Over 40+ years of exceptional strategic trial experience
Hugh “Skip” Lambert specializes in maritime, products liability, toxic tort, environmental, class action, whistleblower and multi-district litigation. Mr. Lambert is a mechanical engineer by education, having received a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1969. Mr. Lambert was a production process engineer and general foreman at General Motors’ Willow Run Facility in Ypsilanti, Michigan from 1963 to 1970. In 1970 he moved to New Orleans to attend Loyola Law School, where he studied maritime law and was Lead Article Editor of the Loyola Law Review. He received his J.D. in 1973. After serving as a law clerk for United States District Judge Blake West in the Eastern District of New Orleans from 1973 to 1975, Hugh became the protégé of the renowned maritime lawyer, Frederick J. Gisevius, Jr.
In 1977, he founded The Lambert Firm (now Lambert Zainey Smith & Soso) and quickly grew the firm to one of the most successful maritime injury law firms in New Orleans. For over 40 years, Mr. Lambert has built a reputation of skill, candor and resiliency as a representative of individuals in the maritime and oil & gas world. Lambert Zainey Smith & Soso is one of the most prestigious and well respected firms in the Gulf Coast, and has expanded under his leadership to become a leader in mass torts, class actions, multi-district litigation, qui tam cases, and environmental contamination lawsuits.
Mr. Lambert has tried hundreds of cases, many of which garnered national and international notoriety.
Most recently, he was successful in obtaining a $125,000,000 settlement against Bechtel and URS in a False Claims Act qui tam action regarding the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state. The claim filed under federal whistleblower laws, on behalf of 3 former employees, alleged that the defendants “made false statements and claims to the Department of Energy (DOE) by charging DOE for deficient nuclear quality materials, services, and testing that was provided at the Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) at DOE’s Hanford Site near Richland, Washington.” The $125 million settlement also resolved claims that Bechtel National Inc. and Bechtel Corp. improperly used federal contract funds to pay for a lobbying campaign of Congress and other federal officials for continued funding at the WTP. Mr. Lambert worked in close coordination with the Department of Justice for several years to obtain the $125,000,000 settlement for the benefit of the United States.
The ARCO and Southern Natural Gas pipeline cryogenic platform explosion happened on March 19, 1989, in the Gulf of Mexico. Hugh Lambert acted as co-lead counsel for liability and causation which involved engineering complexities of three phase (gas, liquid, and condensate) petro chemical transmission lines from platforms in the Gulf of Mexico to shore. Mr. Lambert’s integral contributions resulted in the assignment of liability to various responsible parties. In addition to obtaining the multi-million dollar resolution, this complex litigation was resolved in just over a year’s time.
The drillship Seacrest capsized in the Gulf of Thailand during Typhoon Gay in November of 1989. Out of 97 crew members working on the Seacrest that day, only six survived. Mr. Lambert represented the families of American crew members who did not survive the disaster. In this action, Hugh Lambert acted as co-lead counsel on issues regarding liability and causation concerning the negligent operation of the drillship Seacrest. Mapping and analysis of the bottom of the Gulf of Thailand (by side-scan sonar) revealed drill pipe that had spilled from the Derrick at the capsize location, as well as broken anchor wire and anchors left along marks created by the dragging anchors. This debris at the bottom of the ocean supported the survivors’ terrifying accounts of the horrific night that killed 91 men. Had the ship been secured for the rough weather conditions, the ship and crew members would have likely survived the storm. As a result of Mr. Lambert’s involvement efforts, the surviving families of the victims drowned in the catastrophe recovered millions of dollars in damages.
In the Penrod litigation, Hugh Lambert acted as lead counsel in the multiple party disaster that resulted when the Penrod mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) collapsed during a violent and damaging hurricane. The Penrod 61 was a Marathon LeTourneau Jack-Up Rig owned by Penrod Drilling Co. and leased by Chevron USA that was working in the Gulf of Mexico in October of 1985. Despite predictions of an oncoming hurricane, Penrod and Chevron USA decided to leave their full crew on board the rig to “ride out the storm.” Mr. Lambert was primarily responsible for the liability and causation issues that determined how the jack–up rig collapsed into the Gulf of Mexico during the storm due to inadequate pre-loading procedures and the failure to promulgate and/or follow appropriate evacuation procedures. This case led to improved techniques, equipment, and procedures for evacuating offshore drilling rigs and platforms in an emergency.
In the Cooper Tire case, Mr. Lambert served as co-lead counsel with primary responsibility for the liability aspects and causation issues in the case. The firm developed evidence in support of the contention that the manufacturing process of Cooper Tires resulted in trapped gases in the tire matrix which over time could lead to catastrophic tread separation and failure. Mr. Lambert helped secure a settlement valued at $3,000,000,000.00 which allowed consumers and purchasers of Cooper Tires to have them replaced at no cost.
He was the court appointed Plaintiff Liaison Counsel for the M/V Bright Field litigation (E.D. La.) case. The M/V Bright Field was a loaded cargo ship going down stream on the Mississippi River when it lost power and steering capabilities. The vessel slammed into the Riverwalk, a commercial shopping area in New Orleans, in the middle of the day while shoppers and others were present. Sixty-six people were injured and many buildings and shops were damaged. Total repair costs for the vessel itself and the buildings in the shopping center totaled approximately $20,000,000.00, not including damages for personal injury to people present at the time of the allision. Chief Federal District Judge Morey Sear appointed Mr. Lambert to act as Liaison Counsel for the injured individuals and damaged businesses.
The Murphy Oil spill in Chalmette, LA resulted from a storage tank rupture at the Murphy Oil USA refinery following levee breaches during Hurricane Katrina. US District Judge Eldon Fallon appointed Mr. Lambert to the Plaintiffs Steering Committee to represent the interests of all those affected by the oil contamination that spread through much of the area surrounding the Chalmette refinery. Mr. Lambert was instrumental in determining the cause of the rupture that led to the spill and proving the extent of hydrocarbon contamination in the surrounding area, which ultimately provided cash buyouts to property owners in the worst areas and cleanup costs for those in areas that could be remediated.
In the aftermath of several devastating hurricanes in the mid-2000s, the United States Southeast experienced a shortage in drywall, which was filled when suppliers and builders purchased drywall manufactured in China. Unfortunately, much of the drywall manufactured in China contained excess sulfur compounds which were then emitted into homes after being installed, corroding electrical wiring, appliances, plumbing and other fixtures. Mr. Lambert, on the heels of an extremely successful resolution in the Murphy Oil Spill, was once again appointed to a Plaintiffs Steering Committee to help lead the litigation against the two Chinese manufacturers, Knauf and Taishan, as well as the multitude of builders, suppliers, distributors and brokers responsible for introducing the Chinese drywall into so many homes. Mr. Lambert’s engineering background was integral in proving that homes contaminated with Chinese drywall required full “down to the studs” remediation to ensure that no lingering electrical, plumbing, or other latent hazards remained from the sulfidation of homes’ metallic components.
Mr. Lambert and his law firm have also been appointed to numerous leadership roles in other multi-district and mass tort litigation across the nation including, but not limited to, Cox Set-Top Cable TV Box MDL 2048, Xarelto Products Liability Litigation MDL 2592, Taxotere (Docetaxel) Products Liability Litigation MDL 2740, and others.
In addition to his legal representation, Mr. Lambert is a frequent lecturer across the United States on maritime, personal injury, class actions and mass torts. He has authored and published countless legal articles and teaches Continuing Legal Education to lawyers on a regular basis, often in conjunction with the state and federal judiciaries. He has held a broad range of leadership positions in many organizations devoted to law, civic and charitable pursuits. He is a member in good standing of numerous state and federal courts throughout the United States, where he has successfully obtained large monetary recovery for thousands of individuals. Mr. Lambert is admitted to practice in all courts of Louisiana, Michigan, and has practiced via pro hac admission in most of the United States.
Mr. Lambert is currently the co-chair of the Maritime and International Law Committee of the New Orleans Bar Association. He is also the incoming chair of the Maritime Section of the Louisiana Association for Justice. He also presents the annual Maritime Updates continuing legal education (CLE) discussion with Judge Barbier at the High Stakes on the High Seas Convention here in New Orleans.
University of Michigan (Bachelor of Science in Engineering)
Loyola Law School (Juris Doctorate)
State of Louisiana
State of Michigan
US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
US District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana
US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana
US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
US Tax Court
Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts,
Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma,
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Washington, Washington D.C., West
Louisiana State Bar Association
State Bar of Michigan
American Bar Association
Federal Bar Association
Bar Association of the Fifth Federal Circuit
New Orleans Bar Association
Louisiana Association for Justice
American Association for Justice
Academy of New Orleans Trial Lawyers
Public Justice Foundation
Louisiana Bar Foundation
Louisiana Super Lawyers: 2007 – 2022
Martindale Distinguished Peer Rated – 2022
Louisiana Super Lawyers – Recognized for 15 Years – 2021
National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Lawyers – 2022
Rated 10/10 Rating – Superb – AVVO
Recognized as America’s Top 100 Attorneys – 2022
Recognized for Community Leadership – Lawyer Legion – 2022
Recognized for Professional Involvement – Lawyer Legion – 2022
Editor of the Loyola Law Review
Blue Key, Loyola University
Former American Trial Lawyers Association President’s Club Member
Former Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association Board of Governors Member
Instructor, Legal Research and Writing, Loyola Law School
Guest Instructor, Environmental Law, Texas A&M University School of Law
Guest Instructor, Environmental Law, Duke University School of Law
Guest Instructor, Environmental Law, The University of Mississippi School of Law
Guest Instructor, Maritime Torts, Tulane University Law School
Federal Law Clerk to Judge R. Blake West, US District Court for the Eastern District of
Commercial Pilot – Airplane Multi-engine Instrument – Jet Ratin
National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Lawyers
American Association for Justice Leaders Forum Member
American Association for Justice Board of Governors Member
Louisiana Association for Justice Board of Governors Member
American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys – Top 10 Client Satisfaction Award – 2017
Member – The Class Action Trial Lawyers
Professionalism in Settlement Negotiations”, New Orleans Bar Association, Procrastinators Cont. Legal. Educ. Program, New Orleans, LA, December 22, 2016.
“Tips for Successful Settlement Negotiations”, La. Assoc. for Justice, 2016 Cont. Legal Educ. A La Carte, New Orleans, LA, December 30, 2016.
“Environment Law: Qui Tam Actions Under the Refuse Act”, Loyola Law Review, Volume XVII (1971).
“Class Action Update: Today’s Trends & Strategies for Success”, National Business Institute: Continuing
Legal Education presentation, 2006.
“The Art of the Settlement”, National Business Institute: Continuing Legal Education presentation, 2007.
“Damages at Settlement and in Trail”, La. Assoc. for Justice presentation, 2008.
“Demonstrative Evidence”, La. Assoc. for Justice, 2009 Cont. Legal Educ. A La Carte presentation, New
Orleans, LA, 2009.
“Panel Discussion on Recent Developments in Products Liability” with Judge Lance M. Africk, New
Orleans Bar Association Products Liability CLE presentation, 2014.
“Testimony: Direct and Cross Examination”, New Orleans Bar Association Litigation Lessons for Lawyers
presentation, New Orleans, LA, October 3, 2014.
“Settlement Dynamics and Considerations in Multi-Party Cases “, La. State Bar Assoc. MDL Conference
presentation, New Orleans, LA, 2014.
“Whistleblower Bounty Programs and their Crossover with Retaliation Claims”, La. Assoc. for Justice
Cont. Legal Educ. A La Carte presentation, New Orleans, LA, 2014.
“Whistleblower Bounty Programs and their Crossover with Retaliation Claims”, La. Assoc. for Justice Last
Chance Cont. Legal Educ. presentation, New Orleans, LA, 2014.
“Deposition Techniques in a Personal Injury Case – Medical Expert/Treating Physician”, New Orleans Bar
Association Procrastinators’ Program presentation, New Orleans, LA, 2015.
“Deposition Techniques in a Personal Injury Case – Vocational Rehabilitation/Economist “, New Orleans
Bar Association Procrastinators’ Program presentation, New Orleans, LA, 2015.
“Whistleblower Bounty Programs and their Crossover with Retaliation Claims”, La. Assoc. for Justice,
2014 Cont. Legal Educ. A La Carte presentation, New Orleans, LA, 2014.
“Maritime Updates”, La. Assoc. for Justice Cont. Legal Educ., 2016 High Stakes on the High Seas
Maritime Law Conference, New Orleans, LA, 2016.
Taught various law school classes at Loyola Law School in New Orleans, Louisiana; guest lecturer in
Environmental Law and complex litigation courses at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana;
University of Texas in Austin, Texas and Duke University in North Carolina.