Mass Torts, Toxic Torts, and Asbestos Litigation

Mass tort claims are on the rise as aggressive plaintiffs’ attorneys develop novel approaches to asserting claims on behalf of large numbers of plaintiffs.  McAfee & Taft’s Litigation Group is home to a team of unparalleled, dedicated, and creative litigators with experience defending corporate clients, including Fortune 500 companies, in state and federal trial and appellate courts from coast to coast.  Our approach to defending mass tort claims combines tactical motion practice, mastery of applicable law and science, and trial and appellate skills tested and proven in some of the most challenging venues across the United States.  McAfee & Taft’s Mass Torts team has a national reputation for providing the highest quality work and results in a cost-effective manner.  We have secured rulings that changed the course of the litigation leading to dismissal, successful resolution, and defense verdicts in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, New York, and Washington.   

Our Mass Torts team has defended allegations of cancer, mesothelioma, birth defects, major organ diseases, including of the lungs, liver, and kidneys, as well as other injuries allegedly arising from inhalation, ingestion, dermal, and/or ocular exposures to purportedly toxic chemicals, substances, and environmental chemicals, compounds, pollutants, and agents.

Notably, asbestos litigation is one of the largest and is now the longest-running mass tort litigation in United States history.  We serve as national trial and appellate counsel for a global vehicle manufacturer in cases involving asbestos, managing a large docket of cases in one of the most challenging jurisdictions in the United States, trying potentially catastrophic cases in multiple venues, and serving as embedded appellate counsel at trial.  Our experience also includes serving as both  national coordinating counsel and local counsel for several other manufacturing defendants, as well as premises owners, who have been sued in asbestos cases throughout the country.

Our team is steeped in the science of risk assessment, epidemiology, industrial hygiene, toxicology, and pathology as a result of decades of experience in litigation and defending complex mass toxic tort claims.  We apply this technical knowledge in each aspect of the case from motion practice, including Daubert motions and hearings, to depositions and trial. We have prepared and argued significant Daubert motions, excluding “junk science” of plaintiffs’ experts, to the benefit of our clients.

Mass torts span a wide range of claims, and we have experience in defending claims involving air, ground, and drinking water contamination, oil and gas operations, pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices, manufacturing, refineries, earthquake claims, nuisance claims, asbestos, silica, and benzene, among other complex environmental and alleged toxic exposures.

A representative sampling of the successes achieved by our lawyers is included below.

  • Obtained defense verdict for major automotive manufacturer in a case of bystander to brake work who claimed mesothelioma as a result of alleged exposure to asbestos.  The case was tried in the City of St. Louis, a venue routinely included in the American Tort Reform Foundation  (ATRF) list of Judicial Hellholes ®.  Plaintiff sought $24 million in compensatory and punitive damages.  Notably, two weeks before this defense verdict, in the same courtroom, with the same judge and plaintiffs’ counsel, defendants (represented by other counsel) in an asbestos case were hit with an $11.3 million verdict.
  • Obtained a unanimous defense verdict for major automotive manufacturer in an asbestos case brought by service manager and mechanic at several automotive dealerships in the City of St. Louis wherein plaintiffs sought over $50 million for compensatory and punitive damages resulting from plaintiff’s mesothelioma.
  • Defended a major automotive manufacturer in a case filed in the City of St. Louis, naming more than 60 defendants, and alleging that certain products exposed decedent to asbestos and caused his death from pleural mesothelioma.  A two-week trial was conducted with McAfee & Taft’s client as the sole remaining defendant. Plaintiff presented testimony from a fact witness that the witness and decedent performed brake jobs and other mechanic work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, from 1978 to 1983.  At trial, plaintiff sought $5 million in compensatory damages and also punitive damages.  The jury deliberated for one hour, and returned a unanimous defense verdict.
  • Obtained a unanimous defense verdict in Cook County, Illinois, for a major automotive manufacturer in a case in which plaintiff, a career mechanic at an automotive dealership, alleged that he was exposed to asbestos during brake work, resulting in mesothelioma.  A two-week trial, involving multiple expert witnesses, complex motion practice and jury instructions, resulted in a defense verdict after 4.5 hours of deliberation by a jury in a venue considered one of the most plaintiff-oriented in the country.  Plaintiff sought $45 million in damages.
  • Obtained a favorable resolution of a case for major automotive manufacturer after court granted motion to exclude evidence of liability of automotive manufacturer for asbestos containing components manufactured by others.
  • Obtained summary judgment for a major automotive manufacturer in a case brought in McLean County, Illinois, in which plaintiff alleged exposure to asbestos during automotive repair work and sought to hold manufacturer liable for components it did not manufacture or distribute.
  • Obtained summary judgment for a major automotive manufacturer in a case involving alleged exposure to asbestos on defendant’s premises as a result of plaintiff’s work as a career insulator.
  • Obtained defense verdict in Rock Island County, Illinois, in case in which plaintiff claimed he was exposed to asbestos while performing automotive repair work on his personal vehicles.  Plaintiff sought $6.6 million in compensatory damages.   
  • Defended personal injury and property damage claims involving many plaintiffs allegedly arising out of oil and gas operations, including groundwater pollution.
  • Defended personal injury and property damage claims involving many plaintiffs allegedly arising out of manufacturing operations and refineries, including groundwater cases involving chlorinated solvents, benzene, and other manufacturing component.
  • Defended personal injury and property damage claims by a town in Eastern Oklahoma allegedly arising out of the disposal of fly ash and produced water.
  • Currently defending earthquake claims involving thousands of plaintiffs, involving property and personal injury damages.
  • Defended very large nuisance case involving individual plaintiffs and an organization of approximately 350 members alleging personal injury and seeking injunctive relief to stop the operation of a wind farm in Western Oklahoma.
  • Selected by Merck & Co.’s national coordinating counsel to serve as sole Oklahoma counsel in handling more than 350 cases, including several purported class actions, involving the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical Vioxx after it was removed from the global marketplace in 2004. The firm was successful in getting all the cases removed, when filed in state court, and transferred pursuant to orders from the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.
  • Tapped in 2004 by leading pharmaceutical company Wyeth to assume the defense of approximately 1,000 cases pending in Oklahoma involving the combination diet drug Fen-Phen prior to a global settlement being reached.

Mass Torts, Toxic Torts, and Asbestos Litigation Team

Timothy J. Bomhoff


(405) 552-2339

J. Craig Buchan


(918) 574-3049

Brandon L. Buchanan


(405) 552-2307

Brita Haugland Cantrell

Shareholder, Practice Group Leader

(918) 574-3077

Mary Quinn Cooper

Shareholder, Practice Group Leader

(918) 574-3065

Valerie L. Dixon

Of Counsel

(417) 409-6091

Robert J. Joyce


(918) 574-3040

William S. Leach


(918) 574-3063

Sherry A. Rozell


(918) 574-3001