Environmental and Mass Tort Litigation

Environmental and mass tort litigation poses risk to many types of businesses, whether resulting from large-scale disasters or complex, changing regulations. We combine a comprehensive understanding of these intricate issues with insightful counsel to develop effective legal strategies that protect our clients’ vital interests.

Our Environmental and Mass Tort practice assists clients in a wide range of complex environmental and mass tort litigation, as well as regulatory and land use issues with particular focus on large-scale disasters. Because these actions are complex—often involving multiple private and governmental parties—we draw on our experience in other areas, including regulatory investigations and criminal defense, to develop a comprehensive strategy ensuring that our clients have every advantage. At all times, we move aggressively but prudently to give our clients the best chance of resolution at every stage. If informal resolution proves elusive, we draw on our deep bench of seasoned litigators to take the case to trial, achieving victories for the defendants and plaintiffs we represent.

Clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to governmental entities entrust us with their most significant and challenging matters due to our strategic, creative approach to litigation and problem-solving. In every matter, we gain a thorough knowledge of our clients’ organizations to understand their priorities and develop a legal strategy that makes business sense. At the same time, we pride ourselves on out-of-the-box thinking that disrupts our opponents’ litigation strategy and recovery expectations.

We have successfully defended clients against criminal enforcement actions, helped them overcome significant hurdles to development, advised them on compliance with complex regulatory requirements, prepared them for Congressional hearings, and pursued legislative options on their behalf. Our strategies secure results for clients in many industries, including oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, and automobile manufacturing.

Representative Experience

  • Defending Southern California Edison and Edison International in litigation arising out of the 2017 Thomas Fire and 2018 Montecito Mudslides. The fire, alleged to be the largest in California history, destroyed over 1,000 structures, damaged over 250 structures, and burned over 280,000 acres. Our roles include defense of all civil litigation and consultation and engagement with regulatory and investigatory agencies.
  • Representing the Navajo Nation in CERCLA and tort action against the United States Environmental Protection Agency and other responsible parties with regard to exposure of the Navajo Nation’s people, water, and lands to contaminants from the August 2015 Gold King Mine spill. (See “Navajo Nation Sues EPA,” Law360; “Navajo Nation Sues EPA over Toxic Mine Spill,” CNN.com)
  • Obtained dismissal of all felony federal charges, including conspiracy, false statements, and Clean Water Act charges, after four years of investigation and litigation against a subsidiary of Waste Management, America’s largest environmental services provider, and two of its managers.
  • Prevailed after trial in constitutional challenge to the nation’s most restrictive commercial land use ordinance. Known as Measure R, the ordinance would have required voter approval of all commercial development projects larger than 20,000 square feet in Malibu and imposed limits on the proportion of chain stores in any new development. (See “2 Names Familiar in Malibu Battle Over Anti-Development Measure,” The New York Times; “Judge overrules Malibu voters, clearing the way for Whole Foods Shopping Center,” Los Angeles Times)
  • Defeated California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) challenges to proposed residential development by Las Vegas developer Marnell Corrao Associates and recovered 100 percent of attorneys’ fees.
  • Secured termination of criminal investigation against high-level executive of manufacturing company alleged to have allowed improper disposal of waste byproducts.
  • On behalf of the Navajo Nation, negotiated agreements for voluntary uranium waste remediation with the EPA and numerous mining companies and organized U.S. Congressional hearings that resulted in additional government initiatives and remediation of uranium contamination.
  • Successfully represented one of the largest agricultural businesses in California on criminal environmental charges of using contaminated water for agricultural purposes.
  • Represented two cruise lines in investigations of dumping oily wastewater offshore. Secured declinations of each investigation without assessment of fine or penalty.
  • Secured a $5.15 billion settlement after trial for the Tronox Trust against Anadarko Petroleum Company and Kerr McGee Corporation for fraudulent transfer of massive environmental, tort, retiree, and other liabilities. The $5.15 billion recovery was the largest environmental case award in U.S. history. (See “Tronox Trust Wins Up To $14B In Kerr-McGee Spinoff Row,” Law360; “Anadarko, Kerr-McGee liable for Tronox cleanup costs,” Reuters)
  • Represented Royal Dutch/Shell in two mass tort cases: Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum and Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. Both alleged that Shell was complicit in human rights abuses against human rights activists in Nigeria. The plaintiffs asserted claims under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victims Protection Act, alleging that Royal Dutch/Shell aided and abetted the Nigerian government in committing numerous human rights violations. Successfully moved to dismiss and established new law that limited the reach of the Alien Tort Statute.