Juries in scientific cases face a difficult task. They must learn the language and principles of complex scientific disciplines. They must referee battles of apparently equally qualified experts and reach verdicts on issues science itself has sometimes not yet decided. For defendants, the prospect of submitting scientific controversies to lay juries is often frightening; a company or its product may hang in the balance.
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP’s product liability team is a large group of trial lawyers with years of experience in bringing good science to the courtroom and teaching it to judges and juries. We focus on making scientific issues accessible and teaching juries how to decide them.
Our team has defended personal injury and wrongful death cases arising out of consumer, occupational and environmental exposures; claims of economic loss, diminished property value and damage to natural resources; and cases arising out of catastrophic accidents such as airplane crashes and failure of nuclear devices. Our approach to science in the courtroom can be applied—and has been applied—in such areas of litigation as:
- toxic tort
- pharmaceuticals and medical devices
- outbreaks of illness from food contamination
- explosions and fires
- nuclear safety and accidents
- pesticides and other agricultural chemicals
- economic loss from contamination of natural resources
- airplane design defects
- explosions of pipelines, boilers and a liquid natural gas storage facility
- automobile, including tires, and heavy equipment manufacturers in design defect cases
- oil and gas service equipment cases
- component part manufacturer claims.
The common thread of our practice is our ability to present judges and juries with understandable, compelling answers to complex questions of medicine and science.
Extraordinary Expert Network
We pride ourselves on bringing just the right expert to bear on a case’s key issues. We avoid the jack-of-all-trades professional witness. Instead, we maintain an extensive network of academics, clinicians and consultants who can be matched to the specifics and geography of almost any case. We are consistently able to present to the jury an expert who can testify to his or her own experience and research in the relevant field. In a recent trial of multiple myeloma and childhood leukemia claims, for example, we brought to the courtroom the editor of the leading textbook on each of these cancers.
To implement this strategy, we have cultivated, for many years, relationships with renowned experts in dozens of scientific and medical disciplines. Our network includes experts from virtually every geographical region. Most have reached the highest stature in their fields. They include former presidents of the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; editors of the most respected medical journals in neurology and pulmonary medicine; the dean of one of the nation’s most prominent engineering schools; and members of the National Academy of Sciences and the EPA’s Science Advisory Board. We have often been told in the courtroom that we have brought the jury a better “faculty” than any single medical or scientific institution could offer.