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The Verdict

A $50 million verdict in an environmental cancer case against DuPont is the latest in a long run of successes for the city’s Cory Watson law firm.

Back in the spring, a Columbus, Ohio, jury found DuPont responsible for cancer caused by PFOA (also known as C-8), awarding $50 million to a man and his wife after the man suffered two bouts of testicular cancer that he claimed were caused by water contaminated from the company’s decades of dumping these “forever chemicals” into the surrounding communities.

Travis Abbott and his wife, Julie, of Pomeroy, Ohio, sought justice and compensation for damages after he lost both his testicles to cancer. Mr. Abbott’s cancer also metastasized, resulting in multiple invasive surgeries.

Cory Watson attorneys Jon C. Conlin, F. Jerome Tapley, Nina Towle Herring, Mitchell Theodore, Beth Chambers, and Brett Thompson represented the plaintiffs and secured the unanimous $50 million verdict on behalf of the Abbott family.

“This was the largest verdict yet for these C-8 contamination cases,” said Jon Conlin, principal attorney at Cory Watson, a firm representing hundreds of people who were poisoned along the Ohio river.

“The Abbotts can never have true justice, but the jury told DuPont that it could no longer escape responsibility for its decades of dumping C-8 — at least for these two victims,” Conlin said.

The jury deadlocked for a second couple, Angie Swartz, who was diagnosed with kidney cancer, and her husband, Teddy, of Gallipolis, Ohio.

According to court records, DuPont improperly dumped C-8 into the air, drinking water, soil and Ohio River for years from its Washington Works plant just outside Parkersburg, West Virginia. The dumping of this cancer causing chemical ultimately resulted in a 2004 class action settlement that established special legal rights for approximately 80,000 affected people in six water districts next to, and downstream from, DuPont’s plant.

“Our firm is willing to fight for our clients until the very end,” said Conlin. “We look forward to bringing the Swartz case to a verdict, along with all the other new cancer cases arising from DuPont‘s decades of negligence and conscious disregard for the safety of those living and working around its plant.”


Leila Watson and Ernie Cory

What is the secret to a long-term business partnership?

Leila – The secret to a long term partnership like ours is always being open, honest, and direct with your partner.

EC – Leila and I have unique strengths that complement each other, and the two of us make a great team. The success of our firm is that together we are able to assemble an amazing group of people that embody our firm’s core values and support our mission of service. As a result, we’ve distinguished ourselves in our community and industry through the habit of placing our firm and clients above our own interests.

Share with us what you see as some of the most important and positive attributes of the firm.

 EC – What I see as the most positive attribute of our firm is the team we’ve built. Our firm is nothing without the people that work alongside us: the amazing group of lawyers and staff that fight tirelessly on behalf of our clients. Our clients trust us wholeheartedly to take care of them when they need us the most.

Leila – We take care of people all day long. We have no product, so personal injury law is purely a service-based industry. If you’re going to build a successful law firm, you have to hire the best–and the best lawyers are consistently empathetic and always put others first. Our philosophy here is simple: If you don’t have empathy for people then you don’t work at Cory Watson.

EC – Leila and I built our firm on a solid foundation of care and attention to the needs of our staff. We devote resources to retain the top legal talent and provide assurance to our team that they have what they need to get the job done. When you have that infrastructure in place, it empowers your team to treat people with the utmost respect and care.

Leila – We’ve sustained success over the decades because we maintain a steady team of leaders who guide and cultivate our team so that they can put our clients first.

How has the business of a law firm changed in the years that you have been active with the firm?

Leila – We’ve learned repeatedly that we have to reinvent ourselves. If we don’t adapt, we will not be successful. We’ve evolved in the way we reach out to clients, in the way that we try cases, and in the way that we cultivate and empower our staff.

EC – In 1995, we were a car wreck firm with one pharmaceutical injury litigation here in Birmingham. The growth we’ve witnessed since then has been astronomical. We’re always seeking new opportunities, new venues, and new ways to perform our services better. The bottom line is that you just can’t be still. You have to reinvent yourself constantly. The evidence of our growth can be distilled down to our core values. We’re calculated, measured risk-takers. You have to take calculated and measured risks in order to grow.

What strategies and techniques have you employed to make the firm a success?

EC – We’ve found success in embracing weekly huddles, where we invest time with our staff to connect and communicate openly. We are transparent about our vision and the new projects we are currently working on.

Leila – Our national strategies have yielded success in assuming leadership positions within the legal industry. The byproduct of that strategy is that we have expanded our footprint and extended our firm to serve multiple locations outside the state of Alabama.

EC –  Another strategy we’ve embraced is our continued adoption of technology. Uncertain times in 2020 served as a wakeup call that we have to be prepared to practice law from anywhere–at any time–no matter what is going on in the world.

Leila – We don’t view this as a job or a profession—we view it as a privilege and a passion. After 25 years, the desire to help people has not diminished–it’s only grown stronger. Ernie and I are grateful every day to be blessed with the opportunity to do what we love. This is what we were born to do. We attract like–minded people who share a love for this kind of work so that we can continue changing the lives of our clients both now and in the future.

ABOUT THE FIRM Cory Watson Attorneys is a nationally recognized personal injury and environmental tort law firm with offices in Birmingham, Alabama; Memphis, and Nashville, Tennessee. The firm has recovered more than $3 billion for clients across the country. Cory Watson attorneys are frequently at the forefront of major class actions and multidistrict litigations involving dangerous pharmaceuticals and product liability, and are often appointed to leadership positions in national cases. Firm practice areas include Personal Injury, Product Liability, Class Action, Asbestos, Business and Commercial Litigation, Dangerous Pharmaceuticals, Defective Medical Devices, and Environmental/Toxic Torts. To learn more, visit

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