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Environment • Aboriginal • Energy

Cases

Multi-Party Defence Litigation - Chlorinated Solvents: Our industrial client carried on a manufacturing business at the same location for over 30 years. Our client approached two neighbours on discovering that chlorinated solvents had migrated off-site. One neighbour sued our client for $22M, and that neighbour's mortgage company also sued for $12M. We negotiated a complex and successful settlement of these claims after discovery. Settlement included a risk assessment-based clean-up and a transfer of property that significantly reduced what would have been much higher monetary damages. We negotiated a settlement with the other neighbours. The result is an all-party release from future claims.

Defence Litigation - Fuel Oil: Our industrial client has been sued by a neighbour alleging migration of contamination from our client's property. Litigation was commenced, but has been held in abeyance by agreement, pending completion of a co-operative remedial strategy including a risk assessment.

Plaintiff Litigation – Petroleum Contamination: Our clients were several homeowners whose properties abutted a former gas station. We negotiated the resolution of all claims involving the sale of the residential properties to the major oil company responsible for the contamination, plus damages for nuisance and moving expenses. The releases do not foreclose future health claims by the residents.

Plaintiff Litigation - Industrial Heavy Metal Contamination: Our client inherited contaminated commercial property. Her lawyer should have advised and arranged for the land to vest in a shell corporation to protect the beneficiary from personal liability. We sued one of the large automobile manufacturers, a multi-national waste hauler, former tenants, and the widow's lawyer and successfully settled with all parties at the discovery stage.

Plaintiff Litigation – Contamination from Municipal Landfill: Our client owns prime development property that was contaminated with fill from a municipal landfill. We sued the municipality for $25,000,000 for the lost opportunity to develop a condominium tower on the property. The municipality brought a summary judgment application to dismiss our client’s claim. After a three-day hearing the Judge dismissed the motion in favour of our client, but limited the amount of damages available based on historical facts that came to light during disclosure.

Defence Litigation - Petroleum Hydrocarbons: We have been retained to defend a large municipally-owned housing corporation from a $10M lawsuit for contamination alleged to have migrated from a former industrial site owned by the corporation. Litigation is at the discovery stage.

Injunctions: Representing a municipality we recently conducted a nine day trial for an injunction against a composter whose facility created a public nuisance. The Judge granted an Order against the company requiring it to close its premises for 9 months after expiry of the stay.

Municipal Defendant – Contaminated Site Litigation: Our client is a municipality that is redeveloping a former industrial site, to use for municipal purposes. The municipality is defending a lawsuit brought by residents who oppose the City’s remediation approach, and have brought significant media attention to bear. The residents launched an injunction application as the first salvo in the lawsuit. Retained by the solicitors for the municipality, we were lead counsel, opposing the injunction. We were successful in scoping the injunction to the extent that it had no impact on the City’s development plans.

Defence Litigation – Fuel Oil: Our client, a large industrial undertaking, has been sued by a neighbour alleging migration of contamination from our client’s property. Litigation was commenced, but has been held in abeyance by agreement, pending completion of a co operative remedial strategy including a risk assessment.

Defence Litigation – Contaminated Site Claims for Professional Negligence: We have active files defending environmental consultants and lawyers from claims of professional negligence arising from contaminated land matters. These files are in various stages of litigation or resolution. In many of these cases we were retained by the professional liability insurance company for the defendant professionals.

Regulatory Litigation: Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment (MOE) ordered a client’s rendering operation to essentially cease operations on weekends. Our client is one of Canada’s largest food processing multi nationals. Marc was lead counsel in a three week interim stay application at the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT). The ERT stayed the MOE order, allowing the client to continue its operations for the year and a half it took to design and install appropriate air pollution control equipment.

This same client, on another site, was ordered by the MOE to forthwith remediate one of its major sewage treatment facilities. The order was made without regard for the appropriateness of the timing, or considerations of the cost and the potential nuisance effects. Marc was counsel on the appeal to the ERT whereby the terms of the order were changed to permit the remediation to take place in the winter when the odour impacts would be minimized, and where lower water levels allowed simpler remediation technology at a saving to the client of over $1M. The agreement with the MOE allowed the client to carry on business with no interruption.

Defence of Prosecution: Defended a municipal client successfully at the Ontario Court of Appeal. As a result of the successful defence, the MOE changed the wording of the Environmental Protection Act.

Our Lawyers at Willms & Shier also negotiated settlements of environmental damage claims without civil litigation or that have resolved at a very early stage in litigation.

Municipal Transit Authority: Our client, a municipal transit commission, operated a refuelling storage tank system that leaked diesel oil over a period of years. Some years ago, the client severed and sold part of the property for a housing development. The diesel plume is now migrating under these houses. We worked with in-house counsel, staff, and various municipal departments to assess potential for health risks, conduct public outreach, and develop an access, investigation and remediation program. We worked with the client to develop a property value protection policy that has, to date, satisfied residents. No resident has resorted to civil litigation.

Industrial: Our industrial client agreed to negotiate the purchase of a portion of the neighbour’s industrial property that had been impacted by our client’s operation. Negotiating the access agreement with opposing environmental counsel alone took the better part of three weeks. The environmental impact was eventually defined by extensive Phase II ESA work and the impacted lands were severed to facilitate the purchase by our client.

Homeowners: Our clients were several homeowners whose properties abutted a former gas station. We negotiated the resolution of all claims involving the sale of the residential properties to the major oil company responsible for the contamination, plus damages for nuisance and moving expenses. The releases do not foreclose future health claims by the residents.

Residential Multi-Storey Residential: Contaminated fill was discovered around and under our client’s apartment building by a prospective purchaser. The purchase agreement required our client to pay for any environmental investigation and clean-up. The clean-up would have cost more than half of the purchase price. We negotiated our client out of the deal. We assisted the client in obtaining a health risk assessment that first satisfied his mortgagee and tenants, and eventually satisfied another purchaser. We made our client whole through the threat of litigation and a settlement with insurers.

Commercial: Our client inherited contaminated commercial property. Her lawyer should have advised and arranged for the land to vest in a shell corporation to protect the beneficiary from personal liability. We sued one of the large automobile manufacturers, a multi-national waste hauler, former tenants, and the widow's lawyer and successfully settled with all parties at the discovery stage.