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Joel Smith is a nationally recognized first-chair trial lawyer with more than 40 years of experience dedicated to defending high exposure product liability and mass tort litigation. As lead trial counsel, he has tried to verdict over 20 high-exposure product liability trials across the country. In recent years, he has been a lead counsel in two of the biggest product liability crises to hit the automotive industry, including Toyota's unintended acceleration litigation and Honda's handling of the massive recall of Takata air bags.

Named a Product Liability MVP in 2015 by Law360, Joel has represented manufacturers of automobiles, tires, forklifts and other equipment, as well as pharmaceuticals and consumer products. Joel's experience defending automotive manufacturers in catastrophic injury and wrongful death claims nationwide includes roof crush, air bags, restraints, rollover, crashworthiness, unintended acceleration, and tire defects, among others.

In pharmaceutical litigation, his experience includes lead trial counsel for a major pharmaceutical company in each of the birth defect litigation (MDL) and testosterone replacement therapy litigation. He was given a first-chair role in the defense of PPA litigation and played a leading role in two MDL Daubert hearings. Joel was also selected as trial counsel in hormone therapy cases and cases involving infant cough/cold products.

Joel’s work in these mass torts has taken him beyond the courtroom to interactions with the Department of Justice, Regulations, State Attorney Generals and Congressional committees. 

Clients and peers reviewing Joel for Chambers in 2021 stated that Joel Smith is a sought-after trial lawyer who acts as national counsel on several mass torts for major automotive companies. "He is just fantastic on his feet in the courtroom, extremely knowledgeable and knows how to take technical issues and explain them in comprehensive ways" and "a good strategist with a lot of trial experience."


Bar Admissions

  • South Carolina, 1981

Court Admissions

  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, 1982
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, 2005
  • U.S. District Court, District of South Carolina, 1982
  • U.S. District Court, District of Colorado, 2005


  • University of South Carolina School of Law, J.D., 1981
    Order of Wig and Robe
  • College of Charleston, B.A., 1978
    Major:  Political Science

Professional Associations

    • International Association of Defense Counsel
    • Product Liability Advisory Counsel
    • The American College of Trial Lawyers
    • Defense Research Institute
    • American Bar Association
    • South Carolina Defense Trial Attorneys' Association
    • South Carolina Fellows of the American College of Trial Lawyer
    • Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce
    • South Carolina Bar
    • Richland County Bar Association


    • Law360
      —Product Liability MVP, 2015
    • Chambers USA
      —Named in Nationwide Automotive Spotlight, 2007 – 2023
      —Nationwide Product Liability & Mass Torts, 2008 – 2023
      —South Carolina Litigation: General Commercial, 2010 – 2023
    • The Legal 500 
      —Named in Product Liability, Mass Tort and Class Action: Automotive/Transport, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2018,  2020 – 2023
    • Benchmark Litigation
      —National "Litigation Star", Product Liability, 2015
      —"Local Litigation Star," Product Liability, 2014 – 2021
    • Who's Who Legal
      —International Who's Who of Product Liability Defence Lawyers, 2010 – 2018, 2020 – 2023
    • Best Lawyers in America
      —Listed in Product Liability Litigation: Defendants 2007 – 2023, "Lawyer of the Year" in Columbia, 2016
      —Listed in Bet-the-Company Litigation 2009 – 2024
      —Listed in Commercial Litigation 2006 – 2024
      —Listed in Personal Injury Litigation: Defendants, 2011 – 2024
      —Listed in Business Litigation 2001 – 2022
      —Listed in Product Liability Litigation 2007 – 2024
    • Super Lawyers Magazine
      —South Carolina Super Lawyers 2008 – 2023
    • Honda North America, Inc.
      —Trial Lawyer of the Year, 2004

Recent Verdicts & Case Studies


Recent News, Events and Blogs

Speaking Engagements

  • "A Product Crisis – Reclaiming Corporate Trust," Presenter, ABA TIPS Motor Vehicle Product Liability Litigation Conference, April 2023 
  • “Embedded Systems and 21st Century Product Liability Litigation,” Presenter, DRI Annual Meeting, October 2018
  • "Medical Device Software: Litigation in the Digital Age," DRI Drug and Medical Device Seminar, San Francisco, CA; May 2015
  • "The Impact of Product Liability Pattern Litigation in the 21st Century on the Automobile Industry," Client Seminar, Detroit, MI; September 2010

Representative Cases

Representative Cases

  • In re: Toyota Motor Corp. Unintended Acceleration Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
  • In re: Takata Airbag Products Liability Litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida
  • In re: Depakote Cases in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois
  • In re: Testosterone Replacement Therapy Products Liability Litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • In re: Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) Prods. Liab. Litig. in the United States District Court, W.D. Washington
  • Tran v. Toyota - passive seatbelt quadriplegic; USDC Central District of Florida (Orlando)
  • Knuckles v. Toyota - brain injury, inertial unlatching; Spartanburg County, SC
  • McCoy v. Honda - quadriplegic, side impact, structural issue; Greenville County, SC
  • Kurylowicz v. Toyota - rollover/restraint ejected belted front seat passenger, two deaths; USDC Denver, CO
  • In re: PPA (phenylpropanolamine) - MDL Counsel in Daubert hearings re: hemorrhagic stroke
  • In re: PPA (phenylpropanolamine) - MDL Counsel in Daubert hearings re: cardiac issues