James Bilsborrow is co-chair of our Environmental, Toxic Tort & Consumer Protection group, having joined the firm in 2011.
Mr. Bilsborrow represents victims of environmental contamination, toxic exposure, and defective products in complex litigation nationwide. In addition, Mr. Bilsborrow represents farmers whose crops have been damaged by defective herbicides and other chemical applications. He also represents clients who have developed diseases from their exposure to toxic pesticides, such as people exposed to Roundup.
In the multidistrict litigation concerning formulations of dicamba herbicides, Mr. Bilsborrow was appointed by the court to serve as a member of the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee. In June 2020, the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee announced a settlement with Monsanto to resolve claims of farmers whose crops were damaged by off-target movement of dicamba herbicides. The settlement is valued at $400 million.
Mr. Bilsborrow is also active in many of the firm’s initiatives seeking justice on behalf of property owners and individuals exposed to the toxic chemicals PFOA and PFOS. He was appointed class counsel to represent a certified class of property owners and exposed residents in Petersburgh, New York. Mr. Bilsborrow successfully defended the class on appeal, obtaining the first appellate court decision in the New York state courts affirming certification of a medical monitoring class. In October 2021, plaintiffs announced a proposed class settlement valued at over $23 million.
In addition, Mr. Bilsborrow was appointed co-lead class counsel to represent a proposed class of property owners and individuals exposed to PFOA in Hoosick Falls, New York. In February 2022, the court granted final approval to a partial class settlement valued at $65.25 million. This settlement provided cash payments to owners and renters of property, and established a 10-year medical monitoring program that is now ongoing.
Environmental litigation makes up a significant portion of Mr. Bilsborrow’s work. Mr. Bilsborrow participated extensively in the multidistrict litigation brought by Weitz & Luxenberg and other firms against BP, the United Kingdom-based petroleum giant responsible for the devastating 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Mr. Bilsborrow served as the second-chair attorney to our Robin Greenwald, who was a member of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee. Mr. Bilsborrow worked closely with the Phase One trial team that ultimately secured a judicial finding that BP acted with gross negligence in causing the oil spill. Mr. Bilsborrow also served on the Medical Benefits Settlement team that negotiated a commitment on the part of BP to provide compensation and preventive treatments to Gulf Coast shoreline residents and to workers involved in the spill cleanup. Additionally, Mr. Bilsborrow was a member of the appeals team that successfully defended the economic portion of the BP settlement all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Mr. Bilsborrow also spearheads many of our firm’s initiatives focusing upon the intersection of product liability and emerging technologies. For example, Mr. Bilsborrow was appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in multidistrict litigation pending in San Francisco accusing social media companies such as Meta, TikTok, and Snap of causing mental health-related harms to teenager and adolescent users. This litigation is ongoing.
A number of the firm’s consumer class action initiatives are spearheaded by Mr. Bilsborrow. He was appointed co-lead class counsel in an action against the western New York health care organization Excellus Health Plan after hackers broke into the company’s computer systems and stole customers’ sensitive personal medical information and financial records. In April 2022, the court approved a class settlement with Excellus requiring the company to upgrade its cybersecurity systems and maintain these improvements into the future.
Mr. Bilsborrow is also active in pro bono causes. In 2016, he served as court-appointed counsel to two former death row inmates who alleged that they were improperly confined for years in unconstitutional conditions of solitary confinement. Following oral argument, a unanimous panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the constitutional rights of Mr. Bilsborrow’s clients were violated and that the Due Process Clause limits the state’s ability to subject inmates to indefinite conditions of solitary confinement.
Prior to joining Weitz & Luxenberg, Mr. Bilsborrow worked as a law clerk for Hon. D. Brooks Smith of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Before that, he clerked for Hon. Christopher C. Conner of the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Bilsborrow belongs to several professional organizations, including the New York State Bar Association, where he serves on the Committee on Attorney Professionalism; the New York City Bar Association, where he serves on the Professional Responsibility Committee and as a member of the City Bar Working Group on Litigation Funding; the New York American Inn of Court; the New York Federal Bar Council; the Fellows of the American Bar Association; the American Constitution Society; and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). In 2015, AAJ selected Mr. Bilsborrow as one of only 12 attorneys from around the country to attend the organization’s Leadership Academy — a program designed to equip promising attorneys to become the next generation of top-tier trial lawyers.
Mr. Bilsborrow is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Complex Litigation e-Discovery Forum, a group dedicated to formulating best practices for e-discovery in complex litigation. In the past, he has served as a member of the drafting committees for the Duke Law Multidistrict Litigation Best Practices and as a member of the Next Gen Advisory Board for the Institute for Complex Litigation and Mass Claims at Emory Law School. Mr. Bilsborrow has also been named a New York metro area Super Lawyers Rising Star for more than five years in a row.
Finally, Mr. Bilsborrow is an elected officeholder, serving as a Kings County Committee member in Brooklyn since 2016.