Michael L. Fox represents energy producers, chemical and equipment manufacturers, construction and pharmaceutical companies, and public entities in toxic tort, environmental release, general liability and serious personal injury matters. He has extensive experience litigating complex, multiparty disputes involving alleged exposure to airborne and groundwater contaminants,
Mr. Fox has tried and arbitrated several cases to verdict. He has argued numerous appeals before the California Supreme Court, California Courts of Appeal and Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, including disputes involving toxic exposures, insurance coverage, privacy rights, public access, premises liability, civil procedure, and application of California’s anti-SLAPP statute.
Mr. Fox is a 1994 graduate of Pepperdine University School of Law and a 1991 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.
Areas of Practice
Personal Injury Defense
- Supreme Court of the United States
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
- U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
- U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
- U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California
- Pepperdine University School of Law, J.D., 1994
- University of Pennsylvania, B.S., 1991
Duane Morris LLP
- Partner, 2018-present
- Partner, 2003-2017
- Associate, 1998-2002
McKay, Byrne & Graham
- Associate, 1994-1998
Honors and Awards
AV Preeminent® Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell®
Listed in Northern California Super Lawyers, Top Rated Products Liability Attorney
Association of Business Trial Lawyers
Bar Association of San Francisco
- Litigation Section
- Environmental Section
California State Bar
Defense Research Institute
International Association of Defense Counsel
- Toxic and Hazardous Substances Litigation Committee, Vice-Chair of Membership
Loss Executives Association
- Associate Member
- Lead attorney and trial counsel for several asbestos personal injury litigation dockets, including current and past representation of oil refiners, construction companies, brewing companies, utility providers, equipment suppliers, aircraft manufacturers, and hospitals.
- Defends pharmaceutical distributor in action brought by plaintiff wholesalers alleging violation of the federal Robinson-Patman Act and California state laws.
- Represents the Judicial Council of California, judicial officers, courts, and court employees throughout the State in litigation involving government liability and constitutional challenges to court rulings and operations.
- Defends leading North American energy producer in climate change litigation brought by local governments.
- Defended several commercial clients over the past few years in mass toxic tort cases involving claims of premises and products liability and alleged exposure to asbestos, talc, TCE, hexavalent chromium, silica, welding fumes, and gadolinium.
Defended heavy equipment manufacturer in product liability cases involving alleged defects with operator cabs.
Defended service station operator nationwide in toxic tort litigation alleging liability for its distribution of automotive parts.
Defended safety equipment manufacturer in action brought by order picker operator who sustained traumatic brain injury.
- Represented a leading Canadian specialty mussel farm in obtaining a complete dismissal with prejudice of an action claiming trade secret misappropriation under both the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act and California Uniform Trade Secrets Act.
- Obtained voluntary no-pay dismissals for a pharmaceutical distributor after filing summary judgment motions establishing that our client’s over-the-counter talcum powder was not contaminated with asbestos and that the plaintiffs’ personal injury claims were preempted by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act.
- Obtained a defense award for a major national franchisor in a two-week commercial arbitration brought by franchisees alleging wrongful termination of their franchise, and defeated efforts to vacate the award in the district court and Ninth Circuit.
- Defended a utility company in numerous and substantial personal injury and real property claims following catastrophic explosion event.
- Obtained an adjudicated dismissal for an aircraft engine maintenance provider in an action brought by employees seeking to avoid the exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation based on allegations that concealment of workplace hazards exacerbated their injuries.
- Defended a major construction company in a mass tort action filed by dozens of its employees arising from their exposure to welding fumes while working in confined spaces.
- Defended a pesticide applicator in toxic exposure case brought by 84 residents of neighboring field where our client applied metam sodium. The case resolved by mediation one month before trial for a nominal sum.
- Obtained a voluntary no-pay dismissal for a major oil refining company in a benzene-related personal injury action brought by a 49-year-old woman suffering from acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).
- Worked with a major oil company to develop practices and procedures to ensure compliance with regulatory standards concerning employee exposure to benzene.
- Served as regional trial counsel for a major general merchandise retailer, handling a vast array of public liability matters throughout California.
- Favorably resolved a complex first party property reinsurance claim shortly after commencement of arbitration proceedings related to the insured’s due diligence and the applicability of policy exclusions, sublimits, and deductibles. The claim followed a landslide that deposited approximately one million tons of debris on the insured’s railroad track and disrupted service for several months.
- Obtained adjudicated dismissals of bad faith claims against professional liability and D&O insurers which, along with subsequent appellate victories affirming most of the dismissals, eliminated approximately $15 million out of $17 million in claims.
- Represented international insurers in multi-million dollar recovery action, successfully defeating anti-SLAAP motion to strike (in trial court and on appeal), and obtaining a ruling which established the crime-fraud exception to our opponent’s claims of attorney-client privilege.
- Represented reinsurers in the investigation, adjustment, and resolution of other large commercial property claims related to floods.
- Represented an insurance company in a federal grand jury investigation of agency fraud.
- Defeated putative class and declaratory relief actions against the judicial branch protesting the constitutionality of jury fee deposits.
- Defeated a putative class action (in trial court and on appeal) against a state court and its employees alleging due process violations related to the imposition of civil assessments associated with traffic citations.
- Defeated a malicious prosecution and racial discrimination action filed against a state court judge for her alleged role in a scheme among other local prosecutors and law enforcement officials to manufacture criminal charges against an attorney and derail his efforts to fill a judicial vacancy.
- Tried several cases to verdict while working pro bono with the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.
- Co-author, “Talc Verdict Overturned as Appellate Court Finds Experts’ Opinions Lacking,” HarrisMartin’s Benzene & Emerging Toxic Torts Litigation Report, June 2021
- Co-author, "Talc Verdict Overturned as Appellate Court Finds Experts’ Opinions Lacking," IADC Committee Newsletter, May 2021
- Co-author, "Talc Verdict Overturned as Appellate Court Finds Experts' Opinions Lacking," Duane Morris Alert, April 30, 2021
“Tenth Circuit Daubert Ruling Bars Plaintiff Expert’s AML Benzene Opinion Based on Differential Diagnosis,” International Association of Defense Counsel Toxic and Hazardous Substances Litigation Newsletter, May 2018
“Reverse False Claims Update: No False Claims Act Liability for Merely Failing to Report Leaks of Toxic Substances,” IADC Committee Newsletter, May 2017
“False Claims Act Liability for Failure to Make Required Toxic Risk Disclosures,” Bloomberg BNA Toxics Law Reporter, October 2016
“False Claims Act Liability for Failure to Make Required Toxic Risk Disclosures,” International Association of Defense Counsel Toxic and Hazardous Substances Litigation Newsletter, September 2016
“Fifth Circuit Finds Common Sense Inferences Support Mass Action Removal,” International Association of Defense Counsel Toxic and Hazardous Substances Litigation Newsletter, January 2016
“Recent Developments in Medical Monitoring Case Law: Pleadings-Stage Dismissal in California, and Updates from Other Jurisdictions,” International Association of Defense Counsel Toxic and Hazardous Substances Litigation Newsletter, April 2015
“The Use of Forensic Psychiatry in Catastrophic Injury and Multi-Party Litigation,” Bloomberg BNA Expert Evidence Report, December 2013
“California Appellate Court Limits Application of Sophisticated User Doctrine,” International Association of Defense Counsel Toxic and Hazardous Substances Litigation Newsletter, November 2013
“Maryland’s Highest Court Clarifies Toxic Tort Standards and Reverses a Punitive Damage Award in Excess of $1 Billion,” International Association of Defense Counsel Toxic and Hazardous Substances Litigation Newsletter, April 2013
“The Impact of the California Supreme Court’s Opinion in O’Neil on Courts Across the Nation: Who’s Next?” International Association of Defense Counsel Toxic and Hazardous Substances Litigation Newsletter, July 2012
“U.S. Navy’s Fault Should Be Considered Despite Immunity,” Daily Journal, July 2010
Co-author, “Products Liability for Third Party Replacement of Connected Parts: Changing Tides from the West,” University of San Francisco Law Review, V. 44, No. 1, Summer 2009
“Indecent Exposure,” Daily Journal, April 2009
Co-author, “Asbestos Litigation in California: Can it Change for the Better?” Pepperdine Law Review, V. 34, 2007
“Guiding Juries,” Daily Journal, November 2007
“California Supreme Court Adopts Sophisticated User Doctrine,” Sedgwick News Flash, April 2008
Selected Speaking Engagements
"Public Entities’ Climate Change Nuisance Litigation: An Update on the Cases and Where They Are Going," IADC's Midyear Meeting, February 2019
"Legal & Practical Issues Facing Health & Safety Professionals," American Industrial Hygiene Association, Northern California Section, November 2017
“Ground Movement from the Ground Up—Property Claims Involving Geologic Losses,” PLRB’s Large Loss Conference, October 2015
“Assessing the Viability of Medical Monitoring,” IADC’s Annual Meeting, July 2015
“Managing the Bargaining and Concession-Making Process While Mastering Tactics and Deflecting Ploys,” PLI’s Basic Negotiation Skills Course, January 2015
“Recent Developments in Medical Monitoring,” IADC webinar, November 2014
“Effective Use of Forensic Psychiatry in Catastrophic Injury, Toxic Torts, and Multi-Party Litigation,” IADC’s Midyear Meeting, February 2014
“In-House Corporate and Insurer Panel on Financial & Legal Decisions, Managing Claims, Defense Costs, Controlling Costs to Resolve Claims, Settlement Negotiations, and More,” ACI’s 16th National Advanced Forum on Asbestos Claims & Litigation, January 2014
“Managing the Bargaining and Concession-Making Process,” PLI’s Basic Negotiating Skills Course, January 2014
“Mountains from Molecules? Techniques for Refuting Low Dose Exposure Claims,” IADC’s Midyear Meeting, February 2013
“Managing the Bargaining and Concession-Making Process,” PLI’s Basic Negotiating Skills Course, January 2013
“Corporate and Insurer Panel on Financial and Legal Decisions, Managing Claims, Lowering Defense Costs, and Managing Litigation,” ACI’s 12th Annual Advanced Forum on Asbestos Claims & Litigation, January 2012
“Asbestos Litigation Update: Emerging Trends & Trial Skills,” HB Litigation Conferences, July 2011
“Shifting Liability: The New Wave of Defendants,” ACI’s 10th National Advanced Forum on Litigating and Managing Asbestos Claims, June 2009
“Naturally Occurring Asbestos,” Association of Defense Counsel of Northern California and Nevada, April 2007
“The Low Dose Defense,” Association of Defense Counsel of Northern California and Nevada, May 2007
“Venue and Forum Non Conveniens,” Harris Martin’s California Asbestos & Silica Litigation Conference, September 2007