Derek C. Smith


Derek Smith represents chemical, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, and specialty-material companies in complex and mass tort litigation, with a focus on product liability, toxic tort, and commercial matters. Derek provides counsel on environmental, health, and safety matters, and defends clients against personal injury, property damage, and other environmental-related claims brought by individual, mass, and class plaintiffs, and local and state governmental entities. In court, he applies his command of toxicology, epidemiology, occupational medicine, and industrial hygiene to make his arguments accessible for juries. This ability, and his significant legal experience, makes him a staunch advocate for clients in a spectrum of matters.

Derek regularly advises clients on programs and policies relating to electronically stored information (ESI). He helps them develop and implement ESI programs tailored to their specific needs and ensures that they fully understand their obligations in creating and maintaining such information. Additionally, he regularly advises on how technology trends can increase legal risks in many industries.

His experience also covers PFAS, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), coal tar pitch volatiles (CTPVs), coke oven emissions (COEs), coal tar, creosote, chromated copper arsenate (CCA), arsenic, dioxins, pentachlorophenol, perchloroethylene (PCE), and petroleum pitch.


Representative Matters

  • Defended the former owner and operator of an industrial facility against multiple claims—including individual and class action claims for personal injury and medical monitoring, as well as Natural Resource Damages and remediation-related claims brought by state authorities—alleging that per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) discharged from the facility contaminated the air, groundwater, surface water, and soil in the surrounding area
  • Served as national counsel for multiple current and former coal, coke, and chemical companies in nationwide litigation involving alleged occupational exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)/coal tar pitch volatiles (CTPVs) released at numerous aluminum smelters and carbon electrode manufacturing facilities throughout the United States
  • Served as national counsel for a former owner and operator of coke ovens in a lawsuit alleging occupational exposure to coke oven emissions (COEs)
  • Served as national counsel for a coal tar pavement sealer manufacturer in numerous lawsuits alleging environmental contamination from PAHs associated with the sealant, and in various local and state legislative actions seeking to ban the continued use of such sealants
  • Served as national counsel for multiple current and former wood preservative manufacturers in lawsuits alleging personal injury from exposure to wood treated with creosote and chromated copper arsenate (CCA)
  • Defended a former coal tar sealant manufacturer in a lawsuit alleging exposure to perchloroethylene (PCE) in contaminated drinking water
  • Defended a chemical manufacturer in lawsuits alleging historical discharge of PCE from dry cleaning establishments that contaminated city groundwater
  • Defended a chemical supplier in a lawsuit alleging occupational exposure to coal tar roofing pitch
  • Defended major pharmaceutical and medical device companies in personal injury actions involving alleged adverse health effects associated with the ingestion of diet drugs, solubilized ibuprofen, and drugs for the treatment of gastric esophageal reflux disease, as well as alleged product defects associated with pedicle screws
  • Represented a major aerospace company in a breach of contract and replevin action to recover an aircraft engine
  • Counseled a home water cooler manufacturer and distributor in a potential class action suit arising out of a product recall
  • Defended heavy machinery manufacturers against various personal injury lawsuits, including those involving allegedly defective farm machinery and roll-fed thermoforming and bottle-trimming equipment




  • J.D. University of Cincinnati College of Law 1997
  • B.B.A. University of Toledo 1994

Bar Admissions

  • Illinois
  • Ohio

Court Admissions

  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio

Professional Memberships and Activities

  • Defense Research Institute
    • Drug and Medical Device Committee, Young Lawyer’s Section, 2002 – 2008
      • Vice Chairman
      • Chairman


Pro Bono

  • National Veterans Legal Service Program
  • Former pro bono counsel, Hobson Cooperative Nursery School (a not-for-profit organization in Naperville, Illinois)


  • Former member, Advisory Board, KidsMatter (a not-for-profit organization in Naperville, Illinois)
  • Former and founding member, Ambassadors of Mercy for the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls (a children’s charity in Chicago, Illinois)

Personal Activities