Joe Petrosinelli is the Chairman of Williams & Connolly and a member of the firm’s Executive Committee. He is also Co-Chair of the firm’s Products Liability practice group. Joe has tried numerous civil and criminal cases in federal and state courts, has been lead counsel in several significant U.S. and international arbitrations, and has represented clients in litigation and investigations matters in Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
Joe’s civil practice focuses on products liability, mass tort/class action, and complex commercial litigation. He has represented manufacturers and suppliers of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, industrial equipment, military hardware and technology, and various other products in litigation and arbitration matters across the United States and internationally. He also has represented various companies in large contract and other commercial disputes.
In his government investigations and criminal defense practice, Joe represents clients in a wide variety of matters, including federal grand jury proceedings, trial and appellate work in federal and state courts, and international or cross-border investigations. He has defended both individuals and corporations against allegations of mail and wire fraud, false claims, government contracts fraud, FCPA violations, public corruption, healthcare fraud, and securities violations. He and two of his partners successfully represented the petitioner before the U.S. Supreme Court in Cleveland v. United States, 531 U.S. 12 (2000), a leading case on the interpretation of the federal mail and wire fraud statutes.
Joe has been recognized or ranked in numerous legal publications, including Benchmark Litigation ("2018 Product Liability Attorney of the Year," 2018-2023 "Top 100 Trial Lawyers in America," and 2016-2023 "Litigation Star" in products liability), Chambers USA (listed as recommended for product liability and mass tort, nationwide, 2017-2023), The Legal 500 (leading lawyers in product liability and mass tort defense: pharmaceuticals and medical devices, 2017-2023), Who’s Who Legal (named in Life Sciences and Product Liability Defense categories), Washingtonian magazine (Washington’s Top Lawyers, 2017, 2020), Washington D.C. Super Lawyers (in civil litigation: defense), and other publications. In January 2020, Joe was recognized as “Litigator of the Week” by The American Lawyer for his representation of Pfizer in federal multidistrict litigation involving Viagra, where the court granted Pfizer’s motion to exclude plaintiffs’ causation experts. In the 2020 edition of The Legal 500, Joe was described as "one of the best lawyers in the country, particularly in MDLs, coordinated proceedings and class actions."
Joe has also been involved in the firm’s sports law practice, and has represented athletes, professional clubs, and club executives in litigation and contract matters.
Joe was born and raised in Rhode Island. He received his B.A. from Brown University in 1988 and his J.D., magna cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center in 1991. He joined Williams & Connolly in September 1991. In addition to his current tenure on the firm’s Executive Committee, he previously served on that Committee from 2005 to 2009. For many years, Joe has been an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches a course in trial practice focused on expert witnesses.
Though all cases vary and none is predictive, Joe’s experience includes:
- Lead counsel for Pfizer Inc. in two federal MDLs and associated state court proceedings alleging personal injury relating to the medications Viagra and Zantac. In the Viagra MDL, after a week-long Daubert evidentiary hearing, the MDL court granted Pfizer's motion to exclude all of plaintiffs' general causation experts.
- Lead counsel for Tyco Fire Products in federal MDL alleging personal injuries and economic damages relating to the use of aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) at military bases and other facilities to extinguish fuel-based fires.
- Lead resolution counsel for medical device company in connection with federal MDL and associated state coordinated proceedings alleging personal injury.
- Represented a major defense contractor in two separate ICDR commercial contract arbitrations against a supplier, in which contractor prevailed in both. In one, the contractor won an eight-figure award, obtaining every penny of relief it sought. In the other, the contractor first defeated the vendor’s motion for a preliminary injunction, and later prevailed on the merits, when the Panel rejected all of the vendor’s contract claims.
- Represented global pharmaceutical company in commercial arbitration concerning royalties owed under a licensing agreement. Arbitrator awarded company significant eight-figure award for past royalties, and adopted company’s interpretation of contract for purpose of calculating future royalties.
- Represented individual and corporate defendants in two-month federal trial of complex commercial litigation alleging breach of contract, fraud, civil RICO, and other causes of action
- Represented foreign executive and his companies in connection with civil RICO lawsuit and parallel FCPA investigation
- Represented major defense contractor in connection with federal False Claims Act investigation in which the government closed the investigation with no action against the company
- Represented Pfizer Inc., as lead trial counsel, in securities fraud class action resulting from decrease in stock price upon announcement of resolution of certain government investigations. Case was resolved one week before trial.
- Represented defendant in two-week state court trial involving allegations of theft of trade secrets and other claims. Jury returned verdict for defendant.
“Products Liability & Mass Tort (Nationwide),” Chambers USA, 2017-2023
“Leading Lawyer” in the category of Product Liability and Mass Tort Defense: Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices, The Legal 500, 2017-2023
“Top 100 Trial Lawyers,” Benchmark Litigation, 2018-2023
“National Litigation Star,” Benchmark Litigation, 2018-2024
“Local Litigation Star,” Benchmark Litigation, 2016-2024
BTI Client Service All-Star, 2020, 2022
"Litigator of the Week," The American Lawyer, January 2020
“500 Leading Litigators in America,” Lawdragon, 2023-2024
“500 Leading Lawyers in America,” Lawdragon, 2019-2023
"Top Lawyer Hall of Fame," Washingtonian magazine, 2022
“Washington’s Top Lawyers,” in the category of Civil Defense, Washingtonian magazine, 2017-2018, 2020
Shortlisted for "Product Liability Attorney of the Year," LMG Life Sciences, 2023
"Life Science Star," LMG Life Sciences, 2017-2023
“Product Liability Attorney of the Year,” Benchmark Litigation, 2018
"Washington’s Best Lawyers," Washingtonian magazine, 2007 and 2015
“45 Under Forty-Five: Rising Stars of the Private Bar,” The American Lawyer, 2003