Environmental Litigation and Toxic Torts
Seyfarth Shaw’s Environmental, Safety & Toxic Torts Practice Group has extensive experience in litigation involving environmental laws arising under a host of state and federal environmental laws as well as common laws.
We have had a long-line of successes in litigation arising under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund) and its state counterparts, citizens suits under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), toxic torts, litigation involving environmental professionals, and a variety of other matters where environmental issues arise. Over the past three decades, our lawyers have represented clients on all sides of environmental disputes. We have represented chemical manufacturers, generators, transporters, disposal companies, chemical and scrap recyclers, current and former property owners, site operators, adjacent landowners, remediation contractors, PRP groups (potentially responsible party groups), container manufacturers and recyclers and manufacturers and toll manufacturers in a wide range of industrial sectors.
CERCLA We have represented plaintiffs and defendants in cost recovery actions, petitioned for alternative clean-up standards, obtained amendments to Records of Decision, filed comments on Superfund rules and policies, debated allocations, and examined the liability features of the statute from virtually every conceivable angle and perspective. Our attorneys have addressed a multitude of issues arising in contribution actions, including consistency with the National Contingency Plan, divisibility of harm, successor liability, statute of limitations, responsible party status (as owner, operator, arranger, transporter), evidentiary bases for liability (truck driver statements, waste tickets, etc.), and expert testimony on volume, toxicity, and remedy drivers. Our CERCLA experience also extends to nearly all state jurisdictions.
RCRA We have extensive litigation experience in all facets of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”), and its implementing regulations and state counterparts. Our experience derives from over two decades of representing facilities which generate, treat, store, dispose and recycle wastes, including facilities with underground and aboveground tanks, landfills, waste piles, land-farms, burn units, surface impoundments, and incinerators, as well as generators and transporters of solid and hazardous waste. Our group resume includes extensive in-house experience with a major waste management company, experience in all aspects of RCRA rulemaking, defense of countless complex RCRA enforcement actions, and defense and prosecution of citizen suits. In addition to the waste disposal industry we have represented waste transporters in the bulk transport and rail industries, waste recyclers and reclaimers (including solvent recovery and oil reclamation facilities) and tire recyclers, metals reclamation facilities (including scrapyards, aluminum recycling and electric arc furnace facilities), waste-to-energy recycling facilities and cement kilns.
Environmental Professionals Our ESTT practice has a long history representing both environmental professionals and fixed facilities in environmental litigation. The firm is commonly retained by corporations, environmental professionals, and insurance providers to defend against a wide variety of environmental claims, ranging from allegedly flawed Phase I Assessments to defense of toxic tort lawsuits stemming from chemical releases. With our background in both environmental law and insurance, we offer a unique blend of services and expertise on these matters. In addition to litigation defense, we also counsel clients on litigation risks associated with environmental claims, and have been retained by environmental insurers to advise their customers on limiting environmental liabilities through contract language. Although we typically defend claims, on occasion it is necessary to prosecute an environmental claim, either as a means of cost recovery or a third-party action for contribution. In sum, by combining a deep knowledge of the environmental laws, litigation experience, and an emphasis on early case assessment, we have been able to deliver a sustained record of positive results for our clients.
Toxic Torts Our toxic tort experience spans the entire field of chemical exposures, from allegedly adulterated dietary supplements and food ingredients to landfill gas odors and groundwater contamination. Our toxic torts group has handled cases all across the country and dealing with a vast array of chemicals, including asbestos, lead, pesticides, benzene, mold, coal tar, chlorinated solvents, (PCE, TCE, vinyl chloride), propellants, hazardous waste and underground storage tanks.
Combining attorneys skilled in products liability, class actions, OSHA, and environmental litigation, we bring a unique mix of talents in defending a toxic tort claim. Our extensive experience in OSHA and environmental regulation provides not only context but an understanding of the specific chemical hazards and regulatory controls. Meanwhile, our experience in products liability and class actions enables us to develop effective strategies to counter a wide assortment of claims.
Our experience in cases in chemical exposure cases encompass exposures to third parties or the environment resulting from a company’s manufacturing process, and also those occurring in a workplace setting. We have experience in single-plaintiff and multi-plaintiff cases, and we handle cases which involve acute exposure as well as chronic exposures to chemicals manufactured, processed or used by our clients.
Over the years, we have developed a proficiency in identifying and addressing the many complex issues that arise in cases involving chemicals and chemical exposure. Cases often involve a number of disciplines. For example, chemical exposure initially arising in a workplace setting may expand to include exposure to family members at home; a release of ammonia or other catastrophic air release at a plant can involve OSHA issues, products liability claims, personal injury claims by neighbors and evacuees, workers compensation claims, products liability claims, and environmental issues associated with cleanup and spill reporting. We are counselors, advisors, negotiators, and when necessary, trial lawyers and appellate advocates. Whether counseling, or litigating, we work actively with our clients to staff cases in an efficient and professional manner.
The cases we handle involve exposure to the general public (for example medical device and pharmaceutical products liability) and occupational exposure We also have significant experience in cases involving releases of chemicals during transportation incidents, plant explosions and catastrophes, ambient and indoor airborne releases of chemicals, exposure to asbestos and mold, spills to waterways, contaminated soils, and groundwater, chemicals and metals adhered to buildings, structures and containers, failed storage tanks and secondary containment, refrigerant system leaks, and vapor intrusion.
We have experience in numerous states and federal jurisdictions, in court as well as before administrative tribunals, including state and federal environmental protection agencies and occupational safety and health administrations. Our multi-plaintiff experience includes a number of class action cases in state and federal courts.