Specialty and Catastrophic Torts
For decades, Sedgwick has been on the forefront of successfully handling specialty and catastrophic torts defense litigation for our clients. Our attorneys have litigated thousands of cases involving allegations of extensive property damage, serious personal injury, purposeful infliction of injury and wrongful death. We regularly represent national and international companies in these high-risk and potentially controversial matters, and our reputation for favorable outcomes is reflected by our long list of clients. Members of this practice group regularly appear in both state and federal courts throughout the country on behalf of our clients, who rely on us to protect their interests in expanding geographic markets. Sedgwick’s specialty tort practice has developed from decades of defending catastrophic injury cases. Our demonstrated ability to defend and try the most difficult cases in some of the most challenging jurisdictions and under the most sensitive of circumstances has earned us the reputation as the “go-to” trial firm on unique liability and high exposure claims. Our attorneys are skilled in protecting the interests of clients in courts of law and, when necessary, courts of public opinion. Our clients include corporations, real estate developers, property management companies, national nonprofit membership organizations, youth groups, churches, schools, insurance companies, government agencies, contractors, small businesses and individuals.
Early Case Resolution and Litigation Avoidance
Sedgwick attorneys recognize that many specialty catastrophic tort cases may be successfully and economically resolved short of trial. We have developed strategies for discovery and pretrial practice, which have resulted in the entry of defense judgments pursuant to motions. We also consult with in-house counsel and risk managers to develop risk avoidance strategies and programs that empower businesses to avoid litigation altogether, or to maximize the factual and legal defenses available, if sued. Our counseling services include actual or threatened product recalls where the issues are often critical to the success of underlying litigation, as well as the clients’ legal and business interests. Sedgwick attorneys also prepare risk analyses, assess advertising liability and develop pre-loss programs and effective procedures for receiving and responding to customer complaints and government agency inquiries. Sedgwick also prepares product warning labels, product literature, and instruction and policy manuals.
Sedgwick attorneys have protected the rights of businesses, nonprofit organizations and property owners in actions involving allegations of assault and battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, libel and slander, and physical and sexual abuse of children and the elderly, including claims of euthanasia by medical professionals. There may be no firm in the U.S. with greater experience defending institutions sued for sexual assaults by employees or others. We have defended hundreds of such claims and have helped to shape the law in this area.
Examples of our experience include:
- Schools and Preschools - In 1984, an association of preschools in California asked Sedgwick to develop a response team to assist preschools in handling a flood of accusations of sexual abuse by teachers, unpaid volunteers, visitors or other children. Sedgwick has advised or defended such individuals from all such types of accusations. In the course of doing so, Sedgwick attorneys have visited more than 100 schools and preschools to meet with and advise teachers, staff, principals and administrators during police and children’s protective service questioning. We have also offered dozens of seminars and other educational programs about the law relating to liability of schools and how to minimize the risk of such suits.
- Religious Organizations - Sedgwick has defended hundreds of cases against religious organizations asserting liability for sexual assault by a priest, pastor, lay employee, pastoral counselor, employed psychologist or member of the parish, congregation or ward against another adult or child. Sedgwick attorneys took a leading role in the resolution of the wave of revived child sexual abuse cases in California.
- Sexual Harassment - Sedgwick has defended many claims alleging sexual harassment in employment, as well as sexual harassment in schools, under Title IX and otherwise, and sexual harassment in landlord/tenant and professional/client settings.
- Employment Terminations Related to Sexual Assaults - Sedgwick has defended employers accused of wrongfully terminating employees found to have committed sexual assaults or harassment, and has defended employers accused of wrongfully terminating employees in retaliation for making reports of sexual harassment or sexual assault to the employer, law enforcement or licensing authorities.
- Insurance Issues - As a firm, Sedgwick has a vast capacity to represent clients in virtually any insurance controversy, including insurance coverage for sexual assault. When Sedgwick attorneys are asked to defend persons or institutions against claims of sexual wrongdoing where insurance is potentially available, we have become adept at successfully defending claims while remaining sensitive to, but neutral concerning, the potential insurance coverage issues. Sedgwick believes it has enjoyed the trust of both insureds and insurers to vigorously defend sexual tort claims while remaining scrupulously neutral as to potential coverage issues.
- Expert Testimony - Because of the wealth of experience Sedgwick attorneys possess in the area of sexual tort claims, Sedgwick attorneys have been retained to give expert testimony concerning the standards of practice of attorneys representing both plaintiffs and defendants in cases involving sexual misconduct claims and concerning the valuation of childhood sexual assault claims.
Specialty Tort Engagements
- Representation of the Los Angeles School District on multiple child abuse claims arising from the acts of a former Miramonte Elementary School teacher, and child abuse claims arising from other schools within the district.
- Representation of transportation companies in cases involving multiple-vehicle highway accidents.
- Defense of property owners in multiparty gas explosion cases involving public utilities.
- Defense of the largest youth organization in the U.S. in all its problem tort and special risk matters, including cases involving allegations of sexual abuse and molestation.
- Representation of California regional religious organization in California coordinated clergy sexual abuse litigation under an extended statute of limitations.
- Counseling and defense of youth organizations, religious and church groups, and schools on a variety of liability matters.
- Defense of medical facility accused of criminal and civil misconduct in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Catastrophic Injuries and Wrongful Death
We represent a wide range of clients when serious injury to employees, customers, visitors and other individuals puts our clients at risk for high-cost judgments. Injuries in these cases can include disfigurement, brain damage resulting in permanent functional disability, and death. We have also represented transportation companies and others in cases involving multiple-vehicle highway accidents, train derailments and other large scale catastrophic events such as in multiparty gas explosions involving public utilities.
Sedgwick represents many local and national property owners and managers in premises liability and negligence claims based on allegations of inadequate security and involving injuries suffered in common areas, elevators, lessee space and other areas. We also represent residential landlords in cases involving injuries suffered by tenants and guests on premises, including carbon monoxide and lead-based paint liability claims.
Commercial/Property Damage Claims
Our attorneys have vast experience representing commercial landowners and their insurance companies concerning property damage claims, which include fire damage, as well as catastrophic water damage to retail spaces, inventory and warehouses.