An outstanding trial attorney, Shawn Collins is at his best in a courtroom. Since 1986, he has combined his powerful communication skills with an unrelenting commitment to his clients' causes to win trials and secure favorable settlements in courts across America. Shawn has extensive experience handling "high stakes" litigation in environmental contamination, toxic tort, wrongful death, partnership disputes, and breach of contract cases.
Since founding The Collins Law Firm 25 years ago, Shawn has dedicated a majority of his professional life to making state and federal laws deliver justice for his individual and community-based class clients whose air, soil or water has been contaminated with carcinogens. Leading a team of committed environmental advocates, Shawn has secured for his environmental clients hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental investigation, testing, and remedy, including the cleanup of aquifers badly-contaminated with carcinogens; clean water for families and municipalities whose water supplies were threatened, and the installation of extensive in-home systems to protect residents against the intrusion into their homes of highly toxic chemical vapors. Shawn and the firm have also secured more than $100 million in financial compensation for their clients, in addition to guarantees of home values in communities where home values were threatened by pollution.
Shawn's successes at the firm have been many, including recovering $34.5 million for a neighborhood with toxic vapor intrusion, $10 million on behalf of homeowners whose wells were contaminated by dangerous chemicals; $8.5 million for the wrongful death of a firefighter killed in a motor vehicle accident; $16.9 million for families in a groundwater contamination case; $8.19 million for a town with vapor and groundwater contamination; more than $12 million for plaintiffs who contracted cancer after exposure to toxic chemicals; $8 million in settlements to families affected by landfill contamination; over $30 million for condominium owners in property disputes.
Many of these results were achieved over more than two decades in some 20 large environmental cases throughout the Midwest, where Shawn and The Collins Law Firm sought to hold corporate polluters accountable to their more than 20,000 clients. Each case was either a class action, or a consolidation of many individual cases. Each posed daunting challenges—procedurally (in achieving the consolidation of many individual cases, or getting classes certified over vigorous opposition); legally (in seeking novel applications of the law); scientifically (as the cases required mastery of complex issues in hydrogeology, toxicology and various engineering sciences); and financially (as the firm was often up against some of the largest corporations and law firms in the country, determined to exhaust CLF resources). Shawn aggressively invoked both state and federal law—pressing common law claims for negligence, trespass and negligence; claims under state environmental statutes; and claims under federal statutes, such as RCRA and CERCLA. Shawn has typically served as the lead or co-lead counsel for his clients in all aspects of these cases, leading lawyer teams in the formation of overall case strategy and all other important aspects of the cases, and serving usually as the lead advocate in briefing and argument before courts, and in evidentiary presentations and at trials.
In 2019, Shawn and CLF were appointed as co-lead counsel in the largest consolidated toxic tort mass action in Illinois history, In re Willowbrook Ethylene Oxide Litigation, pending in Cook County state court in Chicago. There, Shawn and CLF advocate for more than 750 residents of Western Suburban Chicago, who allege that their breast and blood cancers were caused by exposure to defendants’ emission for decades of a known human carcinogen, ethylene oxide.
Shawn has been the recipient of numerous legal awards. He has been selected as one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers by The American Trial Lawyers Association every year since 2005, a designation extended only to those attorneys "who exemplify superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature, and profile as civil plaintiff or criminal defense trial lawyers." Shawn is also a "Leading Lawyer", a distinction earned by fewer than 5% of all lawyers in Illinois, and one that is decided upon by peers in the legal community. In addition, since 2005, Shawn has repeatedly been selected as an Illinois "Super Lawyer", most recently in 2020. Shawn has also been recognized as a "Best Lawyer", a Top 10 Environmental Trial Lawyer, and AV Preeminent by Martindale Hubbell. In addition, he has been selected for the Irish Legal 100, a list of the most distinguished legal professionals in the U.S. with Irish roots, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from America's Top 100 Attorneys, an award reserved for only 100 attorneys in each state. Less than one-half of one percent of active attorneys in the United States will receive this honor.
A frequent blogger on all matters concerning the environment, Shawn's blogs can be read at the Collins Law Environmental Blog. His work blogging about environmental cases has been featured in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, and a recent opinion piece, “Trump ‘Secret Science Rule’ Would Set Environmental Law Back Decades” appeared in Bloomberg Law this year. In addition, his Op-Ed, “Illinois Citizens are on their own to Protect the Environment” was published earlier this year in several Illinois newspapers.
Shawn also co-authored a book, "Environmental Legal Insights; Top Environmental Lawyers Share What They Know Best." His chapter titled "This Land is Our Land: Why We Must Count on Ourselves to Protect Against Pollution," deals with his experiences in investigating and litigating environmental contamination cases, their impact on the environment, and the people who live there.
Shawn is routinely asked by the media to share his experience on various legal and environmental matters. In addition to his cases being covered on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, Shawn has spoken with CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta on a CNN special report concerning "Toxic Schools." and with Dr. Drew Pinsky about a disturbing illness at a high school in New York and the environmental investigation to find a cause. He has also been interviewed multiple times for his work representing clients with cancer who are suing Sterigenics for causing their illness by emitting carcinogenic ethylene oxide. In that capacity, he has appeared on a national news story for CBS this Morning, a Spotlight on America Investigation by Sinclair News, and on every major TV station in the Chicago area. Most recently, Shawn appeared on Court TV discussing current legal cases in the news. Shawn also enjoys speaking to bar associations, civic organizations, and business groups on topics such as environmental contamination, business disputes, and effective communication. He has also participated as a key speaker in many webinars and conferences, sharing his environmental expertise and experience with the legal field.
After graduating Summa Cum Laude from the University of Notre Dame in 1980, Shawn Collins worked as an auditor for the Chicago office of Peat, Marwick & Mitchell (now KPMG). Shawn received his law degree from The University of Chicago Law School in 1986. He is also a Certified Public Accountant in the State of Illinois.
Shawn is a member of the American Association for Justice, the National Trial Lawyers. the Illinois Trial Lawyers, and the Illinois and Chicago Bar Associations. Shawn has also been honored as a finalist for the Daily Herald newspaper's "person of the year" award for his work on behalf of the families in Lisle, Ill