Scott DeVries is a litigation partner in the firm’s San Francisco office and chairs the Insurance Recovery Practice. In this capacity, he routinely represents firm clients throughout the country facing insurance recovery issues. He also focuses his practice on class and mass torts, product liability, and complex civil litigation at both the trial and appellate levels.
Mr. DeVries has more than 25 years of experience in complex litigation for companies faced with major insurance, environmental, and toxic tort litigation, including Aerojet-General Corporation, Amaranth, NetApp, Midas, Nucor Corporation, Precision CastParts, Velsicol, BP, and URS.
His insurance practice covers the gamut of insurance issues, including coverage for major property damage and business interruption losses, advertising-related liabilities, errors and omissions claims, director and officer claims, products liability claims, employment liability, fiduciary liability such as ERISA, False Claims Act liabilities, theft and other criminal related claims, environmental and mass tort matters, and personal injury claims such as right to privacy and false imprisonment.
In the last five years, Mr. DeVries has tried four cases, three of them to jury. He tried two cases in which insurers challenged whether various fees and expenses were reasonable and necessary to the policyholder’s defense of underlying environmental and mass tort litigation. He also tried one case to jury on the insurers’ obligation to indemnify the insured for various settlements. In the mass tort area, he tried to jury a case in which plaintiffs claimed that chemical exposure caused injuries and deaths.
In addition, Mr. DeVries routinely represents clients in appellate courts, where, for example, he obtained a groundbreaking decision in Aerojet-General Corp. v. Transport et al., in which the California Supreme Court held that the duty to defend included RI/FS and other expense where so long as a purpose of the expense was to further defense, and where a loss potentially triggers multiple policy periods, each insurer is severally and independently liable for the complete defense and is not entitled to seek defense from a “self-insured.” In April 2007, he obtained a decision on behalf of Tosoh SET from the First Appellate District (California) that advertising injury coverage covers direct as well as indirect forms of disparagement. In 2010, he secured a groundbreaking decision on behalf of Hyundai in the Ninth Circuit that advertising injury coverage covers allegations of patent infringement concerning website design. In 2012, he secured a decision in the Arizona Court of Appeal for Nucor addressing a number of landmark issues related to the company’s insurance recovery efforts related to environmental claims.
- Mr. DeVries represented a global chemical manufacturer in an action filed in California by more than 150 plaintiffs alleging that various insecticides and pesticides applied at a state research facility drifted onto nearby properties where they caused cancer and other personal injuries, including death, property diminution, and increased need for medical monitoring. The complaints were based on common law counts of trespass, nuisance, negligence, and ultrahazardous liability.
- Mr. DeVries defended a global energy company in a mass tort suit involving the Carson Refinery in Los Angeles. The action, pending in a California state court, names more than 260 plaintiffs alleging an assortment of physical and mental injuries, as well as increased need for medical monitoring and diminution in property values. The plaintiffs claim their injuries were caused by the release of various chemicals.
- Mr. DeVries represented a global environmental consulting firm in a mass tort suit involving the Ringwood Mines Landfill Superfund site. The action, pending in a New Jersey state court, consists of 45 consolidated cases naming more than 700 plaintiffs alleging an assortment of physical and mental injuries, as well as diminution in property values. The plaintiffs claim that their injuries were caused by the disposal of various chemicals and a failure to properly remediate the site.
- Mr. DeVries represented an international consumer products company which received a Proposition 65 notice in California and was sued in a class action alleging consumer fraud and seeking medical monitoring in Illinois. After working with consultants to develop conclusive evidence that the plaintiffs could not have been exposed to any chemicals emanating from our client’s product, the Prop 65 letter was withdrawn.
- Allen, et al. v. Aerojet-General Corporation and Cordova Chemical Company, et al., and Daphne Adams, et al. v. Aerojet-General Corporation and Cordova Chemical Company, et al. Represented both defendants in these mass and class toxic tort cases. In the class action, plaintiff sought to certify a class for medical monitoring and stigma damages; the court rejected plaintiffs’ attempt to certify. In the mass action, 500 plaintiffs claimed personal injuries, including death, associated with exposure to defendant’s chemicals (TCE, NDMA, and Perchlorate). Pre-trial activity resulted in the dismissal of 490 of the 500 plaintiffs. A 10-week jury trial in 2005 resulted in a defense verdict for Cordova, a defense verdict for Aerojet as respects four plaintiffs, and a plaintiff verdict against Aerojet on the remainder. The case was settled thereafter.
- Aerojet-General Corporation v. Transport Indemnity Co., et al. Represented policyholder in nine-month trial and ensuing appeals seeking reimbursement of defense and indemnity expense in connection with historical chemical releases at Sacramento site. Obtained two landmark appellate decisions, holding that environmental cleanup costs are “damages” and recoverable under CGL policies (211 Cal. App. 3d 216 (1988)) and that investigative expenses are recoverable as defense expenses (17 Cal. 4th 38 (1997)).
- American States Water Company v. Aerojet-General Corporation. Represented defendant in action alleging chemical releases damaged plaintiffs interest in groundwater. Case settled after motions in limine argued.
- Baker v. Motorola et al. and Lofgren, et al. v. Motorola, et al. Represented defendant Nucor Corporation in (1) a class action brought by Scottsdale and Phoenix residents alleging that chemical releases to air and groundwater diminished property value and increased the need for medical monitoring, and (2) a personal injury action brought by over 200 plaintiffs. After a three-week Daubert hearing, the trial court rejected all of plaintiffs’ medical causation experts and entered judgment for defendants. The case settled thereafter.
- Higgins, et al. v. Aerojet-General Corporation and Cordova Chemical Company and McCann v. Aerojet-General Corporation and Cordova Chemical Company. Represented defendants in mass and class toxic tort litigation in which (1) 70 plaintiffs claimed personal injuries including death, increased risk of cancer, and property damage associated with exposure to defendant’s chemicals, and (2) plaintiffs sought to certify a medical monitoring class. The court rejected plaintiffs’ attempt to certify a class. Obtained defense verdict after three-month jury trial in 1986.
- From 1988 to 1994 Mr. DeVries represented Monsanto in various cases from Texas through California involving exposure to an herbicide product, including Mathis, et al. v. Monsanto, where plaintiffs alleged that exposure to defendant’s product caused death, and Villarial v. Monsanto, where plaintiff alleged that exposure to defendant’s product caused brain damage.
- Nucor v. Hartford, Travelers, Wausau, et al. Represented policyholder in action against insurers seeking reimbursement of defense and indemnity costs associated with underlying toxic tort and governmental actions. To date, obtained rulings that (1) sudden and accidental pollution exclusion means what insurers represented in 1970, (2) administrative proceedings trigger a duty to defend, and (3) “bodily injury” coverage covers medical monitoring expense. After settling with two primary insurers, had one month trial concerning reasonableness of defense expense with the third. In December 2005, the court entered a 40-page Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law largely adopting the policyholder’s position. Thereafter, there was a one-week jury trial against insurer concerning indemnity obligations; jury entered a verdict for Nucor.
- Precision Cast Parts v. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co. et al. Represented PCC in an action against its general liability insurers in which it sought to recover cost of defense and settlement associated with environmental claims made against it by the City of Portland.
Mr. DeVries received a B.A. from the College of William and Mary in 1976 and a J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of Law in 1979.
Honors & Awards
From 2006 through 2014, Mr. DeVries was chosen each year for inclusion in Best Lawyers in America in the categories of insurance and general litigation with the San Francisco office being ranked “Tier One” in both categories. He was recognized each year by San Francisco Magazine from 2004 through 2013 as one of the Northern California “Super Lawyers.” Most recently, he was endorsed by PLC Which Lawyer? as a leader in Insurance: Policyholder Led Practices.
Mr. DeVries is a member of the California Bar Association and the New York Bar Association. He is a fellow of the American College of Coverage and Extracontractual Counsel. He also serves on the editorial boards of the Environmental Claim Journal and the Toxics Law Reporter.
Mr. DeVries’ recent publications include the following:
- Co-Author, “Appropriateness of Medical Monitoring Awards in Mass Tort Cases,” BNA Toxics Law Reporter (Oct. 2011)
- Co-Author, “Ameron International: Expanding Insurance Recovery for Administrative Environmental Proceedings,” Environmental Claims Journal (April 2011)
- Co-Author, “Environmental Law,” ABA Annual Review of Developments in Business and Corporate Litigation (Jan. 2011)
- Co-Author, “Litigation Risks Related to Nanoproducts,” Bloomberg Law Reports, Technology Law (Dec. 2010)
- Co-Author, “Nanotechnology—the New Frontier of Mass Tort Litigation,” Mealey’s Litigation Report:Toxic Torts (December 2009)
- Co-Author, “Use of Lone Pine Orders in Cost Effective Management of Mass Tort and Class Actions,” Class Action Reporter (October 2008)
- Co-Author, “Insurance Coverage Transferability in Mergers and Acquisitions: Documenting the Acquiree’s Historical Coverage May Not Be Enough,” Bloomberg Finance (May 2008)
- Co-Author, “Settling for Less: Has Powerine Done Away with Liability Insurers’ Duty to Settle in California?” Coverage (March 2008)
- Co-Author, “Principles Of Advertising Injury Coverage,” Mealey’s Litigation Report: Insurance Bad Faith (Aug. 7, 2007)
- Author, “Principles of Third Party Liability Insurance,” California Judges Association/The Rutter Group (revised through September 1, 2002)
- Author, “Traditional and Novel Theories of Liability and Damages in Toxic Tort Litigation,” Corporate Counsel’s Guide to Environmental Law (Chapter 8, 2000)
Mr. DeVries’ recent presentations include the following:
- Co-Presenter, “Understanding and Minimizing Your Company’s Nanotort Risks,” Winston & Strawn LLP eLunch Briefing (May 11, 2011)
- Panelist, “Understanding Medical Monitoring Damages,” ABA Environmental, Mass Torts and Products Liability Litigation Committees’ Joint CLE Seminar (Jan. 28, 2011)
- Presenter, “Policyholders’ Right to Counsel in California,” Winston & Strawn (Oct. 10, 2009)
- Co-Presenter, “Environmental Insurance Update,” California State Bar Annual Meeting, San Diego (Sept. 12, 2009)
- Co-Presenter, “What Strategy Will You Use if Your Company Makes an Insurance Claim and Your Insurer Tells You That You’re Not Covered,” Association of Corporate Counsel, San Francisco and Palo Alto, Calif. (March 18, 19, 2009)
- Panelist, “Insurance Coverage Transferability in Mergers and Acquisitions,” “All Hands Meeting” of the Silicon Valley Association of General Counsel, Santa Clara, Calif. (Dec. 4, 2008)
- Co-Presenter, “What Strategy Will You Use if Your Company Makes an Insurance Claim and Your Insurer Tells You That You’re Not Covered,” Bay Area General Counsel’s monthly meeting, San Francisco (March 4, 2008)
- Panelist, “Causation and the Role of Experts in Toxic Torts” Environmental Law Institute’s Critical Developments in Toxic Torts Seminar Series, Los Angeles (Sept. 2006)
- Presenter, “What Strategy Will You Use If Your Company Makes a Claim and Your Insurance Company Tells You ‘You’re Not Covered’?” Association of Corporate Counsel - Southern California Chapter (Sept. 2006)
- Presenter, “The Rising Tide of Perchlorate Contamination Cases” Bridgeport Continuing Education’s Third Annual Toxic Torts in California Conference (Oct. 2004)
- Presenter, “Maximizing Insurance Coverage, Minimizing Corporate Expense” American Corporate Counsel Association, Washington DC (2002)
- Presenter, “Traditional and Novel Theories of Liability and Damages in Toxic Tort Actions” American Corporate Counsel Association Webcast (2002)
- New York
- University of California - Hastings, JD, 1979
- William & Mary, BA, 1976