Environmental & Toxic Tort Litigation

A Multi-Disciplinary Team Approach

KMCL has extensive experience representing clients in complex, high-stakes, multi-party environmental litigation before federal courts, state courts, and administrative agencies throughout the US.

We’ve represented a wide variety of clients, including Georgia-Pacific Corporation, Lynchburg Foundries, Internet Foundries, Gold Kist, Woolfolk Chemical Company, the city of Atlanta, and Augusta-Richmond County.

In major cases, we often recommend a multi-disciplinary, team-based approach. While the correct approach always depends on the circumstances of a given case, we often recommend public relations, government affairs, and technical consulting components.

Please contact any KMCL attorney for more information on this area of practice.

Focus Areas

Complex Environmental Litigation

We have favorably resolved some of the largest and most complex environmental litigation in the country. We provide our clients with creative and cost-effective strategies for quick, successful resolutions to their cases, often through negotiation. But when talks are not productive or for other strategic reasons, we are ready to aggressively litigate to protect our clients’ interests.

We have successfully brought and defended cases arising under major federal environmental statutes, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, and the Compensation and Liability Act.

We’ve also brought and defended similar state statutory and common law tort claims representing millions of dollars of potential liabilities.

Representative Matters

  • Acting as co-counsel in a case in Iberville Parish, Louisiana, brought by minority residents of historic African-American town alleging personal injury and property damage from emissions from a chemical plant immediately adjacent to the town. Developing a strategy for negotiating with town leaders and in particular, town minister. Negotiating the settlement of a multi-million dollar personal injury and property damage claims including relocation expenses for reconstruction and relocation of entire historic African-American town. This not only resolved the claims but removed the possibility of future claims regarding emissions. Negotiating with insurance carrier for contribution of over 50% of the above costs of defense and indemnity in settlement.
  • Assisting in the defense of numerous dioxin litigation matters, including a large class action in Mississippi alleging property damage to riparian owners for dioxin sediment contamination from discharges into a river. Negotiating successfully with insurance carriers for substantial contribution to the settlement and defense costs.
  • Capitalizing on a cost-recovery lawsuit, we developed extensive evidence of participation by other potentially responsible parties, leading to a multi-party settlement with the U.S. EPA and a greatly reduced share of cost to the clients.
  • Defending a $10 million property damage case involving alleged perchloroethylene release on shopping center property from client’s delivery activities. Attending, taking, and defending numerous lay and expert witness depositions. Preparing and arguing three motions for partial summary judgment on various issues. After a week trial, jury returned with a verdict for only $350,000, which was overturned with a motion for a JNOV.
  • Defending a claim from a city in Washington State and a class action from 2000 residents in relation to the release of chlorine gas from a pulp and paper mill. Obtaining a dismissal of most claims and settling remaining claims favorably. Negotiating insurance coverage for indemnity and defense costs.
  • Defending California OSHA claim for PCB exposure to employees at a facility in California and negotiating significant narrowing of remedial activities required by California OSHA.
  • Defending the city of Atlanta in litigation by Fulton County seeking to set aside contracts for the management of all of the city’s residential waste. Defeating the county’s attempt to enjoin the performance of the contracts, obtaining the complete dismissal of the county’s claim and successfully moving for the city’s attorneys’ fees. After oral argument before the Georgia Supreme Court, raising constitutional issues leading to the affirmation of the dismissal.
  • Developing and implementing a strategy for defense of hundreds of personal injury cases involving formaldehyde claims for manufactured housing (mobile homes).  Implementing a strategy for handling serial cases. Negotiating insurance coverage for defense and indemnity costs regarding formaldehyde litigation.
  • Filing suit against a number of insurance carriers for a utility client seeking coverage for cleanup costs at more than a dozen sites. After several years of hard-fought litigation, securing tens of millions of dollars in net recoveries for the client.
  • Handling simultaneous defense of enforcement investigations by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Georgia Environmental Protection Division, Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the Georgia Department of Health, and a major private class action concerning a pesticide release to the air that allegedly exposed the population within a 200 square mile area. Obtaining a favorable resolution of enforcement actions and settlement of the class action lawsuit.
  • Identifying responsible parties associated with historical dry cleaning operations on a neighboring, up-gradient property on behalf of a private landowner in Georgia. Filing suit in state court seeking to compel clean up and for cost recovery. Settling after discovery with a substantial cash payment and a requirement by defendant to fund the clean-up.
  • Intervening in a challenge made by a number of environmental organizations to a major new environmental program representing a local trade association. Continuing to represent the client in working with the state agency to develop the next set of rules that faced the prospect of similar challenges, thereby avoiding additional litigation.
  • Leading the defense of a major manufacturer facing a threatened mass tort/nuisance action involving residents near major smelting operation. Avoiding suit and obtaining favorable settlement using creative approach to aggressively challenge plaintiffs’ claims.
  • Leading the simultaneous enforcement negotiations and private party litigation defense for a major manufacturer at a site involving up to $500 million in remedial costs. Finalizing what was termed the most complex agreement ever entered by U.S. EPA Region 4 that provided for investigation and cleanup of up to 12,000 residential parcels. Litigating issues concerning the contribution protection effects of that agreement.  Succeeding in obtaining very favorable settlement of ongoing consent order obligations with a cash-out agreement.
  • Managing all toxic tort personal injury and property contamination claims and litigation at Georgia-Pacific Corporation for 10 years. Managing and setting up procedures and methods for handling approximately 10,000 asbestos personal injury cases, including attending, taking, and defending numerous depositions of lay and expert witnesses, arguing motions before state and federal courts and trying several personal injury claims. Also responsible for setting up a nationwide “stable” of local trial counsel and expert witnesses. Implementing a strategy for obtaining coverage from primary and excess insurance carriers for defense costs and indemnity, resulting in 80% of all indemnity and expense costs being covered by insurance.
  • Obtaining the dismissal of a RCRA citizen suit litigation brought by a California environmental organization in two separate proceedings for a Fortune 50 worldwide transportation and logistics company.
  • Obtaining the dismissal of multi-million dollar CERCLA litigation brought by a potentially responsible party group for a Fortune 500 financial institution. The case involved the attempted imputation of officer liability to the institution as well as complex federal jurisdictional issues.
  • Obtaining a favorable resolution in a multi-party CERCLA litigation in two separate cases in New Jersey and Georgia for Fortune 50 diversified chemical company.
  • Obtaining a favorable resolution for the city of Atlanta in a nuisance litigation alleging property damage and personal injury resulting from alleged sanitary sewer issues.
  • Obtaining a favorable resolution for the most significant defendant in multi-party CERCLA litigation over an alleged landfill on plaintiff’s property.
  • Obtaining the dismissal of toxic tort litigation brought in West Virginia for a Fortune 50 worldwide transportation and logistics company.
  • Overseeing the defense of class action of over one million individuals in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans corridor alleging personal injury from the exposure of drinking water contaminated with phenol from the discharge of allegedly contaminated process water into the Mississippi River. Settling the lawsuit for under $10,000. Negotiating insurance coverage for a substantial portion of said defense and indemnity costs and supervising litigation of claims against remaining carriers.
  • Prosecuting litigation brought by a large Southeast municipality against its landfill gas contractor.
  • Representing a client as a plaintiff in property damage lost profit litigation against a major U.S. corporation in North Georgia, obtaining $20 million verdict after a three-week jury trial regarding PCB damage to client’s property.
  • Representing a client, along with two other PRPs, in a multi-million dollar remediation effort along the shores of Lake Superior in the upper peninsula of Michigan regarding wood treatment and charcoal facility contamination. Successfully developing and implementing a strategy for dealing with state and federal regulators, local municipality authorities, and county authorities regarding remediation issues and a local university regarding contamination on university property. Preventing suits by private property owners.
  • Representing a client in $200 million penalty case brought by the United States alleging vinyl chloride releases from large chemical plant in Louisiana. Attending, taking, and defending numerous depositions of lay and expert witnesses. Supervising massive discovery response. Negotiating a resolution with the government for a penalty under $4 million. Successfully developing and implementing a plan from surrounding property owners regarding vinyl chloride releases.
  • Representing a local government in a nuisance suit opposing a major industrial facility, resulting in a six-week jury trial and a split verdict. Representing the client in obtaining a very favorable settlement that addressed the facility’s most significant impacts, much to the client’s satisfaction.
  • Representing a major southern metropolitan city in suits brought by Riverkeeper, State authorities, and the EPA regarding wastewater discharges from publicly owned treatment works (POTW) and CSO. Negotiating comprehensive Consent Decree resolving the matter.
  • Representing a major utility in a toxic tort class action lawsuit with potentially dramatic political overtones. Resolving all claims were resolved favorably to the client out of court by combining a vigorous litigation strategy with an innovative settlement alternative.
  • Representing a company sued by a community organization to block a clean-up that had been mandated by the state environmental agency. Engaging in a form of “shuttle diplomacy” between the warring factions by recognizing that the client was merely caught in the middle of a controversy between two other parties. Brokering a settlement that not only addressed the concerns of the community organization but also resulted in a settlement with the environmental agency that produced a lower-cost clean-up for the client in the process. After a Court of Appeals decision that dramatically changed the principles governing the ability of adjoining landowners to file suit for so-called “stigma damages,” filing an amicus brief before the state Supreme Court. As a result of the appeal, the Court of Appeals decision was reversed on the key aspects of those claims. The clients on whose behalf we intervened were very pleased with the result, and the outcome remains good law in that jurisdiction.
  • Researching and identifying responsible parties associated with manufactured gas plant operations dating back to 1850 on behalf of a municipal client. Filing a lawsuit in federal court against the corporate successor of an entity that dated back to the plant’s origins. Litigating the case through trial in the liability phase, and settling with the lead party making a multimillion dollar contribution to an escrow fund to help pay for the clean up.
  • Representing individuals and trusts benefitting the children and grandchildren of the deceased founder of a major pesticide plant. Filing suit against insurance companies that wrote policies in the 1960s and 1970s when our client faced millions of dollars of cleanup costs. Winning a reversal before the 11th Circuit, and after additional litigation on remand, securing partial summary judgment in our client’s favor. Securing a multi-million dollar settlement and obtaining a release of liability from the U.S. EPA.
  • Serving as co-counsel in a toxic tort suit in Louisiana in which approximately 400 contract workers filed suit against our client, a large chemical manufacturer, alleging harmful exposure to toxic chemicals accidentally released at the client’s plant.
  • Serving as primary counsel in defending and settling approximately 42 personal injury property damage claims arising out of explosion of pressure vessel from formaldehyde plant in Columbus, Ohio, and alleged exposure to emissions from the plant in a primarily minority neighborhood. In addition to air emissions from the explosion, allegations were also related to groundwater contamination and other ambient exposures. Settled the case for under $1 million. Attending, taking, and defending numerous expert and lay witness depositions and successfully developing and managing a strategy for settling cases.
  • Serving as primary counsel for a defendant in claims from 35 individuals from the exposure to chlorine gas released in the City of Industry, California. Taking and defending numerous expert and lay witness depositions, arguing two motions, obtaining dismissals in a substantial number of cases, and settling favorably remaining claims after approximately one year of litigation. Negotiating with insurance carriers for coverage of 100% of defense and indemnification costs.
  • Supervising the defense of numerous personal injury cases involving exposure to vinyl chloride. Developing the defense to claims that participation in trade association activities constituted a conspiracy in furtherance of the acts leading to exposure to the chemical.

KMCL attorneys have been described as providing “superlative legal skills, scientific knowledge, and regulatory awareness.”

OUR OFFICES

1230 Peachtree Street, N.E., Suite 900
Atlanta, GA 30309

Phone: 404-812-0839

1914 4th Avenue North, Suite 400
Birmingham, AL 35203

Phone: 205-777-7972

One PPG Place, Suite 3100
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Phone: 404-333-0752