Jack J. Laffey – Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek
Jack J. Laffey would like to make one thing clear: He’s a product liability defense lawyer who happens to do a lot of asbestos work, not an asbestos lawyer.
“The way it shakes out is that the vast majority of my practice has turned into asbestos cases,” Laffey said.
“I’m not an asbestos lawyer, even though that’s what I do. Probably 80 percent of my practice right now is defending asbestos cases, but I don’t do it like other people do.”
In a broader sense, what Laffey really is is an attorney who’s working to make sure that the 2001 decision from the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Fuchsgruber v. Custom Accessories, Inc., is applied properly.
“A toxic tort case is the best way to deal with the Fuchsgruber opinion that’s been misapplied since it came out in 2001,” he said. “It’s the perfect avenue for it and I wanted in on that. I knew I understood it and I knew that I had the right approach to it, which is really just follow the law as it’s been for 45 years.”
That method of defending cases has led to several courtroom successes for Laffey and his team. In 2008, he won a zero liability defense verdict without putting on a single defense witness. In 2010, he had an asbestos case dismissed based on the statute of repose; the case is believed to be the first asbestos case dismissed under the statute. He also recently received a dismissal after the summary judgment deadline in a case when he was able to show the court that his client’s invoices were inadmissible under hearsay.
So while asbestos defense is the specific area that Laffey has been focusing on lately, he still works to ensure that the law is applied properly.
“The level of how we defend these cases collectively has gone up. There’s been some shift from ‘my product’s been identified, I’d better tell my client to write a check.’ There’s a lot more to talk about than product ID and pay.
“We’ve had some firms coming in, gigantically successful asbestos firms that have come into this state lately, and I don’t think they’ve understood what they were getting. And what they get, at least when we’re involved in these cases, is a full-blown legal defense.”