Law Firm: Steptoe & Johnson
Practice Area: Toxic tort, product liability
Years in Practice: 24
Law School: Case Western Reserve University School of Law
Ruth Kahn has built a reputation for handling complex toxic tort cases in which she builds a litigation team for multiple clients from one industry that are embroiled in a case. She is currently handling a toxic tort case for Chevron Corp. and Union Oil Co. where residents in the Santa Maria Valley have sued alleging that contamination from past oil drilling in the area has caused them to develop cancer. In another case, Kahn is helping Shell Oil Co. and Chevron fi ght off claims from a former employee that he developed leukemia from chemical exposures at work. Kahn is now in court on behalf of Southern California Edison, where the company is fi ghting off charges by the family of a telephone company employee who claims he developed multiple myeloma due to exposure to wood preservatives on utility poles. Her latest challenges come on the heels of a jury verdict in 2008 in Los Angeles Superior Court in favor of her clients Chevron, Unocal Corp. and Shell in a case in which a plaintiff claimed exposure to a rubber solvent supplied to his workplace caused his lymphoma.
Pretrial Ritual: Cleans up her office, gets a good night’s sleep and programs the navigation system in her car for at least three Starbucks en route to the courthouse.
Biggest Career Break: About 15 years ago, when a client asked her to attend a settlement conference in an out-of-state case that everyone thought would settle and, when it didn’t, she found herself selecting a jury in a big multi-plaintiff case. “Everything happened very fast, so there was no time for the jitters,” Kahn said. “I’m not afraid of anything now.”