STEPHEN G SCHWARZ
MANAGING PARTNER, FARACI LANGE, LLP
Years in current role: 30
What has been your biggest success over the past year?
We successfully settled two class action lawsuits for contamination of drinking water in two communities in Northeastern New York: Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh. These cases involved the chemical PFOA that was released from two facilities that coated Teflon onto fabric. This process released the chemical into the air and it then made its way to the groundwater. The Hoosick Falls case was settled against three of the four defendants for $65,250,000. The Petersburgh case was settled for $23,400,000. These settlements will provide compensation to property owners whose properties were devalued by the contamination and will also fund medical monitoring programs for both communities that will allow for early diagnosis and treatment of illnesses related to the contamination.
What are your expectations for the rest of this year?
One defendant is left in the Hoosick Falls case and we are awaiting a court decision on class certification against that defendant and the setting of a trial date. I also have a medical malpractice case scheduled for trial in September. It is also a fascinating case involving misdiagnosis of autoimmune encephalitis in a young boy.
What advice would you give someone starting a personal injury law practice right now?
It is an extremely competitive business with many lawyers claiming to do this type of work. Lawyer advertising has filled this market with many that really should not be practicing this type of law because they lack either the experience or resources to handle it. I would recommend working with someone who has done this work successfully first before trying to launch a practice.
If you could practice one area of law that you haven’t practiced in your career, what would it be and why?
Probably criminal defense of people charged with serious crimes. I admire attorneys who do this work a great deal. It is relatively thankless work and the courage they show in ignoring public opinion and providing the constitutional protections to which each defendant is entitled has always made me proud to be a lawyer.
What is one personal goal you have for the next year?
I would like to completely resolve the class action for the citizens of Hoosick Falls against the remaining defendant, DuPont, either by settlement or verdict, which will allow us to provide further compensation to the affected residents and also extend the length of the medical monitoring program. We are also pursuing cases for a number of clients and their families who have been diagnosed with cancer caused by this chemical and I would like to resolve these cases as well in the next year.