Environment

Environmental Litigation

Our environmental lawyers have prosecuted and defended numerous cost recovery, contribution and other environmental actions with outstanding results. The Firm is a pioneer of effective theories and strategies for the recovery of remediation costs and related damages from historical owners, operators and their insurers.

We understand that good results are not measured solely by the amount of a settlement or judgment but also by how much it costs to achieve that result. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques are often used to minimize litigation costs.  The goal is to either maximize the ultimate net recovery for plaintiffs or minimize the ultimate net loss, if any, for defendants.

When litigation becomes necessary, our lawyers are experienced in complex and hard-fought litigation and armed with the know-how to obtain desired results. When staffing cases, we do not operate with a big firm mentality and prefer to assign attorneys and staff to cases leanly and effectively.

For more information, please contact David E. Cranston.

  • Principal environmental cost recovery counsel for a major railroad, representing it in dozens of environmental contribution and cost recovery matters across the western United States.
  • Recovered several million dollars in response costs in connection with regional lead contamination arising from mining operations.  We reconstructed a detailed history of operations down to the volume and nature of lead shipments, stretching back to the 1800s.  With this evidence, we developed an innovative theory of allocable liability that resulted in a very favorable settlement without litigation.
  • Successfully prosecuted a cost recovery claim for significant PCB contamination related to an industrial facility in the Northeast that our client had acquired in a stock transaction decades ago.  We established that the source of PCB contamination arose from a business line that had been divested prior to the acquisition, resulting in a resolution that led to the successor of the selling company to assume responsibility for PCB contamination in a nearby waterway.  
  • Recovered several million dollars in an environmental cost recovery suit from scrap metal defendants, or their successors, who operated over a span of 35 years on our client's property. Most of the prior operators were either dead, dissolved or without money but substantial sums were paid by their successors or their insurers. The settlement was reached early in the case after a complex series of mediations involving dozens of principals and attorneys.
  • Represented the acquirer of a note for a shopping center property in foreclosure against the tenants of a dry cleaner and the former owners of the property. In this environmental cost recovery suit, we recovered nearly all of the substantial remediation costs from the defendant's insurers and the California Insurance Guarantee Association.
  • Recovered the costs of environmental cleanup against a number of former tenants including a major metal treating company that had reorganized under Chapter 11.
  • Represented a landowner who had acquired property that included an abandoned underground storage tank. In a lawsuit under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), we obtained a consent decree in which the seller of the property was required to remove the tank, assess and remediate the contamination, and pay for our attorneys fees. This action was brought under 42 U.S.C. section 6972(a) (1) A) for violating applicable Underground Storage Tanks (UST) regulations. This appears to have been the first time this section has been used in this manner.
  • Served as lead counsel for 14 defendants in an environmental cost recovery action. Led the negotiations that resulted in a favorable settlement for several thousands of dollars per party at the site of a former waste oil recycling facility. Accomplished the results before the commencement of any discovery.
  • Acted as lead counsel defending an action brought by 2,800 plaintiffs alleging bodily injury and property damage arising from a regional plume of contaminated groundwater.  Represented almost two dozen defendants and coordinated the group's joint defense and negotiation efforts. Reached a very favorable settlement within several months.
  • Obtained dismissal of an environmental lawsuit brought by the State of California against the owner of a high-rise office building, which was affirmed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • In a series of lawsuits by citizens groups opposing development of a big-box retail store in the City of La Habra, we obtained a settlement of the first round of litigation and then a judgment, affirmed on appeal, in our client’s favor, on the second round of litigation, after one of the settling objectors reneged on the first settlement.
  • During litigation controlled and financed by a neighboring property owner, we successfully defended in the trial court, and in the court of appeal, the approval by the City of El Segundo of a million square-foot, mixed-use development.
  • Successfully defended in the Superior Court and on appeal, against a challenge, on CEQA and zoning grounds, to the approval of a variance by the City of Los Angeles that allowed our client’s commercial development in a residential neighborhood.
  • Successfully defended in the Superior Court and on appeal, against a challenge, on CEQA and zoning grounds, to the approval by the California Coastal Commission of a coastal development permit for our client’s mixed-use development.
  • Provided litigation counseling and assistance to a developer with regard to CEQA and land use challenges to the approval of, and with regard to, eminent domain issues that arose in property acquisition for a major mixed-use redevelopment project at Hollywood and Vine.  The challenges to the project approval and to the use of eminent domain were all either defeated or settled.
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