36th Annual Product Liability Conference


Upcoming dates coming soon!

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Course Overview

Learn current and emerging product liability prevention practices from experienced product safety management professionals including consulting engineers, product safety standards experts, and a defense attorney.

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Who Should Attend?

Product safety and risk management professionals from industrial and commercial equipment manufacturers along with insurance providers will benefit the most. Past attendees stating they received valuable information include:

  • Product safety management managers
  • Risk management managers
  • Product development managers
  • Design engineers
  • Technical writers
  • Product liability underwriters
  • In-house attorneys who deal with product liability

Course Outline


Session 1: Product Liability Updates in the law (Cal Burnton)

Cal Burnton has tried and won numerous complex toxic tort and product liability cases, earning a national reputation for his ability to coordinate, manage, and defend mass toxic tort and complex product liability cases with a special emphasis on high-risk matters involving novel legal, scientific, and environmental theories. During his session, he will provide an overview of recent product liability cases and verdicts, discuss lessons to be learned from those cases, and recommend what manufacturers might do to avoid similar situations.

Session 2: Organizing Industry Groups to Improve Product Safety (Charles Burhams)

As a senior consultant, Charles Burhams believes that collaborations within industry trade groups provide key opportunities to improve product safety above what can be achieved by a single company. Moreover, sharing expertise in order to improve product safety will allow industry groups to build public confidence in the safety of the products they purchase. With years of expert knowledge, participants would be able to increase their knowledge and awareness of product safety issues, improve coordination of product safety efforts, enhance communication with regulators, and increase public confidence in product safety.

Session 3: On-Product Warnings: ANSI Z535.4 and ISO 3864-2 (Angela Lambert)

As “failure to warn” and “inadequate warnings” continue to top today’s product liability allegations, Angela Lambert will bring in her 15 years of expertise to provide an overview of the ANSI Z535.4 and ISO 3864-2 standards and how they can be used as the foundation for effective labels and instructions. After this session, participants will gain a thorough understanding of current considerations and implications for product safety labels and for risk management including the latest label format options, anticipated standards updates, and emerging trends and issues.

Session 4: Going Paperless: What Manufacturers Need to Know Before Digitalizing Warnings. (Lexi Fuson)

In this digital age, manufacturers are increasingly considering electronic warnings and instructions for their products such as through the manufacturer’s website, QR code, or through downloading an app. Recently, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) formed a subcommittee on warnings in electronic media to ensure safety information in electronic media and the FDA has also recently utilized electronic means to communicate certain safety information for pharmaceutical products to the public. Despite all these rapid changes, the FDA’s regulations and processes governing labeling changes have not evolved to deal with the new possibility of updating product labeling in a purely digital form. Through this session, Ms. Fuson will address the proposed ANSI standard and the status of FDA regulations or guidance on this issue, as well as what manufacturers need to consider with respect to electronic warnings for their products.

Session 5: Risk Management Lessons from the Trenches: Products Liability Trial and Appellate Case Studies (Jesse Blocher)

This session will allow participants to take a further step in participant's learning progress by consolidating all their knowledge through the presentation and discussion of product liability trials and appellate case studies. Examples of product liability trials and appeals will be used by plaintiffs’ attorney, Jesse Blocher, to illustrate issues that can arise from defectively designed products or poor manufacturing processes/quality control. The discussion will also include the legal prerequisites needed to establish a product is defective and some practical discussion of how that plays out in litigation.

Session 6: The Keys to Effective Witness Testimony (Steve Wood)

Why do “prepared” witnesses consistently fail during deposition and trial testimony? The problem isn’t preparation, it's psychology. Breakdowns in cognition, emotional reactions, behavioral issues, and strategic deviations can impact even the most intelligent and “prepared” witness, particularly by seasoned plaintiff attorneys. In this presentation, Dr. Steve Wood explains the hardwiring within our brains that lead to failures in cognition and allows experienced reptile attorneys to elicit damaging emotional and behavioral reactions that can lead to nuclear verdicts and settlements. In this session, Dr. Woods will share how to rewire the witness’ brain to recognize these attacks can thwart reptile attacks and result in highly effective witness testimony.

Session 7: Recent Twists & Turns in Product Liability Dockets (Tracie Renfroe)

One’s legal process would often contain unexpected twists and turns that might be an obstacle to participants’ progress. Throughout this session, we will be joined by Tracie Renfroe, an expert in handling environmental and product liability disputes, as she explores the legal framework governing the liability of manufacturers and sellers of products for injuries or damages caused by those products. We will delve into a range of topics that are pertinent to this area of law, including State Attorney General investigations, consumer fraud and misrepresentation, environmental justice, and greenwashing.

Session 8: PFAS and Product Liability: Separating PFacts from PFiction (Janet Anderson)

Also known as the “forever chemicals,” per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of more than 12,000 manufactured fluorinated chemicals, including PFOS and PFOA, found in many everyday consumer products such as food containers, fabrics, and other industrial products, such as fire-fighting foams and specialty fluids. Recently, there have been claims that these substances have made it into our environment and can lead to an accumulation of health and environmental problems. As product liability claims and regulatory product compliance requirements skyrocket, discussion on PFAS is an important and emerging risk management consideration in any product liability debate. Through this session, participants will learn about the fundamentals of PFAS and the products that contain them and also learn the strategies and tools to navigate the current state of regulatory compliance frameworks to mitigate risks.

Session 9: Panel - Understanding Product Liability from the Insurance Carriers Point of View (Peter Dion; Chris Gaylor; Steve Heiden)

This panel discussion will explain how an insurance carrier evaluates product liability exposures for a wide variety of risks from both an Underwriting and Loss Control perspective. Working as a team from the submission of an application to the completion of a loss control field risk assessment report, including its automatic grading system, the presenters will discuss how they come to understand product risks which enable them to make better informed decisions. The panel will also discuss the insurance implications of emerging risks and specific “red flag” products.

Session 10: A Judge’s Perspective (Judge Brnovich)

In this session, participants will learn valuable insights into the judicial perspective on product liability and the factors that judges consider when making decisions in these cases. Throughout the course of this session, Judge Brnovich will provide her unique perspective on the role of federal courts in resolving civil disputes related to product liability, discuss the expectations of the court for both lawyers and their clients throughout the litigation process, including trial preparation strategies and tips for testifying as an expert or lay witness at trial. She will also explore the modern role of juries in product liability cases and how judges can effectively communicate complex legal concepts to jurors.

Session 11 -  A Lookback at Important Product Liability Matters: Lessons we can Learn from the Past (Dr. Scheibe)

Dr. Scheibe will present case studies from the past that provide real-world perspectives on what to do – or not to do – in order to engineer, produce, and support safe products so as to avoid failures, claims, and product liability worries.

Session 12: Managing Transitional Product Risks from an ESG Perspective (Karine Narr)

Many companies are incorporating ESG principles into their goals and objectives. This process will include reviewing their products from a variety of perspectives, including climate and social impact. This review could result in new design features to improve efficiency; a material selection that enables recycling; performance criteria to extend product life and reduce waste; leveraging a company’s core technology to further serve societal goals and objectives. These transitions, intended to serve a societal benefit, can also carry with them the traditional concerns associated with the Management of Change, possibly presenting unanticipated product safety and product liability exposures. This presentation will use examples of product transitions from an ESG perspective where unanticipated risks were identified, to highlight the importance of having sound product integrity risk management and engineering practices in place to manage these transitional risks.

Session 13: Importance of a Safety Culture and Post-Manufacture Monitoring (Melissa McAlpine)

Product evaluation should not stop once a product leaves the factory. A broad post-sale surveillance program monitors and identifies safety and quality signals, analyzes and investigates those inputs, and elevates them for further action if necessary. Ms. McAlpine will explain how this approach enables the early detection of potential issues to minimize the impact on consumers.

Session 14: 3 Steps to Prevent Machine-Related Injuries – Application of the Latest Safety Standards and Risk Assessment Methods (Ken Hackworth)

Machine-related injuries, while very common, can easily be prevented with the right preparations, maintenance, and mindset. Throughout this session, participants will learn the three critical steps to improving fixed industrial machine safety: Motivation, Discovery, and Control. Motivators include our social responsibility to prevent human injury, our corporate responsibility to comply with laws and regulations, and our goals to prevent disruptive fines and costs. This session will dive into the strategies for hazard discovery which includes professional machine safeguarding audits, risk assessments, and plant walkthroughs. Additionally, as a part of engineering controls, mechanical guarding, control reliability, and functional safety will also be explored along with considering administrative risk reduction measures.

Session 15: Managing Product Liability Risk in the Age of Social Inflation and Nuclear Verdicts (Edward Casmere)

Billion-dollar lottery jackpots, nine-figure professional sports contracts, and handsomely paid “influencers” are just a few examples of the “social inflation” that has normalized extremely large verdicts in product liability litigation. As social influence increases due to social inflation, pressure often mounts from the general public. This presentation will discuss the forces lifting verdicts into the stratosphere and what steps product manufacturers and sellers can do to help reduce the risk that their company is in the next headline about a record-breaking jury verdict.

Session 16: Mock Trial Exercise

To consolidate participants' learning, each conference participant will be able to play out a mock trial exercise by serving as counsel and jury as they play out how company culture and product attributes impact a product liability case. Participants will be able to demonstrate the critical role that company witnesses, experts, and final arguments play in a trial and how a product’s history and company culture can impact an outsider's view of a product’s safety.



Janet K. Anderson, Ph.D., DABT Principal Toxicologist
GSI Environmental Inc.

Dr. Janet Anderson is a Principal Toxicologist with over 15 years of experience in providing toxicology, risk assessment, and risk management strategies for emerging and unregulated contaminants to federal agencies, private industry, and municipal clients. Building off her academic doctoral training in cancer and molecular biology and post-doctoral fellowship with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, she specializes in the translation of human health toxicology data into state and federal regulatory policy decisions and performs critical reviews of federal and state chemical and risk assessment guidance and regulations. She also provides litigation consulting and expert services and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology. She has broad experience assessing the toxic characteristics of chemicals to support scientifically sound decision-making and has extensive experience developing strategies to track and mitigate human health risks and address potential liability associated with emerging chemicals for both private and public sector clients.


Jesse B. Blocher

Jesse Blocher is a shareholder at Habush Habush & Rottier S.C.® and focuses his practice on representing individuals in personal injury litigation through trial and appeal, including product liability cases. To that end, he is a Board Certified Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He has also argued cases in the Wisconsin Supreme Court and is the co-chair of the Wisconsin Association for Justice amicus committee. Mr. Blocher is a summa cum laude graduate of Marquette University Law School. He received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in finance from the University of Wisconsin - Madison.


Judge Susan M. Brnovich

Judge Brnovich was born in Madison, Wisconsin.  She graduated from University of Wisconsin – Madison with a double degree in finance and Spanish.  She spent a semester of that time in Valencia, Spain, where she gleaned valuable insight on intercultural study and communications.  Susan then continued at the University of Wisconsin – Madison to earn a dual graduate degree – a Juris Doctor and Master of Science in Finance.

Judge Brnovich began her career with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office as a Deputy County Attorney in 1994 and tried 50 felony jury trials in that capacity.  She was appointed a Superior Court Commissioner in December 2003 and later a Superior Court Judge by Governor Napolitano in 2008.  Judge Brnovich has served as a Judge in Maricopa County’s Criminal, Family, Juvenile, Civil and Probate Courts.  On January 23, 2018, President Trump nominated Susan to serve as a United States District Judge for the District of Arizona.  The U.S. Senate confirmed her nomination and she received her commission on October 23, 2018. 


Charles Burhans

Mr. Burhans currently serves as the Senior Vice President of Life Science at Rimkus Life Sciences where he oversees the practice of Human Factors, Toxicology, Material Science, Sport Science, and Biomechanics. He has over 20 years of professional experience in helping companies manage complex product safety issues across a variety of domains. His recent professional activities include the development and evaluation of warnings and instructions and product literature, analysis of standards, accident investigation, analysis and response to product incidents in the field, and the development of safety training materials and product safety/integrity documentation. Mr. Burhans is a member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z535.6 Subcommittee on Product Safety Information in Product Manuals, Instructions, and Other Collateral Materials. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan in Industrial and Operations Engineering.


Cal Burnton

With over a 30-year career, Cal Burnton tried and won numerous complex toxic tort and product liability cases, earning a national reputation for his ability to coordinate, manage, and defend product liability and mass toxic tort cases. His national clients have included leading manufacturers and sellers of products such as chemicals, pesticides, health care appliances, medical devices, electrical equipment, firearms, printing presses, industrial machinery, and power tools. He has also served as the national counsil for a well-known toy company on safety and regulatory issues. Throughout the years, he has represented manufacturing and chemical clients in both federal and state courts in almost every state across the country.


Edward Casmere

Edward Casmere has made a career out of litigating, negotiating, and managing some of the most difficult legal issues, in some of the most challenging jurisdictions, against some of the most talented opponents. Focusing on a mixture of grit and grace, Ed currently balances a diverse portfolio of complex litigation, catastrophic injury and wrongful death, mass tort, toxic tort, class/mass actions, product liability, and environmental matters where he is often asked to join trial teams comprised of lawyers from law firms across the country for high-stakes trial duty. From cryptocurrency to carcinogenesis and Shakespeare to sharks, Ed has turned his diverse interests and love of lifetime learning into the backbone of his professional practice.


Peter Dion

Peter Dion is a Sr Technical Specialist-Product Liability for Cincinnati Insurance, where he consults with underwriters and loss control staff on product liability risks and develops methodologies to improve product liability knowledge. Prior to his current position, he worked for seventeen years at Zurich Insurance as a Line of Business Director-Product Liability-North America, traveling globally to train brokers, underwriters, and loss control personnel while speaking on product liability issues, including emerging risks. Throughout his insurance career, Peter has consulted with thousands of companies, including companies in mainland China and authored several publications on product liability.


Chris Gaylor

Chris Gaylor is the National Director of Manufacturing at Cincinnati Insurance Company, with over 16 years of experience in underwriting and product strategies for the manufacturing segment with an extensive portfolio on Food and Beverage, Metal Goods, Machine Shops, Equipment Manufacturing, Wood Products, Paper Products, Plastic Products, and Rubber goods. Chris specialization lies in the food industry, having earned Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points and Preventive Controls Qualified Individual certification. Chris also trains and educates sales, claims, and loss control staff on coverages and risk selection, and assists independent agents with visits, insure inspections, and profitable growth seminars. Prior to his current role, he was a Sales Marketing Representative for Cincinnati Insurance where he specialized in appointing agents, underwriting new business, and building a team of Sales Marketing Representatives, Loss Control Consultants and Claims adjusters.


Ken Hackworth, PE, FS Eng (TU¿V Rheinland #12058/16)

Ken Hackworth, the current VP of Safety Assessment at Machine Safety Specialists (MSS), brings in over 30 years of experience in the field of safety engineering, including the design and assessment of critical safety systems for automated industrial machinery, robotics, and industrial equipment. He is a licensed Professional Engineer with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from The Ohio State University and is a TU¿V Certified Functional Safety Engineer who is also serving as a member of multiple committees. Ken is an expert in machine safety standards, including OSHA, ANSI, NFPA, RIA, and ISO/EN standards and regulations, who provides assessments for complex machinery and instructs on industry-leading training courses. He has designed over 350 safety systems globally and offers compliance consulting services to ensure compliance with applicable safety standards and improve workplace safety.


Steve Heiden

Steve Heiden currently serves as a Senior Product Liability Technical Specialist at the Cincinnati Insurance Company and was previously a safety and liability specialist for 23 years who advised trade associations, law firms, and corporations on product safety and risk matters. Bringing in over 30 years of experience in product safety and risk management, he has provided advice on a wide range of issues, including compliance testing, hazard reporting, product recall program design, and crisis management. Steve has also authored articles on product safety and designed a course for practicing attorneys. He holds an undergraduate degree in History from the University of Virginia and a law degree from George Mason University.


Angela Lambert

Angela Lambert has over 15 years of experience in product safety, warnings, and liability. At Clarion Safety, she collaborates with manufacturers, partners, and advocates on visual safety communication standards, safety label content/design, and print production. Ms. Lambert is also actively involved at the leadership level in the ANSI and ISO standards for product safety as she currently leads the ANSI Z535.1 subcommittee and is a delegate representative to several safety committees, including ISO/TC 145 SC2 WG 1 and ISO/TC 283. She is also an expert speaker on product safety and visual safety communication. Her role in Clarion Safety specializes in guiding clients through implementing visual safety communication systems in line with today's leading safety standards and offers complementary services for comprehensive machine safety, compliance, and risk reduction.


Melissa McAlpine, Esq. - Bio

Melissa McAlpine currently serves as the Counsel of Product Safety and Marine at Polaris Industries Inc. She provides strategic advice on product safety and regulatory compliance while serving as chief counsel for Polaris' Marine global business unit. Prior to joining Polaris, Melissa was a litigator at a law firm in Pennsylvania, where she focused on product liability, retail liability, and insurance litigation. She served as national coordinating counsel for a global manufacturer in product liability litigation filed throughout the United States and managed a high-volume private arbitration program involving product liability matters. She is a member of the Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania bars and holds a J.D. from Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law.


Karine Narr, CSP, ARM, MBA

Product Liability Risk Specialist

Karine Narr has over 25 years of experience in insurance as a Property & Casualty Risk Engineer. She specializes in evaluating product liability exposures and controls across all industries, assisting clients in developing risk management programs, and providing education and training to clients. She has also developed internal training programs to further promote product liability skills in the Risk Engineering department. Ms. Narr is a member of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) and has a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) designation. She also has a degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, post-graduate work in ergonomics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management, and also a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual in relation to food safety.


Tracie Renfroe

Tracie Renfroe is a national trial lawyer with expertise in toxic tort, environmental, product liability, and commercial disputes who tried or litigated numerous breach of contract, conspiracy, fraud, securities fraud, and professional liability cases. Tracie represents clients in civil jury trials, class actions, and arbitrations who have tried cases in federal and state courts around the country, as well as in international arbitration of high-stakes environmental disputes. She serves as the Managing Partner of the Houston office and a partner in Energy, Environmental, and Product Liability practices, representing clients in the energy, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical sectors across the country. Tracie is known for presenting complex scientific and technical issues to judges, juries, and arbitration panels and has received recognition from several legal publications and directories.


Dr. Robert Scheibe

DR. ROBERT SCHEIBE  Dr. Robert Scheibe is a Principal Engineer at Exponent, Inc. in Seattle. For over 40 years he has used his mechanical engineering background to investigate, reconstruct, analyze, and determine the cause for accidents, component failures, and fires involving industrial machinery, vehicles, heavy equipment, tools, appliances, recreational equipment, and consumer products. He specializes in the engineering analysis of product safety and performance from the standpoint of design, operation, manufacture, assembly, maintenance, instruction, guarding, and warning. Dr. Scheibe has analyzed many hundreds of accidents and failures for clients in the legal, insurance, and industrial community.


Dr. Steve Wood

Steve M. Wood, Ph.D. is a Litigation Consultant at Courtroom Sciences, Inc., a national litigation consulting and litigation support firm based in Irving, Texas. Dr. Wood uses his social-psychological expertise to help clients understand the juror decision-making process and maximize the likelihood of favorable case outcomes. He also assists clients with a myriad of case-related activities, including pre-trial research, witness effectiveness training, case theme development, supplemental juror questionnaires, and jury selection. His work has been published in various peer-reviewed academic journals, as well as several scholarly magazines.


Cal Burnton

Over a 30-year career, Cal Burnton tried and won numerous complex toxic tort and product liability cases, earning a national reputation for his ability to coordinate, manage, and defend product liability and mass toxic tort cases.  His national clients have included leading manufacturers and sellers of products such as chemicals, pesticides, health care appliances, medical devices, electrical equipment, firearms, printing presses, industrial machinery, and power tools. He has also served as national counsel for a well-known toy company on safety and regulatory issues.  Throughout the years, he has represented manufacturing and chemical clients in both federal and state courts in almost every state across the country.

Upcoming dates coming soon!

Join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on course offerings.

Program Director

Susan Ottmann

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