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Environment • Aboriginal • Energy

Environmental Litigation


Environmental regulation is on the increase, enforcement is more stringent and penalties are more severe. Exposure to personal liability poses real risks for individuals, directors and officers. Government officials are given wide powers with limited opportunities for appeal and challenge. Private claims are becoming more complex and open-ended and exposure to damages increases.

Willms & Shier's focus on environmental law provides strength and experience in breadth and depth to help clients successfully deal with all aspects of environmental litigation, whether as plaintiff, defendant, appellant, or applicant for judicial review, across the spectrum of Courts and Tribunals, Willms & Shier defends clients from environmental prosecutions and appeals regulatory approvals and orders. Our lawyers facilitate and negotiate environmental approvals and represent clients at approval hearings and appeals. Willms & Shier represents clients at the Ontario Municipal Board on land use planning matters with environmental elements.

Our clients are often confronted with contamination issues, ranging from coal tar and landfill litigation to brownfield remediation and redevelopment to contamination of municipal road allowances. Willms & Shier provides strategic legal advice and litigation counsel to clients in negotiating, litigating and defending civil claims arising from contaminated land and hazardous materials.

Below are several case summaries involving our firm in defence of claims

  • 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 The residents 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 development plans.
  • Municipal defendant - 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 pleadings stage.

Here are examples of negotiations of environmental damage claims that Willms & Shier has resolved before spending significant dollars on civil litigation

  • Individual plaintiff - inherited contaminated commercial property - solicitors' negligence. 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.
  • Industrial plaintiff - methane migration - plaintiff owns a manufacturing facility next to the existing municipal landfill. Methane migrated onto our client's property and under our client's factory. We avoided the need for a lawsuit by negotiating an access agreement for the municipality to monitor and vent the methane on our client's property, restore the lands and indemnify our client for any damages and costs of defending any lawsuits, prosecutions, or regulatory orders.

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