In Spotlight, Seeger Weiss brings you behind the scenes to learn more about the team that fights every day in high stakes, history making cases to bring justice to people who have been injured.
Caleb Seeley joined Seeger Weiss as an associate in October 2019 and has since become a key member of the 3M Combat Arms Earplug litigation team (along with Seeger Weiss partners Chris Seeger and Dave Buchanan, who were both appointed by Judge M. Casey Rodgers of the Northern District of Florida to serve on the plaintiffs’ leadership committee). Most recently, Caleb was part of the bellwether trial team representing veteran Luke Vilsmeyer, which obtained a $50 million verdict on March 25, 2022.
Prior to joining Seeger Weiss, Caleb served as a law clerk for Judge Dennis Jacobs of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and spent one year as an associate at Williams & Connolly LLP, where he represented clients in complex federal litigation at the trial and appellate levels. Caleb earned his law degree from New York University School of Law, graduating magna cum laude, and there earned membership in the honorary Order of the Coif, was named a Butler Scholar, a Pomeroy Scholar, and a winner of the Judge Rose L. & Herbert Rubin Law Review Prize.
Caleb took some time to discuss why he joined Seeger Weiss, and how the firm provides opportunities to work on high stakes cases such as 3M Combat Arms.
Q: Why did you decide to join Seeger Weiss?
A: I primarily wanted to join a firm that would allow me to fully participate in all aspects of litigation—including trial work–and would trust me with on-my-feet responsibilities. My first job gave me a taste of big law defense work, and after my clerkship, I wanted to go somewhere that had opportunities for young lawyers to grow through substantive experiences, and a chance to work for individuals, governments, and other entities injured by corporate misconduct. I knew about Seeger Weiss in part because Chris Seeger had been a guest speaker at one of my law school classes, and when I was thinking about what to do next, I decided to email him my resume. He invited me in for a chat, which eventually led to an offer – a unique opportunity that I did not want to pass up.
Q: Is there anything that stood out about transitioning from a defense to plaintiffs’ firm?
A: The biggest differences are the size of the firm and whose interests you’re working to protect. At Seeger Weiss, our clients have been harmed by the bad acts of someone else. Knowing that these individuals are relying on you is a unique motivation that just doesn’t exist on the defense side. As for firm size, my previous firm is considered on the small-end of big law, but still had about 150 partners and 150 associates. Even with small teams, responsibilities get divided, and there is a natural hierarchy based on your years of experience. At Seeger Weiss, there really are no structured boundaries. I immediately had the opportunity to work on all aspects of a case — from client intake to discovery requests and document review to depositions and trial. For example, on 3M, I have written dozens of briefs, supported and taken depositions, and had speaking roles in bellwether trials. There is no area of litigation that is off limits.
Q: Tell us about the Vilsmeyer v. 3M trial.
A: The Vilsmeyer trial was the twelfth bellwether trial in the 3M Combat Arms litigation, which is now recognized as the largest MDL in history. Luke Vilsmeyer is a U.S. veteran who had used the CAEv2 earplugs for about a decade, between 2006 and 2017 during his training as a green beret, and therefore suffers from severe tinnitus and permanent hearing loss. After a hard-fought trial, the jury saw through 3M’s excuses and defenses and awarded Mr. Vilsmeyer $50 million in compensatory damages. It was a true honor to represent him.
Q: What was your role in the case?
A: I was a member of the trial team. I presented the direct examination of our case-specific causation expert whose testimony explained to the jury how 3M’s defective earplugs caused Mr. Vilsmeyer’s injuries, and I also cross-examined one of the defense’s case-specific experts who attempted to convince the jury that the CAEv2 were not responsible for Mr. Vilsmeyer’s hearing loss and tinnitus. I also worked with the rest of the trial team to design and execute the strategies we use to successfully prove our case, including designing the order of witnesses, and how to overcome 3M’s arguments.
Q: Working on high profile cases as such a young lawyer is not common or typical at many firms. What has that been like?
A: It’s difficult to put into words the value provided by this experience. It has been truly incredible to get to be a part of this trial team. I am so grateful for the level of support that I’ve received from the partners, Chris and Dave, who worked to get me this opportunity and supported me at every step. Although Dave was not a member of the trial team in this trial, he still came down to Florida from New Jersey to watch and provide support, which was incredibly thoughtful and generous. I am also thankful for the entire trial team. We all worked so hard for Luke, and they trusted me with key witnesses. Within a short time of joining Seeger Weiss, in this and other trials, I have been fortunate to gain experience arguing motions and legal issues, and presenting witnesses at trial. It is hard to learn these things without getting the opportunity; working this case has been an incredible learning experience and would not have been possible without everyone’s support.
A: What is it like being a part of a team that is the lead counsel in a case that is one of, if not the largest, MDL ever?
It has been an honor to represent not just Luke, but all of these plaintiffs, who trust us with their case and their injuries. It inspires me and all of us to work those late nights and long hours to ensure that we don’t let them down. It has been rewarding that we’ve been able to record victories for the majority of plaintiffs that have gone to trial. They’re deserving of our best efforts, and we seek to deliver that every day.