Leaders

Daniel W. Nelson Washington, D.C.
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Peter E. Seley Washington, D.C.
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Overview

The Environmental Litigation and Mass Tort Practice Group has unparalleled experience defending environmental personal injury and property damage class actions across the United States.  The group has successfully litigated a number of the most significant class actions in the country, amassing an impressive win record in trial and appellate courts.  Our unrivaled experience and judgment in this area enable us to attack enterprise-threatening liability claims systematically, efficiently and creatively.

The group has developed strategies for attacking environmental class claims at an early stage.  Our lawyers have an array of approaches designed to secure dismissal at the "motion to dismiss" stage and for defeating the certification of proposed classes of plaintiffs.  We maintain an extensive database of legal research, briefs, pleadings and strategy documents available to lawyers throughout the firm.  We carefully track legislative reforms and other developments in this area to ensure the best possible defense. 

We recognize the unique aspects of environmental class actions and work closely with our clients to address not only the legal aspects but also the media and public relations components of these claims.  From strategic assessments to determine the appropriate approach (litigation, ADR or alternatives) to basic tactics on decertification and removal, our lawyers have the skills and experience to address even the most challenging environmental class action claims. 

Experience 

The Environmental Litigation and Mass Tort group has unrivaled experience in defending and defeating environmental personal injury and property damage class actions across the United States.   

Recent representations include: 

  • Represented a major energy company in eight consolidated class actions involving alleged exposure to a broad suite of radionuclides emitted during the 50-year operation of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.  We successfully secured summary judgment for our client at the trial court level.  We also successfully obtained indemnification from the Department of Energy, with a release for our client from all claims.
  • Represented a large defense contractor in defending class certification for a proposed class of 50,000 to 100,000 Southern California residents allegedly exposed to contaminated groundwater.  After the trial court certified a broad class for punitive damages and medical monitoring, we successfully challenged the certification through a writ petition and prevented the trial court from mailing tens of thousands of class notifications to putative plaintiffs.  We then prevailed in the Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court, earning a published decision placing substantial burdens on any plaintiffs' lawyers bringing these types of class claims.
  • Represented a large defense contractor in federal class action involving alleged community exposure to contaminants released to the air and groundwater during 50 years of aircraft manufacture at facilities in Southern California.  We obtained a series of favorable rulings in these cases, ultimately defeating class certification.  Of thousands of potential personal injury and property damage claimants at the outset of the case, only three personal injury claimants remained following successful pretrial motions.  We obtained a highly favorable settlement of the three claims in the middle of trial.
  • Represented a large petroleum company in a 10,000-person class action involving an accidental release of butadiene in Corpus Christi, Texas.  We obtained a favorable verdict on causation and damages.  Ultimately, the client paid only $3,400 in damages to resolve a case that was initially valued by plaintiffs at $290 million.
  • Represent a large defense contractor in a mass toxic tort lawsuit involving a putative class of over 800 plaintiffs claiming personal injuries, wrongful death, medical monitoring and property damage resulting from alleged exposure to chemicals in drinking water.  An unparalleled string of significant victories has been achieved in the Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court, and all the claims of the first trial group of plaintiffs were dismissed with prejudice in 2008.
  • Represented a large petroleum company in state class actions against the petrochemical industry in Corpus Christi, Texas, involving groundwater contamination with petroleum hydrocarbons and air releases of benzene.  After challenging class certification, we obtained a favorable settlement.
  • Represented multiple clients in a Louisiana class action suit involving alleged exposure to herbicide wastes.  The case was settled in the middle of trial. 
  • Represented a large university in class action arising from claims that a brain cancer cluster resulted from aqueous discharges of radionuclides at the Los Alamos site.  Obtained summary judgment on statute of limitations grounds.