About Our Firm
Justice Drives Change
The explosion of social media over the first two decades of the 21st Century has had a similar social effect on American society as the advent of the automobile in the early 20th Century. In the early years, auto manufacturers did not consider user safety in car design at the same time that the increased speed of motorized transportation made road accidents far more deadly. The increased threat of in auto injuries in the first half 20th Century lead to an expansion of government safety regulation and the advent of product liability litigation against auto manufacturers. Product liability litigation forced auto manufactures to compensate consumers for foreseeable injuries arising from safety defects in their cars. This in turn provided the economic incentive to act proactively to design safer automobiles and incorporate the cost of user safety into the cost of product. As a result, the rate of automobile fatalities has declined 61% since 1930. https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/motor-vehicle/historical-fatality-trends/deaths-and-rates/
Like the automobile, social media has brought people closer together and enhanced convenience and fluidity of everyday life. On the other hand, social media platforms have both expanded the opportunity for harmful and exploitative messages from more traditional communications networks and increase the magnitude of the resulting harm. Just as the injury from a 50 mile per hour car crash is much worse than from the collision of two horse drawn buggies, the social media platform amplifies the human cost of bullying, intimidation, hate speech exponentially. The current design of social media platforms has contributed to a 56% increase in teen suicide, skyrocketing rates of eating disorders among teens, sexual exploitation of minors and vulnerable adults, and a proliferation of divisive violence in our communities. Yet in the current unregulated environment, social media companies earn billions in profits without having to bear the costs of foreseeable injuries to users of their products.
While government regulation plays an important role in improving the safety of social media platforms, it can only address problems after they become publicized either by company whistleblowers or investigation. Moreover safety improvements resulting from government action is limited to the specific defect addressed by the particular regulation. In contrast, product liability litigation forces social media companies to act proactively to anticipate harms arising from the foreseeable use of their platforms and take reasonable steps to improve consumer safety. Until social media companies are forced to include the cost of victim compensation in their financial model, they will have no incentive to curtail their profit margins by designing safer products.
Justice Drives Change
SMVLC understands that with billions in profits at steak, social media companies will fight long and hard to avoid accountability to the victims of their defective products. Unlike more established types of mass tort litigation, social media product liability is a new field of law with little precedent governing how cases will be adjudicated. While confident that justice will ultimately prevail, SMVLC anticipates a complex and contentious course of litigation with possible setbacks along the path to victory. Victims who initially seek to hold social media companies legally accountable are brave pioneers whose courage will not only protect their families but make it easier for future victims to get the compensation they need and deserve and eventually force social media companies to encompass social responsibility in their economic calculus.
Matthew Bergman is an attorney, law professor, philanthropist and community activist. He is the founder of the Social Media Victims Law Center and Bergman Draper Oslund Udo; a professor at Lewis & Clark Law school; and member of the board of directors of nonprofit institutions in higher education, national security, civil rights, worker protection, and the arts.
Matt is nationally known for his work in product liability litigation and has recovered over $950 million on behalf of his clients. He has litigated over 1,200 product liability cases, conducted over 25 jury trials, and has been counsel in over 20 reported appellate cases. Matt has chaired and keynoted national and international seminars on toxic tort litigation and bankruptcy. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, was appointed to a dozen creditors’ committees in toxic tort cases, and serves the advisory committees of several multi-billion-dollar asbestos trusts. He has carried the fight for injured victims from the courthouse to federal and state legislatures and works closely with medical providers throughout the northwest.
Brendan has dedicated his career to fighting for victims harmed by dangerous products and corporate wrongdoing. While practicing in New York City, Brendan represented children suffering from psychological injuries due to lead paint poisoning. He also represented multiple whistleblowers who assisted the government in recovering over $164 million in civil penalties from corporate wrongdoers who defrauded taxpayers. Brendan was also honored to be part of the legal team representing children harmed by lead poisoning as a result of Flint, Michigan water crisis, which eventually resulted in a settlement in excess of $600 million for the children of Flint.
Brendan moved to Seattle in 2019, where he represents victims of defective and dangerous products, including asbestos. He has helped clients suffering from mesothelioma recover tens of millions of dollars in settlements and was part the trial team that obtained a $4.25 million verdict on behalf of a victim of mesothelioma in 2019.
Brendan graduated with honors from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. Following law school, Brendan completed a two-year clerkship with U.S. District Judge Carol E. Jackson in the Eastern District of Missouri. Outside of work, Brendan enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children.