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Diane P. Sullivan always intended to be a litigator. “I always like competing,” she says. In college, she played varsity tennis and intramural basketball. “I’m a big sports fanatic,” she notes. Litigation was a way of feeding that competitive drive. As she began her career at Hannoch Weisman in Roseland, N.J., Sullivan moved into products liability and mass tort litigation. “I wanted trial work and more of these cases went to trial. So I gravitated to that.” She quickly became involved in several hot issues, most notably as a defense attorney in breast implant litigation. As a young associate in a national products mass tort case, she was trained not only by the more experienced lawyers at her firm, but by accomplished litigators at other firms, including Vaughn Crawford at Phoenix’s Snell & Wilmer and Bruce Parker at Baltimore’s Venable. Sullivan became a national trial counsel for Baxter Healthcare in the breast implant litigation and was involved in more than a hundred individual lawsuits across the country. Her success in these cases established her as a nationally recognized specialist in defending pharmaceutical and medical-device companies. So far in her career, Sullivan has had 18 jury trials and has lost four. Of the 12 trials where she was first chair, she has lost only one. That was her first one as a young associate in a personal injury claim against a drug store. But the defeat was a small one; the verdict was only $30,000. Sullivan, who joined Dechert’s Princeton, N.J., office in 2001, is part of the firm’s national defense team representing GlaxoSmithKline PLC in the Baycol litigation and was recently named as defense liaison counsel in the consolidated New Jersey lead paint litigation brought by more than 20 counties in that state against lead paint defendants. Sullivan is currently trying the first multidistrict litigation case in the latex-glove litigation in Philadelphia and recently received a favorable ruling when the court decided to limit the opinions of the plaintiffs’ core experts. In June, Sullivan won a major defense in a latex-glove case involving an individual plaintiff, representing Allegiance Healthcare Corp. She was called in just before the trial started. The plaintiff contended that allergies set off by exposure to latex gloves had permanently disabled her. She charged Allegiance with design defects and failure to warn of potential dangers from the gloves. The plaintiff had been one of about 500 included in the multidistrict litigation in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, but her case had been remanded to Minnesota for trial when the plaintiff’s attorneys argued she could die at any time. It was the first latex-glove allergy claim to be tried in a federal court. One of Sullivan’s few losses came in a latex-glove case in California when a jury returned a $1 million verdict against her client. Sullivan was not first chair in that trial, but she learned a great deal from the loss on how to try future latex cases, as well as other cases involving medical devices or medications. In that case, the defense won on the warnings issue, but lost on design. From that loss, she learned, “you have to tweak the story. In this trial, we modified the story and highlighted our strengths. “One of the big themes for the defendant in the latex-glove litigation is the usefulness of the product. Latex gloves are one of the primary defenses against AIDS,” she says. In the early 1990s, she notes, “there were glove shortages. We emphasized the company’s response” to this health crisis. In the Minnesota case, the plaintiff was seeking $3 million in economic damages and triple that in pain and suffering. But the jury found no defects in the design or warnings and unanimously rejected the claim.

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