Toxic Tort & Environmental Litigation

Practice Area

Toxic Tort & Environmental Litigation

For over two decades Lewis Brisbois has had one of the preeminent environmental law practices in California with experience in a wide range of litigation and counseling services, including toxic tort, Federal and State Superfund, California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA"), Proposition 65 and related matters. We have assembled an impressive team of experienced attorneys intimately familiar with environmental laws, the defense of toxic tort lawsuits and state and federal statutes and regulations. In addition, the firm provides a full range of environmental and product counseling services for our clients.

Lewis Brisbois is and has been actively involved in many of the major environmental contamination and toxic waste site cases in California. The firm served as one of the lead defense counsel in litigation concerning the Stringfellow Hazardous Waste Site and has represented clients in other major California sites, including Oxnard Dunes, Operating Industries, Inc., BKK, San Gabriel Valley and McColl. The firm tried the longest civil jury trial in Ventura County history to a defense verdict where it represented a developer of residential property sued for allegedly exposing the residents to harmful chemicals.  In that case, the firm successfully eliminated the plaintiffs' personal injury claims prior to trial in the landmark appellate decision of Cottle v. Superior Court.  The Cottle case is now the model followed by trial courts in California in massive tort cases and has been successfully used to avoid costly trials in a number of toxic tort matters.

We have been active in national asbestos litigation and matters involving pesticides, TMJ implants, radar guns and claims of chemical sensitivity, among others.  The firm tried the first sick building syndrome case to go to trial in the United States and handled a multiple plaintiff action involving the Diablo Nuclear Power facility.

We are, and have been involved with many of the major Superfund litigations in California, including a number of the regional groundwater cases (Burbank, Glendale, North Hollywood, San Gabriel Valley). We have had significant success in representing clients seeking to recover the cost of cleaning up contaminated property from prior owners and operators of the property.  We also have developed a strong practice in defending against cost recovery claims.

The firm's aggressive representation of its clients, both in toxic tort and environmental matters, extends to state, federal and administrative hearings and trials, including Superfund multi-site litigation and coordinated Federal Multi-District Litigation.  We represent generators,  landowners, municipalities and site operators, from multi-national corporations to family-owned local companies. The diversity of the firm's environmental practice is reflected in its clients. Clients range from individuals, partnerships and closely held corporations, to Fortune 500 companies. The client base includes both foreign and domestic companies, governmental agencies,  manufacturing and real estate development companies as well as foreign and domestic insurance carriers.  The firm's list of representative clients include Shell Oil Company, Kia Motors, Sumitomo Chemical Company, Nucor Corporation, the County of Orange, the City of Los Angeles, the City of Beverly Hills, Stanford University, Ocean Industries, Royalty Carpet Mills, Inc. and Stringfellow Quarry Company.

Lewis Brisbois is frequently selected to represent clients as National Counsel in mass tort and products liability litigation, including asbestos cases, automotive litigation (rollover cases), dietary supplements (L-Tryptophan, ephedra), etc. The firm's skill in working cooperatively with co-counsel and local counsel, and experience with electronic database tools, allows clients to bring to bear the necessary resources to defend these challenging exposures.

BIO AEROSOL MOLD LITIGATION

In addition to the more typical environmental/toxic tort matters, the firm has developed knowledge in areas such as radioactive contamination and mold. Indeed, representing clients in mold related matters has become a major part of the firm's environmental practice. The firm has represented governmental entities (schools, courts, etc.), landlords, homeowner associations, remediation companies, construction companies and property management companies, among others, in mold cases. We have handled hundreds of mold exposure cases throughout the State of California. The firm regularly functions as National Coordinating Counsel and lead defense counsel for several major insurance carriers on mold and other bio aerosol and mold claims. We are also regularly retained on a pre-suit basis to assist the carrier with the investigation and adjustment of such claims on behalf of the insured.

The firm has prevailed in three jury trials involving the entire spectrum of mold exposure issues. The trials which were all widely covered in the media - were Allison v. West Del Amo Homeowners Association, Ayaz v. Fullmer Construction and Gelderbloom v. Vista Del Canon Homeowners Association. In the course of these matters, the firm has worked with and against all of the primary experts in the mold arena. In addition, our attorneys have spoken on the topic of mold litigation numerous times throughout the country.

LEAD PAINT

We have effected successful dispositions to hundreds of significant lead poisoning cases. Lewis Brisbois has developed strong working relationships with the foremost experts in the area of lead-based paint poisoning; we have litigated against the most preeminent plaintiffs' lawyers; we have authored authoritative texts and national law journal articles in the area of lead-based paint poisoning; we maintain a national database of the latest developments in this burgeoning field.

We have formulated strategies specific to the complex issues involved in successfully defending against lead poisoning lawsuits, as well as preventing, reducing and minimizing these claims, whenever possible.

The practitioners in this group have success  in defending these cases including:

  • A defense verdict in a lead paint litigation where infant plaintiff suffered from significant elevated blood lead levels and defendants property received multiple violations involving impermissible levels of lead, by convincing the jury that the infant plaintiff’s alleged injuries were pre-existing as confirmed by medical records, the infant had overcome any alleged injuries and was a well adjusted child.
  • A defense verdict in lead paint litigation where infant plaintiff had an elevated blood lead level, underwent chelation therapy, and defendants property received significant violations involving impermissible levels of lead.  The defense was able to successfully prove to the jury that the infant's exposure occurred in another country, the equipment used by the Department of Health was faulty and lead to inaccurate findings of increased lead levels.

Regulatory Matters

As a result of the many sophisticated and complex cases handled by the firm, it has developed excellent relations with many of the leading local, state and national medical and technical experts who are critical in the successful litigation of environmental and toxic tort cases. Its attorneys also have dealt directly with many governmental regulators from the United States and California Environmental Protection Agencies, the State Water Resources Quality Control Board, a number of Regional Water Quality Control Boards, the Department of Toxic Substances Control and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, among others.  These relationships are extremely important to assist clients to  bring about cost-effective cleanups of contaminated property.

Counseling Services

We offer a full range of environmental and toxic tort counseling services. It routinely renders advice on the environmental precautions which should be taken in real estate acquisitions and in the purchase of existing businesses. The firm also advises companies on compliance with federal, state and local laws regulating the production, storage, transportation, handling, utilization and disposal of hazardous or potentially hazardous materials. The firm assists companies in complying with underground tank regulations and counsels businesses in the implementation of California's Proposition 65 - the Toxic Waste Initiative. In addition, the firm has broad experience in representing clients in connection with matters involving CEQA.  For example, the firm is representing the City of Palmdale with respect to CEQA matters relevant to the High Speed Rail Authority project.

The firm is proud of its ability to represent its clients in the area of environmental/toxic torts with the highest degree of knowledge and ability, but also in a cost effective manner.

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