Robert R. Hatten

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (757) 223-4545

Practice Areas:

  • Asbestos Litigation
  • Talc Litigation

For forty-five years, Bobby Hatten has established himself as a nationally recognized and respected trial lawyer in helping asbestos victims recover compensation. He has successfully represented thousands of shipyard workers, U.S. Navy veterans, industrial workers, and the families of asbestos victims who contracted asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma. He began working on these cases in 1975 when he filed Virginia’s first death and disability claims against the Newport News Shipyard and in 1976, he filed the first lawsuits against the asbestos industry in Virginia. Bobby’s track record for winning jury trials and compensation cases for asbestos victims is unmatched by any other lawyer in the state of Virginia.

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Hatten’s numerous accomplishments in asbestos litigation include:

  • Filing the first asbestos product liability lawsuits in Virginia against more than 40 manufacturers of asbestos products who failed to warn workers and their families of the dangers of breathing asbestos dust
  • Winning the first jury trials for asbestosis and mesothelioma victims in 1978 and 1979
  • Establishing Maritime jurisdiction for shipyard workers to avoid the conservative limitations of Virginia law
  • Spearheading the passage of statutes by the Virginia General Assembly to change the time limit for filing asbestos claims and to permit the consolidation of hundreds of claims to improve judicial efficiency
  • Consolidating over a thousand cases in the Federal Court which were all settled for substantial compensation
  • Consolidating over six hundred cases in the Virginia Circuit Courts which were all settled for substantial compensation
  • Establishing the first nationwide program to provide compensation agreements for asbestos victims without the need for litigation or jury trials
  • Establishing the right of asbestos victims to receive punitive damages in Virginia jury trials against the asbestos industry
  • Securing the top 10 asbestos verdicts in Virginia* for six years straight:
    • $10 million in 2006
    • $9.3 million in 2007
    • $4.39 million in 2008
    • $3.8 million in 2009
    • $5.977 million in 2010
    • $25 million in 2011
  • Last jury trial in 2016, resulted in a verdict of $7.5 million
  • Appointed by the Federal Bankruptcy Courts to be a member of a select committee of nationally recognized asbestos lawyers to design trust funds for two of the largest asbestos product manufacturers, Johns-Manville Corporation and Pittsburgh Corning Corporation so that both present and future asbestos victims can be compensated for the next 50 years
  • Appointed by the trustees of Eagle-Picher Asbestos Trust Fund and Raytech Asbestos Trust Fund, to serve as a technical advisor to the trustees to assist them in providing compensation to qualified asbestos victims all over the United States.
  • Past Chairman of the Litigation Section of the Federal Multi-District Asbestos Litigation in Philadelphia involving over 30,000 asbestos lawsuits
  • Liaison to Congress for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America on asbestos-related matters
  • Co-Founder of the Virginia Asbestos Victims, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to improving Virginia laws for the benefit of asbestos victims

*Disclaimer: Verdicts are specific to the facts of that case and create no inference of the value of other cases. Further, verdicts are frequently appealed which can result in reversal or reduction of the verdict or settlement for less than the verdict.

Landmark Asbestos Cases

June 1978, Dishner v. Johns-Manville Corporation. The first jury verdict in Virginia against an asbestos product manufacturer for mesothelioma contracted by a pipefitter at the Amoco Refinery in Yorktown, Virginia. This was only the third verdict for an asbestos victim in the United States at that time. This case established the duty of asbestos manufacturers to warn workers of the dangers of breathing asbestos dust and that the asbestos industry had covered up these dangers since the 1940s.

November 1979, Oman v. Johns-Manville Corporation. Jury verdict for four asbestosis victims against Johns-Manville Corporation for negligence and the failure to warn shipyard workers about the dangers of asbestos insulation products.

October 1981, Oman v. Johns-Manville Corporation. On appeal the opinion of the court established that Maritime law and Maritime time limits for asbestos claims applied to shipyard asbestos exposure cases rather than the restrictive statute of limitations in Virginia. As a consequence of this ruling, it became easier to compensate asbestos victims and to resolve their cases.

July 1985, successfully petitioned the Virginia General Assembly, to change the time limit for filing asbestos claims against asbestos product manufacturers and suppliers by providing that the time limit does not start until the asbestos victim receives a diagnosis from his physician of asbestosis, mesothelioma, or asbestos-related lung cancer. Previous to this statute, the time limit for asbestos claims could expire prior to the time that the asbestos victim received a diagnosis from his physician.

1990, Johns-Manville Corporation Bankruptcy Reorganization Plan. Hatten and a team of fifteen other lawyers created the asbestos trust fund concept which serves as the model for all future bankruptcies of asbestos manufacturers. This model provides for compensation for asbestos victims by bankrupt companies without the necessity of a lawsuit or other litigation.

1991, Watson v. Owens-Corning. Jury verdict for $1 million affirmed by the Virginia Supreme Court. The verdict included $100,000.00 in punitive damages that was affirmed. This case established the right of asbestos victims in Virginia to receive punitive damages from asbestos product manufacturers who had actual knowledge of the dangers of the asbestos products but failed to warn workers.

2005, Little v. Garlock.  Virginia Supreme Court affirms that Maritime law, not Virginia law, applies to mesothelioma victims who were exposed to asbestos gaskets and packing while working onboard ships at the shipyard.

2007, Jones v. John Crane, Inc. The Virginia Supreme Court affirmed a $10 million verdict in favor of a Newport News shipyard worker who contracted mesothelioma because he was not warned about the dangers of asbestos gaskets and packing. The Virginia Supreme Court again affirmed that Maritime law, not Virginia law, applies. The Court also found that the jury’s verdict of $10 Million was not excessive under Virginia law.

(2012) Hardick v. John Crane (2). The Virginia Supreme Court held that under general maritime law, a mesothelioma victims’ family could recover compensation for the pain and suffering that the mesothelioma victim endured prior to death.

Education and Publications

Hatten has also written extensively about asbestos litigation. His writing has been published in:

  • Washington Legal Times
  • VTLA Journal
  • Texas Lawyer

Hatten earned his bachelor’s degree at Hampden-Sydney College in 1969 and his Juris Doctor at Washington & Lee University Law School in 1972. He began his legal career in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, where he clerked for the Honorable John A. MacKenzie, September 1972 to August 1973.

He joined the law firm Patten & Wornom in 1973, became a Partner in 1976 and served as Managing Partner of the firm (now called Patten, Wornom, Hatten & Diamonstein, L.C.) between 1991 and 2019.

Peer Recognition

Hatten has consistently been recognized by his peers for his professional abilities. His peers have selected him for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America for 25 years. Lawyers are selected for this list purely based on a peer review process designed to gather the consensus opinion of the leading lawyers in each region.

Hatten has also been selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers for 15 years straight (each year since 2006). Attorneys are selected for this list based on extensive research by Super Lawyers, along with peer evaluations. The goal of the review process is to find attorneys who have established themselves as outstanding lawyers with a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

Hatten was selected as fellow for the International Academy of Trial Lawyers in 2010, this is a select group of trial lawyers from all over the United States. The American Trial Lawyers Association, Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, and Lawyers Weekly have presented special advocacy awards recognizing Hatten’s many contributions to the legal profession.

In 2007 Lawyers Weekly designated Hatten as one of the top seven leaders of the law in Virginia

In 1986, the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association conveyed on Hatten its first Courageous Advocacy Award for his work on behalf of asbestos victims.

Court Admissions
  • Supreme Court of Virginia
  • Supreme Court of the United States
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
  • United States District Courts of Virginia, Ohio, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas 
Awards & Accolades
  • The Best Lawyers in America (25 years)
  • Best Lawyer of the Year in Virginia for 2019
  • Super Lawyers (2006-2020)
  • For more than 25 years he has received the AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, its highest rating for legal competence
  • Designated by Virginia Lawyers Weekly as a top seven Leader in the Law of Virginia
  • Received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the National Conference of Community and Justice
Memberships and Associations
  • American Association for Justice Leaders Forum
    • Leaders Forum Member
  • Southern Trial Lawyers Association
  • National Trial Lawyers
  • International Association of Trial Lawyers
  • Served on the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association (VTLA) Board of Directors
Community and Public Service
  • Campaign Chairman of United Way of the Virginia Peninsula
  • Chairman of the Board of Directors of the United Way of the Virginia Peninsula
  • Rector and a member of the Board of Visitors at Christopher Newport University
  • Served on the Board of the Trustees for Hampden-Sydney College
  • Served on the Chairman of the Board of Advisors to the General Samuel V. Wilson Leadership Center at Hampden-Sydney College
  • Served on the Board of Trustees of St. Andrews Episcopal School
  • Served on the Board of Trustees for the Lexington Theological Seminary
  • Co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Soundscapes, a non-profit organization devoted to teaching classical music to children at risk
  • Founder of Operation Santa, a non-profit organization to provide a Christmas experience to disadvantaged children
  • Confidential Case Review

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