Lawyer Monthly - September 2023

Shawn Collins is the founder of The Collins Law Firm and a prolific trial attorney, with a breadth of experience across the fields of environmental law, personal injury law and business litigation. Since 1986 he has worked on a number of ‘high stakes’ litigation matters to recover tens of millions of dollars for his clients. Shawn’s expertise and leadership have seen him recognised as one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers by The American Trial Lawyers Association from 2005 through 2023, among many other accolades. The Collins Law Firm was founded by Shawn Collins in 1992 and has since become one of the leading law firms in the Chicago area. The firm’s team are experienced in business, personal injury and environmental law, with several attorneys recognised as leading lawyers both regionally and nationally. The Collins Law Firm has represented hundreds of clients and secured more than $900 million in settlements and verdicts. Contact Shawn Collins Founder The Collins Law Firm, PC 1770 Park St STE 200, Naperville, IL 60563, USA Tel: +1 630-527-1595 environmental ‘regulation’ that is ever more in the control of the polluters it is supposed to regulate. The bottom line to all of this is that, until further notice, Americans cannot trust their government to define how much of a chemical is dangerous and what a polluter profiting from the use of a dangerous chemical owes to its neighbours whose lives, health and property values are on the line when the polluter discharges chemicals irresponsibly into a neighborhood. Enter the jury. The US is the only industrialised country in the world that constitutionally guarantees that a jury will decide (many) of its civil trials. In other countries, juries are reserved for criminal trials. In the US, juries decide civil trials because the people who wrote our Constitution, frankly, wanted a forum for resolving important disputes that was as removed as possible from the corrosive, sometimes corrupting, influence of the relationship between business interests and government. As a result, for example, in my 2022 case where the jury awarded $363 million to a woman who had contracted breast cancer after inhaling for years a chemical released from the defendant’s plant, the jury was free to look sceptically upon (and, indeed, to even disregard) the defences that: • “the company did not behave recklessly in releasing the chemical because local government gave the company a permit to do so.” The jury was free to conclude that the company was responsible itself for knowing the dangers of the chemical it unleashed on a residential community and could not blindly rely on the permission of a government regulatory agency that might have been too ignorant or uncaring to know the chemical’s true danger. • “the chemical concentrations inhaled by plaintiff must have been safe because no study has ever shown concentrations so low to cause harm.” The jury was free to agree with plaintiff that the defendant’s argument was meaningless because no study of the concentrations plaintiff inhaled had ever been performed, and that many of the studies defendant relied upon at trial were not trustworthy, because they had been paid for by money from the pollution industry. As our Constitution’s framers had intended, this jury took seriously its role as the judge of what was necessary to protect a community from a carcinogen. It rejected the conclusion of the polluter and regulator that the community did not deserve any such protection. The result was a record-setting verdict that reverberated literally around the world, speaking to that defendant and other polluters in the only language they understand: money. In that way, the jury did more than most regulation ever would. MY LEGAL LIFE 27 The wealthiest polluters in the world, and their PACs and lobbyists, are among the most significant and active campaign contributors to American elections.

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