Robert R. Hatten is a pioneer and national leader in the field of asbestos litigation. For the past 17 years, he has been recognized by his peers to be included in "The Best Lawyers in America." Best Lawyers, the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession, has also named Robert R. Hatten as the "Norfolk Best Lawyers Personal Injury Litigation Lawyer of the Year" for 2015.
After graduating from Washington & Lee University Law School in 1972, Hatten served as a law clerk to the Honorable John A. MacKenzie in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. In late 1973, he joined the law firm of Patten & Wornom and was made partner in 1976. For the past 20 years, Hatten has served as the managing partner of Patten, Wornom, Hatten & Diamonstein, L.C., the largest law firm in the city of Newport News.
THE VIRGINIA STATE BAR RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT REQUIRE ALL ATTORNEYS TO MAKE THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT AND DISCLAIMER TO THEIR CASE RESULTS. SETTLEMENT AND VERDICT IN ALL CASES DEPEND ON VARIOUS FACTORS AND CIRCUMSTANCES, WHICH ARE UNIQUE TO EACH CASE. THEREFORE, PAST RESULTS IN CASES ARE NOT A GUARANTEE OR PREDICTION OF SIMILAR RESULTS IN FUTURE CASES WHICH PATTEN, WORNOM, HATTEN & DIAMONSTEIN AND ITS LAWYERS MAY UNDERTAKE.
Hatten began the representation of workers with asbestos disease in 1975, when he filed the first asbestos disability and death claims in the history of the state of Virginia against the Newport News Shipyard for workers’ compensation benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. In 1976, Hatten and his co-counsel, Gene Locks of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Richard Glasser of Norfolk, Virginia, filed the first asbestos product liability claims in Virginia against more than 40 asbestos manufacturers and suppliers.
In June 1978, Hatten and his co-counsel successfully prosecuted the first mesothelioma jury trial in Virginia (and only the third successful asbestos trial in the nation at that time) with a verdict against Johns-Manville Corporation in the amount of $750,000. From that time until the present, Hatten’s practice has been devoted exclusively to the representation of asbestos victims. He has won dozens of jury trials, and he has successfully prosecuted landmark appeals in the Virginia Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of the United States. He has published articles concerning asbestos litigation in the Washington & Lee University Law Review, the VTLA Journal, the Texas Lawyer, and the Washington Legal Times.
His accomplishments include the first successful consolidation of more than 1,000 lawsuits, the first national settlement program with the asbestos industry, the first Virginia punitive damage jury verdict against the asbestos industry (1991) and the largest punitive damage verdict in an asbestos case (2011). For the past six consecutive years, Hatten has received multi-million dollar verdicts against the asbestos industry, and in each of those years his verdicts have been in the Top 10 Verdicts for the state of Virginia. Hatten has served as a national leader of the asbestos plaintiffs’ bar in numerous capacities, including membership on the Johns-Manville Bankruptcy Reorganization Committee and the Pittsburgh Corning Corporation Bankruptcy Reorganization Committee, Chairman of the Litigation Section of the Multi-District Asbestos Litigation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Liaison to Congress for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America on asbestos-related matters.
In the state of Virginia, Hatten and his co-counsel created the Virginia Asbestos Victims, Inc., a non-profit organization to promote the interests of asbestos victims. This organization has successfully lobbied the Virginia General Assembly to change the Virginia statute of limitations so that all asbestos victims would have a fair day in court, and it also succeeded in persuading the Virginia General Assembly to enact numerous other reforms for the benefit of asbestos victims. These reforms include the right to consolidate large numbers of cases for trial to avoid repetitive, expensive and wasteful litigation. In 1986, Hatten received the Virginia Trial Lawyers’ Association's first award for Courageous Advocacy for his representation of asbestos victims in Virginia, and he served on the Board of Directors of the VTLA for many years. Hatten is a member of the National Trial Lawyers (limited to The Top 100 Trial Lawyers in each state in the nation). In 2010, Hatten was inducted into the International Association of Trial Lawyers (limited by invitation to the Top 500 Lawyers in the World.)
During the past several years, Hatten has continued to win multi-million dollar verdicts for mesothelioma victims in Virginia including $25,000,000 (2011); $5,977,482 (2010); $3,800,000 (2009); $4,390,000 (2008); $9,300,000 (2007); and $10,000,000 (2006). In 2006 Hatten won the landmark case of Jones v. John Crane in the Virginia Supreme Court which established that admiralty jurisdiction and maritime law applied to the claims of all shipyard and Navy asbestos victims. This legal precedent established the rights of family members of mesothelioma victims to receive compensation for the pain and suffering of their loved one after his death, it lessened the burden of proof for establishing liability of asbestos manufacturers, it extended the time allowed for filing asbestos lawsuits and it provides that the liberal remedies of maritime law would control the rights of shipyard and Navy asbestos victims--not state law. For this pioneering work Virginia Lawyers Weekly designated Hatten as one of the top 7 leaders of the law in Virginia for 2007.
Hatten has received the highest rating of Martindale-Hubbell for legal competence, and he has been elected by his peers to the American Board of Trial Advocates.
Hatten has also been active in state and regional civic activities. He has served on the Board of Trustees of St. Andrews Episcopal School, the Board of Trustees for Hampden-Sydney College, and for eight years served on the Board of Trustees for the Lexington Theological Seminary. He is the Founder of Operation Santa, a community-wide service organization which provides meaningful Christmas mornings to dozens of disadvantaged children. In 1997, he received the Humanitarian Award of the National Conference of Community and Justice.
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