Dechert LLP’s Sheila Birnbaum, known as the “Queen of Torts," recently discussed with Law360 the changes in product liability laws she has seen over her long career, her proudest achievement as a lawyer and the challenges of representing Purdue Pharma in the multidistrict litigation over the opioid crisis.
Birnbaum, co-chair of Dechert’s product liability practice, graduated from New York University Law School in 1965 and began her career at Berman & Frost, where she was the firm’s first female attorney.
She made her reputation with the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision in State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell, which won a reversal of a $145 million judgment against State Farm on the grounds that the punitive damages awarded were unconstitutionally excessive. Now, she represents Purdue Pharma in the multidistrict litigation over the opioid crisis in which the plaintiffs, mostly local governments, generally allege that drug companies downplayed the risks of opioids.
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