Environmental toxic tort: silicon valley, CA

The Story:

Our firm was the investigative agency for the defense in a cutting-edge toxic tort case against one of the pioneer Silicon Valley semiconductor companies.  The case, brought in California state court, arose out of claims that children of former employees were injured by their mothers’ preconception and in utero exposure to semiconductor chemicals. The original demand was for $10 million dollars. 

The Case:

From the plaintiff’s deposition testimony that was understandably sparse after the passage of almost fifty years, as well as from the available client employee records, it was not possible to determine at exactly which of several facilities she worked.  Thus her claims of exposure to teratogenic and mutagenic chemicals could not be proven or disproven without testimony from workers who worked with her during the relevant time period.

 

We were retained by defense counsel to assist them locating and interviewing former employees of their client firm. Through research we discovered that copies of the company’s employee newsletter were contained in the personal files and letters of one of the company’s founders, a Silicon Valley legend.  These were available in the Special Collections of a local university library. From sources like this, we created a employee roster for the relevant time period (1962-1965), when the mother of affected child was employed by the firm.

 

From a careful review of the newsletters, we eventually were able to build through interviews and databases, a database of more than 700 individuals who were still living (many former employees had died in the intervening fifty years). We were able to determine that at least thirty of the names of co-employees worked at the company during her employment.

 

Interviews with employees allowed us to discover at what facility and precisely where the Plaintiff had worked.  We were able to show that the only chemicals that she would have been exposed to where she worked were benign. 

 

In addition, in doing research on the particular syndrome that the Plaintiff’s child had, we uncovered a paper written by the child’s doctor.  In the paper, the doctor claimed that the syndrome was caused by a genetic defect only.

 

We also were able to locate and interview a key family member, whose testimony contradicted the Plaintiff. 

 

The combined evidence that we found resulted in a very favorable defense settlement.

 

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