Since Hagens Berman’s founding, the firm has sought to work toward one simple goal: work for the greater good. Hagens Berman has established a nationally recognized environmental litigation practice, having handled several landmark cases in the Northwest, the nation and internationally.
Hagens Berman believes that protecting and restoring our environment from damage caused by irresponsible and illegal corporate action is some of the most rewarding work a law firm can do. As our firm has grown, we have established an internationally recognized environmental litigation practice.
SCIENCE AND THE LAW
Hagens Berman’s success in environmental litigation stems from a deep understanding of the medical and environmental science that measures potential hazards. That expertise is translated into the courtroom as our attorneys explain those hazards to a judge or jury in easily understood terms.
Our firm’s fostered deep relationships with top-notch environmental experts result in resonating arguments and court victories, as well as thoroughly researched and vetted investigations
Environmental law is a priority at our firm and we have taken an active role in expanding this practice area. In 2003, Steve Berman and his wife Kathy worked with the University of Washington to create the Kathy and Steve Berman Environmental Law Clinic, giving law students the training and opportunities needed to become hands-on advocates for the environment.
Hagens Berman’s significant environmental cases include:
- Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Litigation
Hagens Berman represented various classes of claimants, including fisherman and businesses located in Prince William Sound and other impacted areas who were damaged by one of the worst oil spills in United States history.
RESULT: A $5 billion judgment was awarded by a federal jury, and a $98 million settlement was achieved with Alyeska, the oil company consortium that owned the output of the pipeline.
- Chinook Ferry Litigation
The firm represented a class of property owners who challenged Washington State Ferries’ high-speed operation of a new generation of fast ferries in an environmentally sensitive area of Puget Sound. Two of the ferries at issue caused environmental havoc and property damage, compelling property owners to act. A SEPA study conducted in response to the suit confirmed the adverse environmental impacts of the fast ferry service
RESULT: A $4.4 million settlement resulted that is among the most favorable in the annals of class litigation in Washington state.
- Grand Canyon Litigation
The firm represented the Sierra Club in a challenge to a Forest Service decision to allow commercial development on the southern edge of the Grand Canyon National Park.
RESULT: The trial court enjoined the project.
- Kerr-McGee Radiation Case
The firm brought a class action on behalf of residents of West Chicago, Illinois who were exposed to radioactive uranium tailings from a rare earth facility operated by Kerr-McGee.
RESULT: A medical monitoring settlement valued in excess of $5 million.
- Skagit Valley Flood Litigation
Hagens Berman represented farmers, homeowners and businesses who claimed damages as a result of the 1990 flooding of this community. The case was in litigation for ten years and involved a jury trial of more than five months. tailings from a rare earth facility operated by Kerr-McGee.
RESULT: Following the entry of 53 verdicts against Skagit County, the trial court entered judgments exceeding $6.3 million. Ultimately, the State Supreme Court reversed this judgment. Despite this reversal, the firm is proud of this representation and believes that the Supreme Court erred.
- Idaho Grass Burning Case
In 2002, Hagens Berman brought a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Idaho residents who claimed grass-burning farmers released more than 785 tons of pollutants into the air, including concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), proven carcinogens. Burning the fields annually caused serious health problems, especially to those with respiratory ailments such as cystic fibrosis and asthma. The suit also asserted that Idaho’s grass burning policies are far below the standards of other states such as neighboring Washington, where farmers use other techniques to remove grass residue from the fields.
RESULT: The lawsuit settled in 2006 under confidential terms.
- Dole Bananas Case
The firm took on Dole Food Company Inc. in a class-action lawsuit claiming the world’s largest fruit and vegetable company lied to consumers about its environmental record and banana-growing practices. The suit alleged that Dole misrepresented its commitment to the environment in selling bananas from a Guatemalan banana plantation that did not comply with proper environmental practices.
RESULT: The suit culminated in 2013. Dole and non-profit organization Water and Sanitation Health, Inc. collaborated on a water filter project to assist local communities in Guatemala.
- Diesel Emissions Litigation
Second to none in uncovering emissions-cheating, the firm has dedicated its time and resources to breaking up the dirty diesel ring. After filing the first lawsuit in the country against Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche for its massive Dieselgate scandal in 2015, the firm went on to unmask emissions-cheating devices installed in vehicles made by Fiat Chrysler, Mercedes and General Motors and continues to investigate diesel cars for excessive, illegal and environmentally harmful levels of emissions.
RESULT: The firm’s independently researched active cases have led to investigations by the EPA, DOJ and European authorities.
- Municipality Climate Change Litigation
Hagens Berman has taken on BP, Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC and ConocoPhillips in multiple actions alleging that the Big Oil giants are responsible for the various municipalities’ costs of protecting from global warming-induced sea level rise, including expenses to construct seawalls in some instances. The cases seek to require defendants to abate the global warming-induced sea level rise by funding an abatement program to build sea walls and other infrastructure.
- Florida Sugarcane Burning
Hagens Berman filed a class-action lawsuit against the sugar industry's largest entities on behalf of residents of various areas and townships of Florida that have long suffered from the corporations' wildly hazardous and damaging methods of harvesting sugarcane. The lawsuit states that this outdated method of harvesting has wreaked havoc on these Florida communities. The wildly archaic method of harvesting brings devastating toxic smoke and ash, often called “black snow,” raining onto poor Florida communities for six months of the year. The lawsuit's defendants, commonly known as Big Sugar, farm sugarcane on approximately 400,000 acres in the area south and southeast of Lake Okeechobee.
- Kivalina Global Warming Litigation
A tiny impoverished Alaskan village of Inupiat Eskimos took action against some of the world’s largest greenhouse gas offenders, claiming that contributions to global warming are leading to the destruction of their village and causing erosion to the land that will eventually put the entire community under water. Hagens Berman, along with five law firms and two non- profit legal organizations, filed a suit against nine oil companies and 14 electric power companies that emit large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The lawsuit alleged their actions resulted in the destruction of protective ice, exposing the village to severe storms that destroy the ground the village stands on. Relocating the village of Kivalina could cost between $95 and $400 million, an expense the community cannot afford.
- Cane Run Power Plant Coal Ash Case
In 2013, Hagens Berman filed a class-action lawsuit against Louisville Gas and Electric Company alleging it illegally dumped waste from a coal-fired power plant onto neighboring property and homes where thousands of Kentucky residents live. According to the complaint, Louisville Gas and Electric Company’s Cane Run Power Plant is fueled by the burning of coal, which also produces coal combustion byproducts—primarily fly ash and bottom ash—that contain significant quantities of toxic materials, including arsenic, chromium and lead. The dust spewed by Cane Run contains known carcinogens, posing significant potential health hazards.