Peter B. Newton

Partner

Education

  • Chicago-Kent College of Law (J.D., 1983), with high honors
  • Columbus State University (B.S., 1979)

Related Services

Peter represents clients in cases in state and federal courts throughout the country. He also manages liability and litigation programs for large companies nationwide with product liability exposure and oversees similar proceedings internationally. He represents numerous businesses in complex commercial disputes, including breach of contract claims, securities fraud actions and all types of business torts.

He uses an effective and efficient process to investigate, defend and resolve claims related to consumer and industrial products – propane valves and regulators, pharmaceuticals, cryogenic applications and more. He thoroughly investigates each incident immediately upon receiving notice of a claim, assembles a focused team of local attorneys and expert witnesses to attempt to resolve the matter without litigation, and then closely manages all of the moving parts of the case if litigation becomes unavoidable.

Peter’s clients value the depth of his experience and his familiarity with the regulatory framework in general and product liability disputes in particular. He uses these resources to accurately forecast potential outcomes when presented with a new set of facts and claims.

Product Liability Related:

  • Engineered Controls International, Inc. (ECII):
    Since 1994, Peter has served as lead counsel to this North Carolina-based manufacturer of liquified petroleum gas and anhydrous ammonia valve and regulator products in all of its product liability matters throughout the world. The company is put on notice of potential product liability claims on an average of 30 times per year, with an average of six to 10 resulting in lawsuits. He is charged with handling all claims, from the time a first notice is received through trial. Peter retains engineers to investigate and assess claims, almost all of which involve fires and explosions that are fatal or cause or serious injuries. He develops defense strategies and manages the cases through trial.
  • United Technologies Corp., Pratt & Whitney Division v. ECII, et al. (Hartford, CT, transferred to Waterbury, CT for trial).
    A pollution control system at Pratt & Whitney’s East Hartford facility released a large quantity of anhydrous ammonia, resulting in an evacuation of the surrounding neighborhoods, a 48-hour response from local, state and federal authorities and the closing of its plant for several weeks. The plaintiff sought to recover more than $3 million from ECII, alleging that its equipment included in the system was defective and caused the ammonia release. After a 10-day trial, the jury returned a verdict for ECII on all counts. The plaintiff did not appeal.
  • Donald Nemons, et. al v. ECII, et al., (District Court of Freestone County, Texas, 87th Judicial District).
    This case stemmed from a fire and explosion at the site of an annual neighborhood event called the Simsboro Annual Picnic. The 19 plaintiffs included eight people who were injured in a fire, the estates of two people killed in the fire and spouses and children of the injured and deceased. The other defendants in the case settled before trial for a combined total of $3.5 million. The plaintiffs asked the jury to award them $27 million against ECII, plus punitive damages. After a 12-day trial and three days of deliberations, the jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared. The case was settled by ECII’s insurance carrier before the second trial for $1 million.
  • Germano DeSouza, et. al v. ECII. (Superior Court of Alameda County, California).
    This products liability suit was brought by nine people who were seriously injured in a fire and explosion at a religious retreat in Alameda County, outside of Oakland, and five of their family members. The plaintiffs claimed that ECII’s products used in a large cooking system at the site were defectively designed and caused the fire and explosion. The plaintiffs sought recovery of $76 million collectively for pain and suffering, loss of wages, permanent disfigurement, loss of consortium, etc. The plaintiffs settled with other defendants during the course of discovery, leaving ECII as the sole remaining defendant. Four days before an eight-week jury trial was to begin, the plaintiffs accepted our formal offers of compromise under California law totaling $150,000.
  • Linda Gehringer – Bryant, et al. v. Fujisawa USA, (N.D. Tex., Dallas Div.).
    Represented Fujisawa USA, one of its divisions and one of its employees as lead counsel in this wrongful death/product liability action. The deceased was well known in Dallas as the artistic director of the Dallas Theater Center. The case was filed by his widow, who was a popular television actress, and the parents of the deceased. The plaintiffs sought $15 million in damages, unspecified punitive damages and attorney’s fees, alleging inadequate warnings, breach of warranty, and defective design, testing and manufacture of the drug products and drug delivery system at issue (dextrose and lidocaine in pre-filled injectors). On October 4, 1993, after a two week trial, the jury returned a “no liability” verdict on behalf of both corporate clients on all counts. (This case was profiled in “Dateline NBC” before trial, in the Nov. 1, 1993 edition of the National Law Journal and was ranked as one of the noteworthy defense verdicts of 1993 in the March 7, 1994 edition of the National Law Journal.) The plaintiffs did not appeal.
  • Harkin Anthony Boyd, et al. v. St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center, et al. Index No. 9491/91 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., N.Y. County).
    Represented Fujisawa USA and one of its distributors as lead counsel in this product liability action brought by a minor child and his mother alleging inadequate warnings as well as defective design, testing and manufacture of the drug product at issue (aminophylline). The plaintiffs alleged that the drug product caused the child to suffer protracted grand mal seizures and permanent and profound brain damage. Plaintiffs sought $70 million in damages plus unspecified punitive damages. Summary judgment was entered for both clients in February 1994, after 18 months of discovery. The plaintiffs did not appeal.
  • James Carter, et al. v. Winslow Memorial Hospital, et al. (Ariz. Super. Ct. Maricopa County).
    Represented Fujisawa USA as lead counsel in this wrongful death/product liability action brought by the parents of a 19-year-old girl who died when she was eight months pregnant. Plaintiffs sought more than $1 million in damages, alleging inadequate warnings, as well as defective design, testing and manufacture of the drug product at issue (magnesium sulfate). Our firm was brought into the case after the client’s first attorneys answered interrogatories incorrectly, which resulted in a partial summary judgment being entered against the client. The trial court’s award of partial summary judgment was reversed in an interlocutory “special action” appeal to the Arizona Court of Appeals, which we handled. The Arizona Supreme Court denied the plaintiffs’ petition for review. After completion of the “special action” proceedings, all claims against Fujisawa were settled for $40,000. The client then recovered $135,000 from its first attorneys because of their malpractice.
  • Cargy Scalise, et al. v. Stephen Cyle Patrick, M.D., et al. (Tex. Dist. Ct., Galveston Co.).
    Represented Fujisawa USA as lead counsel in this product liability action brought by a husband and wife individually and on behalf of their deceased minor daughter’s estate. The plaintiffs alleged that the death of their daughter was caused by inadequate warnings and breaches of warranties regarding several drug products manufactured by the client. All claims against Fujisawa were settled for a total of $10,000 three weeks before trial.
  • Jayne G. Thibodeau, et al. v. Fujisawa USA, Inc., et al. (D. Me.).
    Represented Fujisawa USA as lead counsel in this product liability action brought by two parents, individually and on behalf of their minor child, alleging that inadequate warnings as well as defective design, testing and manufacture of the drug product at issue (23.4% sodium chloride) caused their child’s permanent brain damage. The plaintiffs sought $7.1 million in damages plus unspecified punitive damages. All the plaintiffs’ claims were settled two weeks before trial for a small fraction of the expected trial costs. At the plaintiffs’ insistence, the court ordered that the exact settlement amount be kept confidential.

General Commercial Matters:

  • Represented Positron Industries, Inc., a telecommunications equipment manufacturer based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, as lead counsel in all its commercial matters throughout the U.S. The matters Peter has handled for Positron include contract claims, employee claims and intellectual property claims.
  • Represented DDK Electronics, Inc., a manufacturer of a vast line of electronic connector products, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dai Ichi Denshi Kogyo, a Japanese corporation, as lead counsel in all its commercial matters throughout the U.S. These matters included employee claims and contract claims involving distributors and customers.

Other Matters:

  • Scott Wallace v. Gary Comer, Inc. and Eichrom, Inc; (United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois).
    Represented the two corporate defendants as lead counsel in this action filed by the former president and COO of Eichrom, which was a wholly owned subsidiary of Gary Comer, Inc. The suit involved the value of the stock in Eichrom. The plaintiff had purchased shares of stock in the company when he was first hired as president and he was obligated to sell them back to GCI upon his termination. He claimed the stock was worth more than $22 per share and sought just under $1.5 million in damages. Our contention was that the stock was worth $3.45 per share at the most, which was the price at which he bought the stock. After a five-day trial, the jury held that the stock was worth $3.45 per share. Plus, the jury awarded the defendants the interest owed on the promissory note signed by the plaintiff by which he purchased the stock originally. Thus, a judgment was entered for our clients against the plaintiff for $105,000.
  • Southern Illinois Machinery Co. v. Republic Lagun Machine Tool Co., Case No. 90 L 77 (Effingham County Circuit Court).
    Represented Southern Illinois Machinery Co., a manufacturer of machinery used in printing plants, as lead counsel, in this dispute filed against a California-based machinery manufacturer involving breaches of several warranties made in connection with the company’s purchase of a $300,000 computerized milling machine. After a six-day trial, the jury returned a verdict for our client on all counts of our complaint and on all the defendant’s counterclaims. The client kept the machine, which was by then in good working order, and recovered $125,000 in damages.
  • PCR, Inc. v. Fujisawa USA, American Arbitration Association Commercial Arbitration Tribunal, Case No. 33 180 00013 93 EC (Jacksonville, Florida):
    Represented Fujisawa USA as lead counsel in this week-long arbitration hearing before three lawyer/arbitrators. The plaintiff sought approximately $7.13 million in damages allegedly resulting from Fujisawa’s decision to terminate an agreement between the parties to develop, produce and market an isoflurane product. After trial and extensive post hearing briefing, the arbitrators denied all of the plaintiffs claims in their entirety.
  • Lester Lampert, Inc. v. American National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago, as trustee, et al., Cook County Circuit Court, Chancery Division, Case No. 87 CH 2493:
    Represented the Lessee, Lester Lampert, Inc., as lead counsel in this declaratory judgment action involving a number of disputes over lease terms, including percentage rental provisions, which the Lessor claimed were breached. The Lessor sought a finding that the lease was terminated and the client had to vacate its prestigious Michigan Avenue retail premises. After an 18-day bench trial, the court ruled that the lease remained in full force and effect. The Lessor did not appeal.
  • Shearson Lehman Brothers Inc./Smith Barney, Inc.
    Represented Shearson Lehman Brothers Inc. and its successor, Smith Barney, Inc., as lead and co counsel in a number of securities and commodities cases filed in federal courts and before exchange arbitration panels in various states.
  • Kakuju Kabushiki Kaisha:
    Represented Kakuju Kabushiki Kaisha, a Japanese company, and its principal, Takayuki Tsuru, as lead counsel in the U.S. in prosecuting a securities fraud action involving claims totaling $39 million with concurrent proceedings in Montreal and Boston. Following a four week trial in Montreal, which included the issues and evidence developed in Boston, the client won a judgment for the full $39 million sought, plus interest and attorney’s fees.
  • Zip Dee, Inc.:
    Represented Zip Dee, Inc., an Illinois-based manufacturer, as lead counsel in this securities case filed against the company and its principal stockholders. The plaintiffs sought to recover $1 million plus attorney’s fees for alleged various misrepresentations and omissions in connection with the valuation of the company. After 12 months of discovery, the Cook County Circuit Court entered summary judgment in favor of our clients on all claims. The plaintiffs did not appeal.

Trust and Estates:

  • In re Jules Levinstein: Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, Chancery Division (No. 91 CH 03256); and Probate Division (No. 91 P 11898):
    Represented Cole Taylor Bank & Trust Co. as lead counsel in two related actions. In the Chancery action, over the objections of certain family members, the client sought and won confirmation of its disputed status as Trustee of an incompetent Trustor’s trust. In the Probate action, again over the objections of certain family members, the client sought and won appointment as Guardian of the Trustor’s Estate, and sought and procured appointment of a non family Guardian of the Trustor’s person. He also represented Cole Taylor Bank as lead counsel in a related arbitration filed against the Trustor’s brother to recover Estate assets improperly acquired by the brother. The brother-respondent paid money to the Estate to settle the arbitration claims.

Bar Admissions

  • Illinois

Court Admissions

  • Illinois Supreme Court
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas
  • U.S. Supreme Court