Christopher Vejnoska

Partner and General Counsel

San Francisco

Chris serves as Orrick's General Counsel.  He also is the President of a captive insurance company owned by Orrick and a number of other global and national law firms.

In his practice, Chris has been a first chair trial lawyer with more than 30 years of experience handling high stakes, precedent-setting cases, particularly in the products liability arena.  His most recent products liability engagements included serving as trial counsel for a large talc company, including trying to conclusion one of the very first mesothelioma cases against it, and leading a cross-office international and national team defending multiple Chinese companies in a historic MDL.  At times, a client asked Chris to lead five or more trial teams in products cases in a single year.

Chris also has acted as national counsel for companies facing thousands of mass tort product liability claims and complex, multiparty class action litigation, and has counseled multinational companies entangled in lengthy, enterprise-threatening litigation and negotiated legal and business solutions involving billions of dollars. He has extensive experience in complex and commercial litigation, ranging from insurance recovery disputes to trade secrets issues, and has significant experience in assisting foreign aerospace companies with international arbitration disputes with first-tier aircraft manufacturers.

Earlier in his career, Chris represented large public companies in mergers, acquisitions, strategic investments and private financings; private companies in initial public offerings; and emerging growth companies in general corporate matters. Chris' transactional experience also offers clients a unique perspective on risk mitigation strategies to avoid costly litigation in the future.

Chris also is the Chair of Orrick’s Risk Management Committee and a member of the Operations Team.  Prior to joining the firm, Chris was a partner at Clifford Chance and a partner at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, where he was a member of the Policy Committee, a member of the Executive Committee, Chair of the Risk Management Committee and Chair of the Hiring Committee.

  • Chris's select engagements of work include the following:

    Mass Torts and Product Liability Litigation

    • Johnson & Johnson. Acted as first chair trial counsel for the company in its asbestos-related talc litigation.
    • Union Carbide Corporation. Served as counsel and first chair trial counsel in the defense of asbestos personal injury claims.
    • Chinese Manufacturer. Representing one of China's largest building materials companies in complex federal multidistrict litigation involving allegations of defective drywall; the matter involves more than 30,000 plaintiffs and 10,000 defendants.
    • Fibreboard Corporation. Starting in the late 1980s, served as national coordinating counsel for Fibreboard in more than 300 product liability cases, many of which were brought as national or statewide class actions, involving asbestos-containing insulation products including class and consolidated actions involving all primary and secondary schools in the United States, all colleges and universities, U.S. government-owned buildings, and public buildings in numerous states and cities. He also served as Fibreboard's national coordinating counsel in the defense of more than 200,000 asbestos-related personal injury cases and assisted in negotiations regarding global settlement and the resolution of thousands of trust cases.
    • Owens Corning. Served as co-national coordinating counsel for Owens Corning in more than 100,000 asbestos-related personal injury claims, including representing Owens Corning in a national settlement program that resolved tens of thousands of these cases.
    • International Product Manufacturer. Represented a large multinational manufacturer of respirators in a number of silica cases, and another large international product manufacturer in asbestos litigation.

    Insurance Coverage Disputes

    • Fibreboard Corporation. Represented Fibreboard in its insurance coverage case against its insurers for personal injury liabilities extending over a period of almost 50 years. Served as one of Fibreboard's trial counsel in In re Asbestos Insurance Coverage Cases, a trial that spanned more than five years and was described by The Washington Post as the largest trial in U.S. history. By winning all the major issues in the trial, Fibreboard was able to obtain several billion dollars from its insurers in a global settlement.
    • Odwalla. In litigation involving the AIG Insurance Group, successfully negotiated the defense and indemnification by Odwalla's insurers of claims alleging that e-coli contamination of the company's apple juice had caused death and other bodily injuries, and also assisted with its defense against food contamination claims.
    • Mentor Corporation. Litigated claims against Mentor Corporation's insurers in California and Minnesota for liabilities arising from its breast implant devices, and negotiated the funding by those insurance companies of Mentor's nationwide mandatory class settlement of all breast implant claims, which was the first such settlement in the implant litigation. Also counseled Mentor in its pursuit of coverage for claims arising from other medical devices.
    • Wyeth. Served as trial counsel in a multiweek arbitration in Bermuda over coverage for injuries allegedly caused by defective birth control implants.
    • Leading Electronics Company. Represented a large electronics company, a union ERISA plan and an Internet-based company in separate insurance coverage disputes.

    Additional Commercial Experience

    • Environmental Claims. In In re Sacramento River Spill Cases I and II, defended Southern Pacific Railroad against claims arising out of a derailment and toxic spill into the Dunsmuir River.
    • Trade Secrets and Proprietary Information Litigation. Represented a technology company in a licensing and trade secret dispute with a Taiwanese competitor.
    • Accounting Dispute. Arbitrated a complex accounting treatment matter for a major energy company.
    • Commercial Disputes. Represented two aerospace companies in significant aircraft manufacturing disputes and international arbitrations; a well-known computer company in litigation involving promissory notes; and an alternative energy company against various equipment and financial claims in separate disputes.

     

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