Environmental and Toxic Tort Litigation

Practicing At The Intersection Of Science And Law

Companies facing environmental and toxic tort liabilities know that assessing and ultimately resolving litigation risks can be a daunting and complex process. Whether the goal is to reach an early resolution to the case or aggressively defend the action in court, the client must trust that its lawyers are thoroughly familiar with the client's business and industry, the chemicals or other substances at issue, state of the art practices within the industry, and applicable regulatory programs. For litigators this typically involves retaining a team of outside experts and even relying on specialized attorneys at other firms for advice. But at Keller and Heckman, our litigators take an integrated approach, pairing their litigation expertise with the firm's in-house scientific staff and preeminent regulatory practices, thus allowing us to efficiently craft and implement a litigation defense strategy while always taking into account the client's business needs.

Environmental and toxic tort cases involve issues ranging from chemical contamination in groundwater, airborne deposition of heavy metals, and exposures to allegedly hazardous materials in consumer products to enforcement actions brought under strict regulatory programs. In defending these matters, Keller and Heckman's litigation attorneys have the advantage of working with over 25 in-house scientists, almost all of whom have Ph.D.s or other graduate level degrees. The firm's scientific professionals have expertise in relevant areas such as chemistry, toxicology, risk assessment, and the fate and transport of chemicals in the environment. Additionally, our regulatory lawyers have decades of experience in representing companies and trade associations in the chemical and pesticide, food and drug, and oil and gas industries. The firm's regulatory practices are some of the largest in the world, and count among their ranks lawyers who come from private industry, state and federal agencies, consulting firms, and academia.

Keller and Heckman's nationally recognized litigators have science and technical backgrounds that allow them to work effectively with our in-house scientific experts and regulatory lawyers. They have degrees in areas such as chemical engineering, environmental science and policy, and engineering mathematics. Outside of private practice, they have worked at global chemical and engineering companies; an environmental consulting firm serving the utility, mining and oil/gas industries; and as a trial attorney at the United States Department of Justice, Environmental Torts Section. Through our comprehensive team approach, the firm's litigators are well-positioned to bolster each client's legal arguments and present the strongest scientific and technical case possible.

A Broad Range Of Litigation Expertise

Our environmental and toxic tort litigation experience spans numerous industries and products, such as chemicals, pesticides, plastics, oil and gas, paints and coatings, paper and wood, food, electronics, packaging, and pharmaceuticals. We have handled matters involving toxicology, epidemiology, risk assessment, geochemistry and hydrogeology, environmental remediation, medical causation, statistics, and real estate appraisal. The firm's litigators have defended matters involving the entire field of allegedly hazardous materials, including volatile and semi-volatile chemicals, specialty chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, and radioactive wastes.

We litigate cases across the country before federal and state courts, defending our clients in class and mass tort actions, as well as in single plaintiff cases, and serve as national trial coordination counsel in a number of toxic tort matters. We also represent clients before administrative and industry-sanctioned bodies, and in arbitrations, mediations, and other alternative dispute resolution forums.

Some of our specific areas of expertise are outlined below.

Environmental Exposures and Contamination. We defend personal injury and property damage cases involving drinking water, groundwater, soil, air, and surface water contamination. These lawsuits typically include counts of trespass, negligence, nuisance, and strict liability, as well as statutory and regulatory violations.

Product Liability and Workplace Exposures. We handle cases alleging bodily injuries, wrongful death, and economic damages stemming from the presence of and exposures to allegedly hazardous materials contained in consumer products and in the workplace. These lawsuits may involve claims of manufacturing and design defects, failure to warn, breach of warranty, and consumer fraud.

Enforcement Actions. We defend enforcement actions brought before administrative bodies and courts under all of the major environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act (CAA); the Clean Water Act (CWA); the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA); the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA); the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA); the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA); and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), as well as state and local programs. Click here for more information on the firm's Environmental practice.

Appellate Practice. We represent industry clients and trade associations at the appellate level on critical environmental and regulatory issues, including rulemaking challenges. We have represented clients before the United States Supreme Court and the D.C. Circuit, as well as other federal and state appeals courts.

Internal Audits and Investigations. We conduct company-wide audits and internal investigations involving environmental practices and regulatory compliance under federal and state law. We have extensive experience managing liability and obtaining relief under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "Audit Policy." Click here for additional information on the firm's Health and Safety Compliance Audit practice.

Insurance Counseling. We advise clients on insurance coverage matters, and seek defense and indemnity from carriers arising out of environmental and toxic tort claims. Click here for a more comprehensive description of the firm's Insurance Coverage practice.

Representative Matters

  • Served as counsel for a specialty chemical manufacturer in a $50 million action filed by a municipality alleging that chemicals, including DDT, were disposed of at a former manufacturing plant and contaminated or threatened to contaminate public drinking water supplies.
  • Defended against 18 consolidated cases filed on behalf of residents, including minors, living in northeast Oklahoma alleging lead poisoning from exposure to lead mining wastes.
  • Currently serve as national coordination counsel for trade association defending welding fume bodily injury lawsuits in state and federal courts across the country.
  • Served as national coordination counsel for trade association defending vinyl chloride monomer bodily injury lawsuits in state and federal courts nationwide.
  • Represented oil storage and distribution company in EPA action to enforce the CAA fuels regulation.
  • Counseled owner/operator of food manufacturing facilities in responding to state enforcement actions regarding compliance with air, wastewater, and hazardous waste permitting and handling requirements.
  • Served as counsel to plastics trade association before the D.C. Circuit in challenge to CAA maximum achievable control technology rulemaking.
  • Represented wood preservative manufacturer as amicus curiae before the Ninth Circuit related to a citizen's suit to enforce the CWA and RCRA against a major utility and a large telecommunication company.
  • Assisted with nationwide audit of oil storage and distribution terminals.
  • Conducted TSCA and FIFRA compliance audits of chemical manufacturing operations, including reviews of recent corporate acquisitions and assisted companies in obtaining full penalty mitigation under EPA's "Audit Policy."
  • Served as counsel for petroleum company to recover seven-figure indemnity for clean-up costs associated with an underground storage tank leak.

For a more comprehensive description of Keller and Heckman's Environmental and Toxic Tort Litigation practice, including additional representative matters, click here for our practice brochure. For more information on our work with environmental enforcement matters, click here for our practice brochure.  For more information regarding the firm's general Litigation practice, click here.

Downloadable Files:
View our Environmental Enforcement Brochure

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