Committee Chair Corner – Toxic and Hazardous Substances Litigation Committee
William Ruskin Law
I am honored to have been the Chair of the Toxic and Hazardous Substances Litigation (“THS”) Committee these past two years. My tenure as Chair has seen the significant expansion of CLE programming, Webinars, and publications of keen interest to THS litigation practitioners in IADC. The vigorous participation of THS Committee members has led to the vigorous upsurge in the number of Committee sponsored or co-sponsored programs, many of which were highlights of recent IADC events. More than ever, the IADC is a vibrant source of leading-edge information and strategic thinking vital to effective defense practices.
A key objective of THS is to maximize the value of IADC membership for toxic tort and environmental defense lawyers by keeping members up-to-date about latest industry developments. Our collaborative community strives to accomplish this through timely publications, such as the Defense Counsel Journal and Committee Newsletter, in-depth Webinars, and thought-provoking CLE programming. At the recent Midyear Meeting in Santa Barbara, our programs sparked insightful discussion as they examined the filing of multi-billion dollar lawsuits brought by states, counties, and municipalities manufacturers to recover damages relating to climate change and costs associated with fossil fuel use, PCBs, agricultural products, lead paint, and other products alleged to have had environmental and other societal impacts. A common link among all of these cases is plaintiffs’ increased reliance on the tort of public nuisance. A distinguished panel of corporate counsel --fresh off the front lines-- examined the legal underpinnings of this latest round of public nuisance litigation, notably focused in California, and confronted the significant challenges presented to industry and potential defenses through constructive discourse.
A robust discussion also ensued over plaintiffs’ novel use of issue preclusion in mass tort litigation to relieve countless plaintiffs of the burden of proving fundamental elements of their tort claims. Another CLE examined the proliferation of extreme opinions held by jurors and the impact of jury polarization across a broad spectrum of litigation. Panelists provided valuable insights and recommendations concerning how to neutralize the potentially harmful effects of extreme opinions at trial. Finally, seasoned trial lawyers on a panel on direct and cross-examination at trial discussed strategies to best present the strongest, most persuasive trial defense possible.
The THS Committee continues to bring on board new IADC members, all of whom bring their own enthusiasm and unique perspectives concerning trial practice. On the first Friday of each month, the THS Committee conducts its committee conference calls. One purpose of these calls is to give IADC members who have not been on a THS Committee monthly call previously to introduce themselves and describe their practice.
On these calls, we also discuss developing CLE proposals for upcoming meetings and ideas for Webinars. If an IADC member seeks to be a speaker at either the Annual or Midyear Meeting, participation on one of the IADC’s Substantive Law Committees is essential. It is on these calls that CLE proposals and ideas take shape. In addition, we ask whether anyone on the call wants to discuss a recent success at trial that they want to share with the group or an important development in THS law in their jurisdiction. These calls run about half an hour, give or take. I encourage every member of the THS Committee to participate in these monthly calls and hope they provide the framework for more collaboration, innovation, and greater participation in the new programs we continue to develop.