William E. Thomson is a litigation partner in the Los Angeles office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. He is Co-Chair of the firm’s Transnational Litigation Practice Group and a member of the firm’s Appellate and Constitutional Law and Environmental Litigation and Mass Tort Practice Groups. Mr. Thomson’s practice focuses on federal and state appellate and Supreme Court litigation, and on strategic analysis and briefing in high-stakes cases in trial courts around the country. Mr. Thomson has extensive experience litigating and counseling on complex U.S. and cross-border matters before both trial and appellate courts in a broad range of contexts, including civil RICO, product liability and mass tort, foreign judgment recognition, First Amendment litigation, and class actions. He has advised on and litigated matters implicating the competing laws of multiple U.S. jurisdictions and dozens of countries around the world, including supply chain liability risks, corporate separateness issues, and cross-border evidentiary actions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1782.
In both the transnational and domestic contexts, clients regularly rely on Mr. Thomson to help them develop comprehensive global strategies. Mr. Thomson has extensive experience with constitutional challenges to state and federal statutes and caselaw, including punitive damages and statutory penalties, and he works regularly with inside- and outside co-counsel to develop innovative, cutting-edge trial and appellate strategies to address such issues. He has played a key role in a number of the firm’s most high-profile transnational, mass tort and product liability, and environmental matters. Most recently, Mr. Thomson was featured in the 2023 edition of Best Lawyers in America for appellate practice.
- Thomson is one of the principal lawyers representing Chevron Corporation in the large number of climate change actions that state and municipal governments have filed around the country pursuant to various state laws, alleging claims for public and private nuisance, product liability, and deceptive sales—attempting thereby to shift liability for national and international energy policy choices onto energy producers. To date, Chevron has prevailed in motions to dismiss in every court to reach the merits. See, e.g., City of New York v. Chevron Corp., 993 F.3d 81,85 (2d Cir. 2021) (“The question before us is whether municipalities may utilize state tort law to hold multinational oil companies liable for the damages caused by global greenhouse gas emissions. Given the nature of the harm and the existence of a complex web of federal and international environmental law regulating such emissions, we hold that the answer is “no.”).
- Thomson represents Chevron Corporation in its multifaceted defense against purported environmental claims emanating from Ecuador, in which U.S. and Ecuadorian lawyers obtained a purported $18 billion judgment from an Ecuadorian court. Among other things, Mr. Thomson spearheaded the extensive briefing in Chevron’s RICO case in the Southern District of New York, in which the company successfully sued the U.S. and Ecuadorian lawyers and other agents for racketeering and fraud. In its 485-page opinion, the court described the case as “extraordinary” and “includ[ing] things that normally come only out of Hollywood,” such as “coded emails,” “payments out of a secret account,” videotaped evidence of crimes in progress, and blockbuster evidence that the defendants “wrote the [Ecuadorian] court’s Judgment themselves and promised $500,000 to the Ecuadorian judge to rule in their favor and sign their judgment.” The New York Times described the result as a “major victory,” and the Washington Post called it “resounding.” A unanimous Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, noting that “[t]he record . . . reveals a parade of corrupt actions.” Mr. Thomson continues to advise Chevron on a range of issues flowing from this high-stakes, complex matter and in related foreign enforcement and international arbitration matters.
- Thomson has deep experience developing and marshaling constitutional challenges to state-law regimes such as those governing punitive damages and their related underlying liability standards, especially in the product liability context. In this capacity, he works with companies to formulate both immediate-need and long-term trial and appellate strategies, briefing related motions and appeals in numerous jurisdictions around the country and acting as national appellate advisor to trial teams at all stages of the proceeding. He played a principal role on behalf of Ford Motor Company in persuading the United States Supreme Court to vacate what had been the largest personal injury award ever affirmed in U.S. history—and on remand convinced the court of appeal to cut the award by over 90%—as well as convincing the California Supreme Court to reject the “aggregate profit disgorgement” theory of punitive damages.
- Thomson has long played a leading role in defending Dole Food Company, Inc. in its national and international mass tort/product liability litigation involving the nematicide DBCP, brought by thousands of plaintiffs from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and the Ivory Coast. Cases currently are pending in Hawaii and Delaware. He was a key member of the team that successfully represented Dole in both the district court and Eleventh Circuit in the Osorio v. Dole action filed in the Southern District of Florida, where plaintiffs sought to enforce a bellwether Nicaraguan judgment totaling approximately $100 million. Mr. Thomson was instrumental in obtaining the dismissal of three DBCP cases pending in the Los Angeles Superior Court as a terminating sanction for plaintiffs’ and their counsel’s fraud on the court in the widely noted Tellez, Mejia, and Rivera cases, and successfully defended the trial court decisions on appeal.
- In both the transnational and domestic settings, Mr. Thomson has led numerous civil cases brought pursuant to the Racketeer & Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), representing both civil RICO plaintiffs and defendants in a variety of industry contexts. He has written and spoken frequently on RICO-related topics. Representative RICO matters include, in addition to Chevron’s lawsuit against the lawyers suing it in Ecuador, defending automaker Aston Martin (Fisker v. Aston Martin Lagonda, C.D. Cal. 2015) (voluntarily dismissed by Fisker, with no settlement); defending Chevron U.S.A. (Committee to Protect Our Agricultural Water v. Chevron, E.D. Cal. 2016) (court granted motion to dismiss; plaintiff dismissed rather than try to amend complaint); defending nursing home owners and officers (Kan-di-Ki v. Paulson, C.D. Cal. 2017) (motion to dismiss granted; affirmed on appeal); defending Lynn Tilton and Patriarch Partners Zohar CDO 2003-1 Ltd. et al. v. Patriarch Partners LLC et al.(S.D.N.Y. 2017) (motion to dismiss granted based on securities fraud bar of 18 U.S.C. §1964(c)).
- Thomson also played a key role in Perez v. Dole Food Company, Inc., successfully defeating hundreds of false claims that Dole Food Company funded and directed the activities of AUC paramilitaries in the banana-growing regions of Colombia and was responsible for hundreds of deaths in connection with Colombia’s internal conflict between warring paramilitaries and guerrillas in that region. Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their claims with prejudice after Gibson Dunn uncovered evidence of improper interactions between plaintiffs’ counsel and jailed paramilitary witnesses.
Mr. Thomson served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Robert J. Kelleher in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. He received his law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law. He earned a Ph.D. degree and an M.A. degree from the University of Chicago, and an A.B. degree from Princeton University, all in the field of political science. At the University of Chicago he was a John M. Olin Fellow at the Center for Inquiry Into the Theory and Practice of Democracy. For his dissertation on the political theory of Alexis de Tocqueville he conducted research in Paris. He is fluent in French and conversant in Spanish.
Mr. Thomson is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States, California Supreme Court, Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States District Courts for the Central, Northern, Eastern, and Southern Districts of California.
Mr. Thomson is a member of the board of directors of the Western Justice Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to building a more civil, peaceful society by designing and implementing creative programs that change the way people think about and respond to differences and conflict in our communities and schools. He is also a member of the board of the Pasadena Symphony & POPs.