Thomas J. Morel - Partner

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Biography

Thomas J. Morel is a partner at Williams Montgomery & John Ltd.  Mr. Morel is an experienced trial lawyer and business advisor with a national and international practice across a broad scope of complex litigation areas.  He has successfully tried numerous matters to verdict including asbestos, antitrust, bankruptcy, class action toxic tort, class action environmental, contract, insurance coverage, products liability and securities.  Mr. Morel has been recognized as a top toxic tort lawyer by The Legal 500 U.S. and as a rising star by Illinois Super Lawyers.

Mr. Morel has litigated and won matters at motion to dismiss, summary judgment and class action certification stages involving a full range of commercial and tort matters for clients such as BP, Briggs and Stratton, Brunswick, Dow Chemical Company, HCSC, General Motors, GATX Corporation, PWC, Rohm and Haas, Union Carbide and United Air Lines.  He has counseled and represented clients in response to significant industrial disasters including petrochemical plant explosions and releases in Louisiana and Texas, and rail disasters in Viareggio, Italy, Lac-Megantic, Canada, California, North Dakota, Texas and West Virginia. 

Mr. Morel has also advised clients with respect to internal matters including corporate governance, internal systems, securities and regulatory compliance, risk management, due diligence, and best practices. He has conducted internal investigations involving a number of issues including trade secret theft and harassment.

Prior to joining Williams Montgomery & John, Mr. Morel was a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

Education/Bar Admissions

Mr. Morel received a B.A. in history from Yale University.  He received his J.D. with Honors from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was the Articles Editor for the University of Chicago Law School Roundtable.

Mr. Morel is a member of the Illinois bar and has been admitted to the following federal courts:

  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

Mr. Morel has also been admitted pro hac vice in California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Representative Matters

  • In re Bogalusa Chemical Release

    Louisiana State Court. 

    Trial counsel for Gaylord Chemical Company in a class action relating to the 1995 chemical release from a railcar on client’s property. After four-month jury trial, won a favorable verdict for client. Before trial, successfully precluded the vast majority of plaintiffs’ expert testimony through Daubert challenges and a two-week evidentiary Daubert hearing.

  • Robichaux v. Dow Chemical,

    Louisiana State Court.

    Trial counsel for Dow Chemical in a groundwater contamination class action involving vinyl chloride.  Although Dow had voluntarily agreed with EPA and LDEQ to implement a monitored natural attenuation remedy, plaintiff class sought a $400 million pump and treat remedy.  After a phased bench trial lasting over the course of two years, the Court dismissed plaintiffs’ punitive claims and found that Dow’s remedy was adequate and protective of the health and welfare of the class and ordered the posting of a $3.2 million performance bond.

  • CytoLogix v. Ventana

    S. District Court of Massachusetts. Trial counsel for Ventana in antitrust action. After three-week jury trial, achieved complete defense verdict in antitrust case.  Eliminated half of plaintiff’s claimed damages on a sidebar objection when noticed that the plaintiff expert had substituted a new schedule of estimated lost sales.  Successfully opposed plaintiff’s post-trial motions.

  • City of Modesto v. Dow Chemical, et al.,

    Superior Court of California.

    Trial counsel for Dow Chemical in a groundwater contamination and products liability case involving PCE. Won a complete defense verdict for Dow Chemical after a seven-month jury trial. Prior to case going to the jury, won directed verdict on 29 of the 30 sites for which Plaintiffs sought damages.

  • Betty Bello v. Dow Chemical

    Louisiana State Court.

    Trial counsel for Dow Chemical in a premises asbestos case. The decedent plaintiff claimed that her peritoneal mesothelioma was caused by take home exposure from Dow’s Louisiana facility. Complete defense verdict and reported as the first defense verdict of its kind in Louisiana. The Court found that plaintiff had failed to prove causation and that plaintiff’s disease was idiopathic.

  • City of Modesto v. Dow Chemical, et al.,

    Superior Court of California.

    Trial counsel for Dow Chemical in a PCE contamination bench trial under California’s Polanco Act. Won a complete defense verdict for Dow.

  • In re MTBE, U.S. District Court, S.D.N.Y.

    Counsel for BP in nationwide class action. Plaintiff class of private well owners alleged contamination from the gasoline additive MTBE.  After full discovery and briefing, the Court denied plaintiffs’ motion for certification.

  • Adams v. BP Products North America Inc.

    North Carolina Superior Court. 

    Lead counsel for BP in products liability and groundwater contamination action involving MTBE.  Briefed, argued and won summary judgment for client. Court granted summary judgment based in part on plaintiffs’ expert’s inability to render a valid opinion as to timing of a petroleum release. Court noted that plaintiffs’ expert had originally offered such an opinion, but was then forced to disavow this opinion under cross examination at deposition.

  • Retsky v. PWC

    U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. 

    Counsel for PWC in a class action securities fraud case.  After winning pre-trial motion in federal court, case was arbitrated and settled favorably for client

  • Briggs & Stratton v. Murray Liquidating Trust

    U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Counsel for Briggs & Stratton.  Brought action for Briggs & Stratton in bankruptcy court against Trustee seeking repayment of monies owed under a transition services agreement. Successfully negotiated a settlement equal in value to damages claimed in pleading.

  • GATX vs. Liberty Mutual Insurance

    London Arbitration.  Trial counsel for GATX in an insurance coverage suit.  Complex coverage case involved question of whether a criminal case in Italy was a civil proceeding under the policy for purposes of defense cost coverage. Evidentiary arbitration that touched on laws and precedent from Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, UK, Bermuda and Italy found in favor of client.

  • Viareggio Rail Disaster, Italy.

    Counsel to GATX in multiple phases of criminal and civil litigation involving a 2009 Italian rail disaster in Viareggio, Italy.  Train derailed and LPG tanks ignited resulting in 31 fatalities and substantial property damage.

  • In re Lac-Megantic Rail Disaster

    Numerous jurisdictions in Canada and United States.

    Counsel for World Fuel involving 2013 derailment in Lac-Megantic, Canada that resulted in 47 fatalities.  Investigated cause and advised client with respect to numerous issues including regulatory issues, third-party claims and indemnification.

  • In re Swiss Air

    various jurisdictions.

    Lead counsel for GATX in broad litigation involving partnership, breach of contract and fiduciary claims in multiple suits pending in New York, San Francisco, Cayman Islands and UK jurisdictions.  After being brought in as a third party defendant and sued for $250 million, GATX brought a counterclaim and settled after receiving payment.

  • Brunswick v. Paris Glove

    U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

    Trial counsel for Brunswick in contract case.  Won summary judgement on eight of nine claims prior to trial.  Won motion for new trial and case settled favorably.

  • TMI v. Gaylord Chemical Company

    Louisiana State Court.

    Trial counsel for Gaylord. Won motion to dismiss third party claim in toxic tort personal injury case relating to 1995 railcar explosion in Bogalusa, Louisiana.

  • American Steamship Co. v. Oglebay Norton

    U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

    Counsel for American Steamship.  Brought indemnification action on behalf of American Steamship and achieved a favorable settlement on behalf of the client.

  • GATX v. IRS

    Represented GATX in matter involving disallowance of tax deductions relating to a sale and leaseback transaction. Achieved a favorable settlement on behalf of GATX.

  • Sikkila v. American Steamship Co.

    U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

    Defended American Steamship in a Jones Act case. Achieved a favorable settlement on behalf of client.

  • United Airlines v. The Secretary of the State of Illinois

    Circuit Court of Cook County.

    Represented United Airlines in a franchise tax matter. Obtained a preliminary injunction on behalf of client.

  • GE v. Honeywell

    U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois. Counsel for Honeywell. Dispute between Honeywell and General Electric regarding the proper party liable for the tax debts of a company previously owned by both Honeywell and GE. Successfully litigated case that resulted in a very favorable settlement for Honeywell.

  • Gaylord Chemical Company v. TMI

    Louisiana State Court

    Trial counsel for Gaylord in this declaratory judgment action seeking to declare Gaylord’s purported indemnification obligation invalid. Briefed, argued and won summary judgment for client. Briefed, argued and won opposition to new trial motion.

  • Donlyn Distribution, Inc. v. BP Amoco Corp.

    U.S. District Court for Northern District of Illinois.

    Counsel for BP in this § 1981 discrimination in contracting claim. Briefed and won summary judgment for BP.

  • Briggs & Stratton v. DeWell

    U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. 

    Counsel for Briggs & Stratton. Briefed, tried and won emergency motion to enjoin defendant from removing Briggs’ property from the United States.

  • Phillips v. Briggs & Stratton

    U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. 

    Counsel for Briggs & Stratton. Won motion to dismiss in putative nationwide class action consumer fraud and RICO claim.

  • Rester v. Gaylord

    U.S. District Court for Southern District of Mississippi. 

    Counsel for Gaylord. Won motion to dismiss in toxic tort case.

  • Sowell v. Rohm and Haas

    Texas State Court.

    Counsel for Rohm and Haas in a wrongful death action resulting from a plant accident.  After depositions of key witnesses demonstrated that the plaintiff failed to follow clear safety procedures, case settled favorably.

  • Dunn v. Dow Chemical Company

    Texas State Court.

    Counsel for Dow in a products liability case.  After deposition of plaintiff’s expert showed that client’s product could not have been the source of the accident, case settled favorably.

  • Aguilar v. GATX

    S. District Court, C.D.Cal.

    Counsel for GATX in mass joinder case alleging personal injuries from a train derailment and subsequent explosion and chemical release. Won a motion to dismiss with prejudice.

  • Various UCC Asbestos Matters

    Lead trial counsel for UCC in products liability asbestos cases throughout the country including state and federal courts in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Illinois.  Prepared up to ten cases per month for trial in Circuit Court of Cook County from August 2014 - February 2015.

  • Various Dow Asbestos Matters

    Lead trial counsel for Dow in premises asbestos cases throughout the country including state and federal courts in Louisiana, Illinois, Mississippi, Michigan, Texas and Washington.