Daniel W. Nelson Washington, D.C.
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Peter E. Seley Washington, D.C.
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​The Environmental Litigation and Mass Tort Practice Group has long involvement in defending and prosecuting complex cost-recovery actions in U.S. state and federal courts.  The group successfully litigated a number of significant actions under the U.S. Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and their state analogues.  Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's  unrivaled experience and judgment in this area enable our lawyers to know when to negotiate a favorable settlement and when to continue aggressive, yet cost-effective, litigation. 

The group maintains an extensive, centralized database of legal research, briefs, pleadings and strategy documents that is available to lawyers firmwide.  Several recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have dramatically affected litigation strategy in cost-recovery actions.  We carefully monitor these developments to ensure that our defense draws upon the deepest and best legal analysis possible.  

We recognize that cost-recovery actions are not always limited to the courtroom.  We work closely with all clients to address legal aspects of these matters and also interact with local and federal regulators involved in each case.  We help to manage the media and public relations components of these claims. 


The Environmental Litigation and Mass Tort group has significant experience in defending and prosecuting complex cost-recovery actions in U.S. state and federal courts. 

Recent representations include: 

  • Represented a large defense contractor in several consolidated cost-recovery actions in federal court and an action filed in California Superior Court, and in administrative actions brought by the State Water Resources Control Board and Regional Water Quality Control Board, all stemming from perchlorate and trichloroethylene contamination in the Rialto-Colton Groundwater Basin.  After aggressive discovery and motion practice that included three separate writs to the Ninth Circuit, Gibson Dunn was instrumental in forcing the plaintiffs to agree to a settlement in principle and dismissal of the lawsuits in their entirety for no monetary compensation.
  • Represented a large defense contractor in a state cost-recovery action involving claims for public and private nuisance.  After aggressively litigating the merits of the lawsuit and filing a comprehensive summary judgment motion the day before the court was scheduled to hear the motion, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed its complaint.  Gibson Dunn was able to recover a large portion of the costs incurred through the lawsuit. 
  • Represented plaintiffs in a federal cost-recovery lawsuit in which our clients were reimbursed for all past response costs and 90 percent of their attorneys' fees and litigation costs incurred in prosecuting the lawsuit.
  • Filed a federal cost-recovery lawsuit on behalf of a large commercial property owner to recover costs to clean up solvent contamination in soil and groundwater.  After successfully obtaining summary adjudication on liability, Gibson Dunn recovered 85 percent of all past and future costs, including attorneys' fees, to remediate the site.
  • Representing a manufacturing client in cost-recovery litigation involving two Superfund sites and two plant sites in Ohio.  Gibson Dunn successfully argued that the purchase/sale agreement did not shift cleanup liability to the new business owner.
  • Represented plaintiff, a gas turbine manufacturer, in a CERCLA cost-recovery action involving contamination at one of the largest and oldest manufacturing sites in the Port of San Diego.  Our lawyers negotiated a favorable settlement with defendant agreeing to pay 65 percent of all future response costs.  In addition, we were instrumental to the parties' entering into a binding arbitration using federal court procedural rules which resulted in a three-week arbitration before a retired federal court judge and a $5 million-plus verdict for our client.
  • Represented a major oil company in a CERCLA cost-recovery action brought by the U.S. EPA over the cleanup of the Concord Naval Weapons Station.  Ultimately, the case was settled by a consent decree entered by the court in which our client paid a nominal settlement (approximately $50,000).
  • Defending a large defense contractor in a multimillion-dollar CERCLA response cost and natural resource damage claim in Oregon involving contaminated sediments along 13 miles of the Willamette River arising from a wide variety of industrial activity over a 100-year period.
  • Representing plaintiff in a $250 million CERCLA action against the United States for contribution based on government involvement at a contractor-operated rocket research, development and production facility in California.
  • Representing plaintiff in a $70 million dollar CERCLA contribution action against the United States based on government ownership and operation of a U.S. Navy shipyard in Seattle, Washington, from World War II through the 1960s.