Talking Product Liability with Sheila Birnbaum, Dechert’s ‘Queen of Toxic Torts’

August 27, 2020
The American Lawyer Litigation Daily

For Sheila Birnbaum, co-chair of the product liability and mass torts practice at Dechert, these are “interesting” times to be a defense lawyer.

States and municipalities are showing up more and more often opposite her in the plaintiffs chair. Birnbaum, dubbed the “Queen of Toxic Torts” because of her standing in the defense bar, says government lawyers are using the power of the press conference to help shape public opinion on the sorts of cases she handles. 

“From a client’s point of view, they don’t think it’s interesting,” she said. “They think it’s unfair.” 

The Litigation Daily recently caught up with Birnbaum, who represents Purdue Pharma in litigation stemming from the opioid crisis and State Farm in cases brought over business interruption coverage in the wake of the pandemic. Reached by phone in Long Island where she’s relocated from New York since March 14, Birnbaum highlighted recent changes in the mass torts world. The following has been edited for length and clarity. 

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