar programs on hot topics that our members can attend from the comfort of their desk. These are held on Wednesdays from 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. EST. Our upcoming Webinars include:

• Product Liability: What Should Worry You in the EU? - May 15

• How Personal Jurisdiction Is Slowly Reshaping Toxic Tort Litigation - June 19

If you have an idea for a Webinar, please reach out to our Vice Chair of Webinar, Curtis Ott, at

Special Projects

Our Committee is working on the following special project this year:

International Special Privacy Project - A chart of numerous foreign countries’ privacy laws on issues that are important to in-house counsel and outside lawyers alike.

If you would like to help with this project, please contact our Vice Chair of Special Projects, Bobby Hood at


We have been publishing monthly newsletters, authored by our members. Our recent articles are:

September 2018

A Three Year Retrospection on West Virginia’s 2015 Asbestos Litigation Reform
By: Jon B. Orndorff, Edward A. Smallwood, Kelly Calder Mowen, and Josh M. Brick

October 2018

Introduction to AI and IoT Issues in Product Liability Litigation
By: Jonathan T. Barton

Legal Regime Applicable to Robots and AI – What do Europeans Think?
By: Sylvie Gallage-Alwis

November 2018

Australian Class Action Reform:  Reigning in the Effects of Commercialization
By: Peter.O’Donahoo, Kate Austin and Samuel Loebenstein

December 2018

The Product Liability Statute of Repose: Jurisdiction or Affirmative Defense? 
By: Joyce Edelman, C. Darcy Jalandoni, and Abigail Chin

February 2019

Do Enhanced-Injury Crashworthiness Cases Filed in Missouri Mean Enhanced Liability for Product Manufacturers?
By: Mary Anne Mellow, Timothy C. Sansone, and Hayley C. Bohnert

April 2019

Fear of Cancer: The Start of a New Worrying Era in France
By: Sylvie Gallage-Alwis

If you missed these articles, visit the IADC website and click on publications, then Committee Newsletters. Please contact our Vice Chair of Newsletters, Whitney Watt, at if you would like to write a newsletter article.

Defense Counsel Journal

The Defense Counsel Journal has been a forum for the publication of topical and scholarly writings on the law, its development and reform, and on the practice of law since 1934. Taking the viewpoint of the practitioner and litigator in the civil defense and insurance fields, the DCJ considers current legal trends at a scholarly level and informs readers of timely problems that they may face in their practice, and is frequently and favorably cited by courts and other legal scholarship. Our Committee has recently submitted articles for consideration for publication in the DCJ.

If you have an issue that you have recently briefed that would be of interest as a scholarly article, please email our Vice Chair of DCJ, James Hemmings at

Corporate Counsel

Our Committee has some of the leaders in the field for in-house counsel at products companies. We are committed to actively recruiting outstanding corporate counsel, seeking to include them in our programming and publications, and to ensure that our Committee is helping make their work life easier by addressing hot topics of interest to corporate counsel. If you are a corporate counsel would like to get more involved, or is interested in the IADC for the first time, our Vice Chair of Corporate Counsel, Sarah Cronan at will be glad to assist.


We are fortunate to have Sylvie Gallage-Alwis,, serving as our Vice Chair of International this year. Sylvie is actively assisting us with our International Special Privacy Project, discussed above. If you are an international lawyer who would like to get involved with our Committee, please reach out to Sylvie.


We live in a diverse world and are committed to ensuring that our Committee reflects that diversity. Our Vice Chair of Diversity, Jaimme Collins, helps us ensure that we are including diverse members as candidates for membership, speakers on programs and Webinars, and to get involved in our Committee. You can reach Jaimme at


We want to make sure we are getting news that is important to our Committee members disseminated, whether through the IADC email listservs, the website, social media, or otherwise. For assistance with getting your news out, please reach out to our Vice Chair of Communications, Cheryl Woodin at


Do you know an outstanding attorney who you would like to nominate for membership? Have you nominated someone but need to find two IADC members to sponsor your nomination? Our Vice Chair of Membership, Mary Anne Mellow, at, can help.

We would love to get you involved with our Committee!  Please reach out to me, Jessie Zeigler, at if you want to become more involved.

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