Robert Bilott: Where is the ‘Dark Waters’ Lawyer Now?

Image Credit: ABC News/The View

Although born on August 2, 1965, in Albany, New York, to Emily and Raymond Bilott as the younger of their two, Robert “Rob” Bilott sadly didn’t have the coziest or happiest of childhoods. The truth is the four of them were tight-knit, yet they still had little to no stability, considering the patriarch was in the United States Air Force and thus often had to change bases for service. It, hence, ostensibly wasn’t until the young man earned his Juris Doctor from the Ohio State University-Moritz College of Law in 1990 that he realized he could finally have a place to call home.

Robert already considered his mother’s family home in Parkersburg, West Virginia “the one real constant of his life” since he’d spent most holidays there growing up, yet this was different. In fact, for the Fairborn High School (Ohio) graduate turned New College of Florida Political Science plus Urban Studies degree holder turned aspiring lawyer, this was genuinely long-term. Therefore, once he passed the bar in 1990, landed a spot at Taft, Stettinius, & Hollister in Cincinnati, as well as fell in love with Sarah Barlage, he decided to settle down without any hesitation.

Image Credit: Robert Bilott/WVXU

Robert and Sarah thus tied the knot in 1996, following which they happily went on to welcome three sons into their lives while the former continued working hard enough to make partner in 1998. According to reports, he’d worked almost exclusively for large corporate clients within this period and garnered a specialty in defending chemical firms, only for everything to soon change. Once he learned that the multinational chemical company DuPont had knowingly been dumping toxic waste in rural West Virginia for decades, he decided to take unprecedented action against them.

Robert Billot is Still Fighting the Right Fight

While it did take Robert a couple of years to figure out the entire truth, he was ultimately able to ascertain DuPont was using unregulated chemicals before dumping its waste across communities. That’s when he got the organization to settle with original plaintiff Wilbur Tennant, to then file a class action lawsuit on behalf of nearly 70,000 others with contaminated drinking water. What followed was a game of back and forth with countless proceedings, that is, until an independent medical panel confirmed there was a link between the business activities and the contamination.

This panel ultimately concluded that the perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) waste DuPont released could cause kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, pre-eclampsia, plus ulcerative colitis. And since 3,535 plaintiffs out of the original 70,000 sadly already had these diseases, Robert evolved into a personal injury lawyer for them, too — he filed lawsuits seeking damages. The attorney actually won his first three cases in jury trials for a total of $1 9.7 million, driving the company to settle all the remaining active ones for around $670.7 million in 2017.

We should mention at least a dozen additional cases were filed in the ensuing years, which DuPont and its spin-off Chemours settled in 2021 for $83 million, bringing the total value to $753 million. However, what’s even more imperative to note is that Robert is still on the case to this day; in fact, he has since even sought new studies on the so-called larger forever (PFAS) chemicals. He then seemingly plans to file another class action on behalf of everyone in the US with such unbreakable substances in their blood against manufacturers such as 3M, DuPont, and Chemours.

Image Credit: Environmental Working Group (EWG)/YouTube

It, hence, comes as no surprise that Robert is now purely an environmental attorney at Taft, Stettinius, & Hollister, with his tale having been explored in not only the film ‘Deep Waters’ but also ‘The Devil We Know’ documentary. Furthermore, this proud father of three has since chronicled his experiences in a memoir titled ‘Exposure: Poisoned Water, Corporate Greed, and One Lawyer’s Twenty-Year Battle Against DuPont’ (2019).

Coming to Robert’s current standing, it appears as if he has since relocated to Northern Kentucky alongside his family, from where he continues to serve at Taft, Stettinius, & Hollister as a partner while also still being a significant part of the Fight Forever Chemicals campaign. Therefore, today, this internationally recognized advocate and lawyer specializes in class action, derivative plus multi-party litigation, environmental litigation, product liability as well as personal injury cases, and PFAS environmental regulatory matters.

As if that’s not enough, from what we can tell, Robert’s passion for people has even driven him to be a board of directors/trustees member for Less Cancer, Green Umbrella, and the New College Foundation. Furthermore, because of his legal experience and knowledge, he has since also evolved into a public speaker/keynote lecturer at law schools, universities, communities, and other organizations all over the world. In fact, as per reports, he’s currently a proud lecturer at Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut.

Though if you simply wish to focus on Robert’s achievements, he has since received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from New College of Florida, an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from The Ohio State University’s Environmental Science Graduate Program, and an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Thomas Moore University. Moreover, this Honorary Professor at the National University of Cordoba in Argentina is the recipient of the 2017 International Right Livelihood Award (aka the Alternative Nobel Prize), 2021 Lawyer of the Year in Litigation title, and 2023 Environmental Working Group’s Changemaker Award, amongst, much more.

Read More: Sarah Barlage: Where is Robert Bilott’s Wife Now?