Brett J. Young

Partner
Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP

Houston
United States
T:+1 713 651 5337
Houston
United States
T:+1 713 651 5337
Brett J. Young

Brett J. Young

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Biography

Brett is a partner in Norton Rose Fulbright's Houston office and focuses his practice on catastrophic event response, personal injury defense, premises defense, product liability defense, toxic torts and environmental litigation. In his role as section leader, he directs the defense of our most significant tort matters, personally responds to catastrophic events, provides crisis response counselling for clients, and formulates strategy for clients who face repeat litigation across the US.

In responding to major catastrophic events, Brett routinely interfaces with state and federal regulatory agencies and has a deep understanding of important regulatory schemes to serve our clients. He routinely works with clients' safety managers, in-house scientists, engineers, and corporate representatives to prepare for their role as litigation spokesmen.

Brett has significant first and second chair trial experience, consisting of civil jury trials in state and federal courts, international arbitration, a de novo criminal death penalty trial, and 25 misdemeanor criminal trials in municipal court.

Previously, Brett was the sole assistant to General Counsel at the Harris County District Attorney's Office. From 1998 to 2000, he was on the legislative staff (Washington, DC) and was the Southeast Texas Regional Director (Houston, Texas) for United States Senator Phil Gramm.


Professional experience

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  • JD, cum laude, The University of Houston Law Center, 2003
    • Dean's Merit Scholarship
    • Order of the Barons (Academic Honor Society)
    • Academic Enrichment Program (Tutored First Year Law Students)
    • Houston Law Review (Invited)
  • BBA, Finance, The University of Texas at Austin, 1998
  • Louisiana State Bar
  • Pennsylvania State Bar
  • Texas State Bar

Range of Significant Trials and Appeals:

  • Trial counsel for a major midstream energy company in a wrongful death lawsuit involving a collision between a motorcyclist and our client's crude oil hauling tanker truck; District Court of Grady County, Oklahoma.
  • Trial counsel for an international energy company concerning an ICDR multi-party arbitration concerning a deepwater joint operating agreement; Houston Arbitration
  • Trial counsel for a major midstream energy company in a toxic tort wrongful death case; District Court of Clark County, Nevada
  • Trial counsel defending against claims involving misappropriation of trade secrets and tortious interference with a contractual relationship; District Court of Harris County, Texas
  • Trial counsel for death row inmate convicted of capital murder where inmate was found mentally retarded under Atkins v. Virginia; District Court of Harris County, Texas
  • Trial counsel for leading Texas insurance company in a disputed cause of death and compensability matter; District Court, Harris County, Texas
  • Lead appellate counsel on behalf of multi-national refinery in Hall v. Conoco Inc., 886 F.3d 1308 (10th Cir. 2018). In a published opinion, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals examined the trial court's exclusion of two causation experts -- a renowned oncologist and former regulator turned epidemiologist – who proffered testimony that the plaintiff developed cancer as a result of chronic exposure to benzene emissions from a nearby refinery. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the exclusion of both experts for failing to satisfy the reliability requirements of Rule 702 and Daubert. In a win for the industry, the court's decision preserved the baseline elements of a reliable differential diagnosis in the toxic tort realm and prevented deteriorations seen in other jurisdictions. Because of the depth of the deposition record and clarity of the briefing, the court was able to understand the fatal mistakes and decisions made by both experts. Importantly, the Hall decision established that expert opinions on harmful exposure to facility emissions cannot be constructed using emissions data supplied by a co-expert unless the supplying expert is independently qualified in the area of toxicology. After affirming the expert exclusions, the court held that summary judgment was appropriately entered and clarified that plaintiffs alleging carcinogenic injuries caused by chronic chemical exposures cannot reach a jury without expert testimony on exposure and causation.  In a win for the industry, the court's decision preserved the baseline elements of a reliable differential diagnosis in the toxic tort realm and prevented deteriorations seen in other jurisdictions. Because of the depth of the deposition record and clarity of the briefing, the court was able to understand the fatal mistakes and decisions made by both experts. Importantly, the Hall decision established that expert opinions on harmful exposure to facility emissions cannot be constructed using emissions data supplied by a co-expert unless the supplying expert is independently qualified in the area of toxicology. After affirming the expert exclusions, the court held that summary judgment was appropriately entered and clarified that plaintiffs alleging carcinogenic injuries caused by chronic chemical exposures cannot reach a jury without expert testimony on exposure and causation.


Docket Management, Project Management, Budgeting, ADR:

  • Lead defense counsel and litigation coordinator for refinery in mass action litigation based on alleged groundwater, soil, and air pollution in the community surrounding the refinery
  • Lead defense counsel and litigation coordinator in 1000-plaintiff mass action litigatino arising from refinery flood mitigation measures after Hurricane Harvey
  • Lead defense counsel and litigation coordinator for major pipeline and energy storage company in multi-county, multi-suit, 100-plus plaintiff personal injury litigation arising out of a catastrophic plant explosion; manage a team of 10-plus lawyers and other legal professionals
  • Lead defense counsel for large tort docket concerning industrial accidents, toxic exposure, and product liability matters, which involve case management, supervising junior attorneys, case evaluation, fact and expert discovery, coordinating e-discovery, settlement negotiations and trial
  • Prepared more than 150 litigation budgets in tort and commercial litigation, including litigation phase budgets, trial budgets, life of litigation budgets and multiple alternative fee arrangements
  • Significant experience representing pipeline and chemical manufacturers in land and groundwater contamination claims, including negotiation of clean-up agreements with city governments, resolution with landowners, and the development of expert witnesses across multiple disciplines


Motion Practice and Expert Exclusion Expertise:

  • Authored successful motion to exclude expert testimony on behalf of a national drilling company in a collective action involving more than 1,000 oilfield workers seeking damages for alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The plaintiffs claimed they were entitled to additional compensation for time spent donning and doffing protective equipment at the job site. Brett and his team were retained for the sole purpose of challenging the plaintiffs' proffered expert, who opined that the equipment at issue was necessary to prevent the plaintiffs and their families from being harmfully exposed to certain toxins present at the workplace. In the absence of settled law on the admissibility of the evidence, Brett was able to blend concepts of toxic tort law and labor and employment law to expose critical flaws in the testimony and persuade the Middle District of Pennsylvania that the expert's opinions should be excluded. The decision is a noteworthy victory for energy companies employing large workforces in the oilfield and who voluntarily undertake significant steps to protect them.
  • In Hall v. ConocoPhillips, 248 F. Supp. 3d 1177 (W.D. Okla. 2017), Brett authored and argued Daubert and summary judgment motions, resulting in the exclusion of plaintiff's medical, causation, and exposure witnesses resulting in summary judgment victory.  Hall is an important win for industry, as the exposure claims in that case were non-occupational, based on living near defendant's refinery.
  • Lead trial and appellate counsel on behalf of the defendant-petroleum refinery in Bryer v. ConocoPhillips, Co., 725 Fed. Appx. 645 (10th Cir. 2018). After obtaining summary judgment on limitations grounds, Brett successfully defended the lower court's decision in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The opinion in Bryer advanced the development of Oklahoma limitations law by clarifying the circumstances under which the discovery rule tolls limitations in cases alleging harmful exposure to toxic chemicals.
  • In Henricksen v. Conoco Phillips Co., 605 F.Supp.2d 1142, 1175 (E.D.Wa. 2009), Brett authored and argued Daubert and summary judgment motions, resulting in the exclusion of plaintiff's medical, causation, and exposure witnesses resulting in summary judgment victory.  Henricksen is widely cited in the Federal Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence and is the leading published case defending the product gasoline.
  • In Abrahamnsen et al. v. ConocoPhillips Company, Brett defended against claims brought in state and federal courts in the United States by over 100 Norwegian platform workers and their families alleging injury from exposure to toxic substances; after forum battles and serial re-filings by the plaintiffs, and helped secure a rare forum non conveniens dismissal in Delaware state court, the defendant's state of incorporation
  • Authored and argued Daubert motions in Nevada District Court and secured exclusion of plaintiff's key medical causation witness
  • Authored and argued more than 50 dispositive and non-dispositive motions including motions for summary judgment, expert challenges (under various legal standards), venue challenges, motions to compel, motions in limine, and other pre-trial and evidentiary proceedings


National Defense Coordination and Discovery:

  • Serve as lead counsel and consultant for energy companies in toxic tort litigation (benzene, 1,3-butadiene, asbestos, ionizing radiation, beta-naphthylamine, chlorinated solvents)
  • Serve as lead counsel and consultant for presenting corporate representatives across disciplines of safety, toxicology, and industrial hygiene for refining company
  • Lead counsel in more than 250 depositions; taking and defending the depositions of medical and causation experts, corporate representatives, fact witnesses, government officials and parties
  • Coordinate clients' e-discovery efforts, data preservation efforts, and supervise multiple document review teams (firm colleagues and contract lawyers)
  • Routinely identify, prepare, and present expert witnesses in toxicology, hematology, and epidemiology in defense of toxic tort cases involving numerous agents, chemicals, and exposures
  • Routinely conduct mock trials/jury exercises to develop a knowledge base and litigation strategy for energy companies in significant personal injury and toxic tort litigation.
  • The Best Lawyers in America, Environmental Litigation, Best Lawyers, 2019 - 2020
  • Texas Rising Star, Thomson Reuters, 2007-2015
  • Legal 500 US, next generation lawyer, Dispute resolution - Product liability, mass tort and class action: toxic tort - defense, The Legal 500, 2018 - 2019
  • Legal 500 US, recommended lawyer, Dispute resolution - Product liability, mass tort and class action: toxic tort - defense, The Legal 500, 2017 - 2019
  • Legal 500 US, recommended lawyer, Dispute resolution - Product liability, mass tort and class action: automotive/transport, The Legal 500, 2018
  • Author, "Mexican Charterer Challenges Ranger's Asset-Seizure Efforts," Tradewinds, April 30, 2015
  • Author, "Untrustworthy and Irrelevant: Why OSHA Citations and Related Materials Should Not Be Admissible to Prove Liability," Texas Bar Journal, Vol. 78, No 2, February 2015
  • Author, "Claims Against Perpetual Care Cemeteries: An Exclusive Remedy," Houston Bar Journal, January/February 2015
  • Author, "Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 95: A Review for Practitioners," Feature Article in Texas Bar Journal, Vol. 73, February 2010
  • Speaker, "Effectively Responding to a Significant Incident in the Midstream Industry," Institute for Energy Law, 5th Midstream Oil & Gas Law Conference, Houston, Texas, December 2017
  • Speaker, "Managing Catastrophic Events Litigation," Houstonian Conference Center, Norton Rose Fulbright CLE, Houston, Texas, November 2013
  • "Use of Scientific Evidence and its impact in the Courtroom," Harris Martin Benzene Litigation Conference, Chicago, Illinois, November 2013
  • "Legal Considerations in Telemedicine," MD Anderson Cancer Center's 2013 Telemedicine and Telesurgery Conference, Houston, Texas, September 2013
  • The International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC)
  • Texas Bar Foundation
  • Houston Bar Association