Attorney Donald P. Blydenburgh is a shareholder at Simmons Hanly Conroy. Having joined the firm in 2019, Don brings with him more than a decade of success in trial and appellate courts across the country. He focuses his practice exclusively on asbestos litigation, representing individuals affected by asbestos-related lung cancers and mesothelioma against national and multinational corporations that knowingly made and sold asbestos products without warning. His efforts have resulted in multi-million-dollar verdicts and settlements. He has secured more than $130 million dollars in recoveries for his clients.
A Devoted Advocate
Don is attentive to his clients’ needs throughout the litigation process, from initial discovery through deposition and trial.
“I know all too well the devastation and heartache cancer can wreak on a family. I try to take that experience and understanding with me into the lawsuit so that the clients feel supported and protected, from the first meeting in the living room to the trial in the courtroom,” he said. “I believe strongly in our system of laws and its ability to protect and provide justice to those who have been marginalized by large corporations for the sake of profit. Under our system, the individual, no matter who they are, has the opportunity to stand up and show how they have been wronged. I am proud to be an advocate and champion for our clients.”
Groundbreaking Verdicts and Settlements
Don’s litigation experience is as varied as it is impressive. His success has been built on investigating unusual potential exposures and identifying the correct liable defendants, oftentimes involving products previously unknown to contain asbestos. His legal analysis and oral argument skills have led courts to adopt views and legislatures to pass laws protecting the injured individual in states around the country.
Representative cases include:
- 2013 – Served as lead counsel in a respiratory protection defective product lawsuit on behalf of a 74-year-old Virginia resident who worked for decades as an insulator at the DuPont facility in Martinsville, Virginia. Don successfully litigated the action, claiming that the two respirator manufacturers involved knowingly misrepresented their masks’ ability to protect users against asbestos dust.
- 2013 – Served as lead trial counsel on behalf of a 62-year-old bank loan officer diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, who Don determined was exposed to asbestos-containing joint compound during his inspection of construction sites. Don effectively argued the application of ready-mix joint compound did not fall under Virginia’s statute of repose for building improvements. The positive ruling was contrary to prior rulings by other courts on the issue and opened the door to a potential remedy for others exposed to asbestos at building projects in Virginia.
- 2014 – Served as lead trial and appellate counsel in a case of first impression in Illinois on behalf of a 66-year-old mesothelioma victim who worked as a laborer at the Ferro facility in Calumet City, Illinois in the 1960s. Analyzing the nuances of Illinois workers’ compensation law, Don successfully argued before the appellate court that the Act’s 25-year statute of repose, which ran well before his client ever learned of his latent asbestos disease, and barred the plaintiff from a remedy under the compensation act, caused his client’s claim to fall under one of the exclusions of the Act, such that he could sue in court. The ground-breaking decision paved the way for the Illinois Assembly to pass, and the Illinois governor to sign into law, SB 1596, which now allows Illinois workers and their families to sue employers for long-developing occupational illnesses, such as mesothelioma. See, IL SB 1596 (2019); Folta v. Ferro Eng’g, 2014 IL App (1st) 123219 (2014).
- 2014 – Served as lead trial counsel on behalf of a 76-year-old Nevada resident who died from mesothelioma arising from exposures to Bendix automotive brakes while working as a store manager for an AutoZone automobile parts distributor. The Cleveland jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff finding the brake manufacturer 40 percent at fault and considered punitive damages against the company for its long-standing asbestos use.
- 2015 – As lead trial counsel, Don obtained a historic $10.55 million verdict on behalf of the family of a 52-year-old engineer who suffered and died from mesothelioma. Finding the defendant 100 percent at fault, this was the largest compensatory verdict in the history of Upstate New York asbestos litigation. The decedent was exposed to asbestos-containing industrial talc as a high school student while working at a ceramics manufacturing store.
- 2016 – Served as trial counsel for an 80-year-old New York resident with mesothelioma whose only known asbestos exposure was smoking Kent brand cigarettes from 1952 through 1970. Don was able to secure the family a large settlement with proof that the cigarette filters contained asbestos.
- 2016 – Served as counsel for a 55-year-old Chicago born-and-raised journeyman who began working at the local refineries and large industrial sites as an insulator beginning in 1988. Despite the plaintiff working with solely non-asbestos insulation products, investigation revealed that deteriorated, poorly maintained, asbestos insulation still in place at these sites continues to expose the workers to this day.
- 2016 – Served as lead trial counsel for a 43-year-old Army veteran from southeastern Pennsylvania diagnosed with mesothelioma who passed away leaving a wife and three young children. His only known asbestos exposure was as a child in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania when builders in his development cut, installed and scrapped asbestos-containing sewer pipe. Don’s investigation revealed the developer, land owner, and city records showed the use of asbestos sewer pipe. This significant legwork led to a substantial financial recovery for this most deserving family who lost their husband, father, and a nation’s hero.
- 2017 – Served as lead trial counsel for a mechanic exposed to asbestos from brakes, clutches and gaskets. During the case, which was venued in Rome, Georgia, Don prevailed in a several day Daubert hearing where the court held that the jury could hear expert testimony regarding friction materials’ ability to cause mesothelioma. He succeeded in obtaining a multi-million dollar settlement for the family.
- 2017 – Served as lead trial counsel for a 44-year-old father of three diagnosed with mesothelioma. The client was exposed to asbestos from working on diesel trucks at an International Harvester authorized dealership from 1987 through 1989. Don successfully litigated the matter to a multi-million dollar result for this devastated family.
- 2018 – Served as lead trial counsel for a woman tragically diagnosed with mesothelioma who was survived by her loving husband and three daughters. The client was exposed to asbestos from smoking asbestos-containing cigarettes as a young woman, as well as through her lifelong use of talc body powder and talc-containing makeup. Don was able to recover a multi-million dollar award for the family.
- 2018 – Served as lead trial counsel for a 63-year-old lifelong pizza maker. Don’s investigation led to the discovery that the baking stones in the pizza ovens the client used contained asbestos and released significant amounts of asbestos during cleaning. After two Frye hearings, the New York City trial court held that plaintiff’s experts could opine to a jury that asbestos fibers were released during the cleaning of ovens and could cause disease. Don obtained a several-million dollar settlement for the family.
- 2019 – Served as lead trial counsel for a 55-year-old tractor repairman with mesothelioma against John Deere for its asbestos-containing friction parts, including brakes and clutches. Using specification sheets issued by the company, Don’s research linked the specific asbestos materials used by the client to local dealers in the mid-1980s and resulted in a multi-million dollar recovery for the family.
Recognized by his Peers
Don has been named a New York Rising Star by SuperLawyers® every year since 2015. He has been recognized as a member of the renowned National Trial Lawyers ‘Top 40 under 40’ from 2016 through 2019 and was honored by the same organization in 2018 and 2019 as one of the Top 10 Asbestos Mesothelioma Trial Lawyers in New York.
Don received a B.A. in economics and political science from Columbia University in 2001 and his J.D. from Brooklyn Law School in 2005. He received several honors as a law student, including selection as a Carswell Merit Scholar and admission to the Dean’s List and Moot Court Honor Society Trial Division. He also served as speaker of the Student Bar Association and chapter president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. While at Columbia, he was named the Schwartz Family Merit Scholar for high achievement in academics and athletics (baseball).
Prior to trial law, Don clerked for several courts, including the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, working on several matters with now Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, as well as for Hon. Joan M. Azrack of the Eastern District of New York.
When he’s not practicing law, Don enjoys spending time with his family. He and his wife, Eileen, have two daughters, Reagan and Cora. Don also enjoys golf and describes his game as “not embarrassing.” He has been a dedicated fan of the New York Mets (for better or worse) since birth.