Cox Castle’s environmental litigation attorneys are experts at representing clients in a variety of disputes, from trial to appellate courts including the California and US Supreme Court. We have successfully prosecuted and defended cases with claims valued at more than $100 million. While we go to trial when necessary, we partner with clients to determine whether mediated resolution would be the best outcome for their business objectives.

Contaminated Property Litigation

We routinely represent parties redeveloping brownfield sites and, on their behalf, utilize CERCLA, RCRA and other federal and state laws to recover cleanup costs from historic polluters, corporate successors and insurance companies. We also routinely defend site owner/operators, developers, waste generators, transporters and lenders in cost recovery actions arising out of contamination from manufacturing facilities, waste storage and disposal facilities, shopping centers and other commercial properties.

Insurance Coverage Advice and Litigation

We provide insurance coverage advice and participate in insurance litigation in connection with remediation and toxic tort matters. We have aggressively pursued and obtained insurance coverage for defense costs, remedial expenses and other damages incurred by our clients in environmental matters. We are well-versed in all principal coverage issues that arise under Comprehensive General Liability (CGL) primary and excess policies and environmental insurance policies, such as pollution liability and contractors’ pollution liability policies.

Administrative Enforcement

We advise clients in administrative and enforcement matters arising from EPA, Regional Water Quality Control Board and Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) orders, as well as proceedings involving toxic mold, emerging chemicals such as PFOS and PFAS and California’s Proposition 65.


  • Represented a landowner in its suit against tenants who caused contamination of soil and groundwater, alleging causes of action under CERCLA and common law.

  • Environmental counsel for plaintiff in 3000 E. Imperial, LLC v. Robertshaw Controls Co., CERCLA cost recovery litigation resulting in the first case upholding the bona fide prospective purchaser defense to CERCLA liability (asserted by 3000 E. Imperial, LLC due to successful pre-acquisition environmental due diligence performed by Cox, Castle & Nicholson).

  • Obtained settlements in excess of $13 million from a multi-national chemical manufacturer, a multi-national paint manufacturer, and several other parties in a combined environmental cleanup/eminent domain action. The litigation, on behalf of a municipal redevelopment agency, involved multiple simultaneous state trial court proceedings, including a five-week jury trial in one action, as well as federal district court litigation in which our client obtained a summary judgment leading to the final settlement. A state appellate ruling validated the client's position on the appropriate interaction of eminent domain and environmental cost recovery proceedings.

  • Represented a Northern California municipality and redevelopment agency in cost recovery litigation against several different former operators of city-owned port site contaminated with hydrocarbon and PCE contaminants. Marshaled resources to assist city with extensive review of city records and historical data to locate and pursue former operators from decades earlier. Handled related insurance litigation as part of assisting city in its defense of contribution claims.

  • Defended a gasoline distributor in contamination claim for strict liability, negligence, trespass, and nuisance brought by operator of water system for alleged actual and threatened MTBE contamination of the drinking water system arising from releases of gasoline.

  • Represented a company in products liability and toxic torts litigation involving MTBE contamination of groundwater.

  • Obtained a settlement in excess of $15 million from a major oil company on behalf of a municipal redevelopment agency client in a multi-party, multi-jurisdiction case arising out of an environmental cleanup necessary for the second phase of a multi-phase urban redevelopment project. This litigation involved the concurrent handling of common law claims, a statutory environmental cost recovery claim, eminent domain claims, federal appellate litigation over the extent to which a prior federal action partially resolved this state court action, and an extensive administrative process before a state agency.

  • Obtained summary judgment for a municipality on claims that its historic management of waterfront areas within the city, its development of road and sewer infrastructure, and its land reclamation activities had contributed to environmental contamination at a site near the historic shoreline of San Francisco Bay.

  • Represented an agency and municipality in Polanco Act and nuisance action for cost recover related to remediation of brownfield.

  • Obtained settlements, on behalf of a land developer client, in excess of $10 million from two governmental entities in connection with a 300 acre project site where the governmental entities historic burn dump operations, and their subsequent mismanagement of the cleanup process, damaged the client's development opportunities.

  • Defended a chemical-producing subsidiary of a major wood and paper products manufacturer against claims for a multi-million dollar penalty in an enforcement/penalty proceeding under California's Hazardous Waste Control Law.

  • Defended a municipality against claims based on alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

  • Obtained a settlement in a CEQA action, on behalf of a citizen opposed to a port authority's expansion project, that provided for various project revisions and payment of attorney's fees.

  • Co-chaired a 4-week jury trial and subsequent appeal in the acquisition, cleanup, and redevelopment of a 15-acre industrial site. Client recovered in excess of $13 million of cleanup costs and related expenses. Key decisions reported as [i]Emeryville v. Elementis Pigments, et al.[/i], 101 Cal. App. 4th 1083 (2002) and [i]Emeryville v. Elementis Pigments[/i], 2001 WL 964230 (N.D. Cal.).

  • Defended and settled a multi-million dollar penalty proceeding arising out of allegedly illegal disposal of hazardous waste by a Fortune 100 company.

  • Defended a municipality in a Clean Water Act citizen enforcement suit and resolved matter without payment of civil penalties.

  • Lead litigation and co-lead transactional counsel in municipal owner's cleanup and redevelopment of a bulk terminal/former defense facility. Client obtained over $3 million in proceeds from its own historic liability policies and a favorable development and disposition agreement including forward-looking pollution liability and cleanup cost cap coverage.

  • Defended a plumbing fixture manufacturer sued under RCRA and CERCLA for alleged contamination arising out of a post-World War II ship scrapping operation located on San Francisco Bay and obtained settlements in excess of $10 million from the United States and various industrial entities.

  • Obtained settlements in excess of $5 million from a multi-national chemical manufacturer, several major oil companies, and various insurance companies in a federal environmental cost covering action. This litigation involved extensive discovery and motion practice to defeat the defendants claims that the plaintiff redevelopment agency was the alter ego of the city that owned the site in question.

  • Represented a global REIT in writ litigation against the California Department of Finance over the validity of a $50 million claim secured by a pledge of tax increment revenue. The claim was ultimately acknowledged by the Department of Finance to be a valid obligation and secured by a pledge of tax increment.

  • Represented a major developer in litigation against municipal and county government entities arising out of environmental contamination and the associated impairment of the economic opportunity at a 3000 unit planned development in Chico, California. Obtained a settlement worth approximately $10 million.

  • Represented a clothing manufacturer/property owner in a multi-year, disputed administrative proceeding against three major oil companies and concerning contamination associated with historic bulk termination operations. Client obtained a settlement for full excavation of the residual fuel products and related contamination, which allowed client to close its sale of the site to a major REIT.

  • Represented a redevelopment agency in CERCLA and Polanco Act claims action.

  • Lead counsel for the successful appellees in [i]City of Emeryville v. Robinson[/i], 621 F. 3d 1251 (9th Cir. 2010), a seminal case clarifying the interplay of the federal Superfund statute and California's good faith settlement mechanism.

  • Represented a municipal landowner working with a major developer to convert a 40-acre site heavily impacted by historic MGP operations to a mixed-use development. Client obtained commitment for a full cleanup, estimated at $25-$40 million, from a major utility.

  • Trial counsel for the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency in a 7-year process of acquiring, cleaning up, and preparing a highly contaminated 4-acre parcel for redevelopment. Obtained $23 million and fee title through settlements, and a $3 million trial court judgment following an 8-week bench trial.

  • Assisted in obtaining a favorable settlement and subsequent judgment against non-settling parties on behalf of owners of a commercial/industrial property against prior owners for environmental contamination.

  • Successfully defended a public agency before the Ninth Circuit Court of AppealsĀ on issues involving the interplay between contract settlement terms and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA).

  • Represented a lessee of industrial property in CERCLA action against former owners and neighboring property owners to recover clean-up and remediation costs associated with removal of PCE contamination from the properties.

  • Represented a developer of mixed-used residential project against former gas station-operator tenant who failed to remediate the property of soil and groundwater contamination at the conclusion of their tenancy.

  • Represented a San Fernando Valley property owner in cost recovery litigation against owners of nearby car wash property.

  • Represented property management company in dispute brought by tenant over failure to disclose mold remediation in unit prior to lease execution.

  • Represented the defendant, a large home developer, in action for recovery for fear of cancer associated with exposure to naturally occurring asbestos.

  • Obtained favorable settlement that required the redevelopment agency which sold contaminated property to a client to remediate the site that was contaminated with hydrocarbons.

  • Obtained multi-million dollar jury verdict for a New York based developer with plans to build a hotel in Laguna Niguel in an action against oil companies and adjacent landowners arising out of the discovery that the land on which the hotel was to be built was contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons.

  • Obtained summary judgment for a plumbing manufacturer that produced bombs during WWII under an order from the Department of Defense in RCRA and CERCLA action brought by property's current owner.

  • Obtained summary judgment for a developer which was sued under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) for burying DDT-laden soil under the streets in a new development.

  • Represented developers and landowners against neighboring and upstream landowners alleging that the landowners were responsible for contaminating our clients' property.

  • Obtained favorable jury verdict for a bank and a hotel developer suing a neighboring landowner and tenant for polluting our clients' property. The appellate decision arising out of the verdict continues to set the standard for the liability of a landlord for pollution caused by a tenant.

  • Represented a corner bead manufacturer in superfund clean up action regarding proportionate contribution to the costs of clean up of a land fill.

  • Represented an oil company in an action over leaching of petroleum products into the aquifer.

  • Represented a large landowner client in a CERCLA cost recovery action involving a complex multi-year, multi-party mediation where the parties worked collaboratively on the site cleanup while simultaneously negotiating a settlement.

  • Represented a large residential subdivision developer in a lawsuit alleging grading exposed neighbors to naturally occurring asbestos. Obtained very favorable settlement for client.

  • Represented a municipal entity plaintiff in $30 million environmental cost recovery action against multiple defendants. Case settled with all but one defendant. After a seven-week bench trial, obtained a favorable judgment against the remaining defendant.

  • Assisted an energy company in complex compliance matter related to the handling and disposal of hazardous waste under federal and state law.

  • Represented a large pharmaceutical company client in multi-party Proposition 65 lawsuit. Client successfully defeated the lawsuit on demurrer, which was upheld on appeal.

  • Represented dozens of different retailers, distributors, and manufacturers to obtain favorable settlements of Proposition 65 lawsuits, and to avoid liability under Proposition 65 in the first instance.

  • Defended a developer sued under CERCLA and RCRA by a homeowners association for placement of materials beneath a roadway (under DTSC supervision).

  • Defended a major residential developer in CERCLA and RCRA litigation.

  • Represented a landowner whose property was contaminated by activity on a neighboring property, where the principal claim was stigma damages. Bixby Ranch Co. v. Spectrol Electronics, the seminal California case involving stigma damages.

  • Represented a public utility before the State Water Resources Control Board regarding appropriate orders issues in connection with groundwater contamination.

  • Represented a biotech company in cost recovery action that compelled former railroad companies to address extensive environmental contamination through expedited remedial methods.

  • Represented a commercial developer in cost recovery action against former gasoline service station and dry cleaning operators, obtaining recovery ten times higher than the amount of attorney's fees incurred in litigation.

  • Represented a commercial landlord plaintiff suing a neighboring property owner and operator under RCRA for contamination arising out of lumber treatment processes.

  • Represented a developer in recovery of $3.5 million dollars in settlement with oil company for damages arising predominantly from the loss of value to a Los Angeles residential project caused by the delay resulting from implementing a slow form of remediation.

  • Represented major commercial developers in defending numerous suits for mold-related claims, including cases with alleged damages exceeding $10 million.

  • Represented a retail developer in recovery of $1.3 million in settlement with oil company responsible for contamination from a former gasoline service station. The settlement more than sufficiently funded the complete remediation of the subject property.

  • Represented the lender and developer plaintiffs in RTC v. Rossmoor, 34 Cal. App. 4th 771 (1995), one of the few environmental cost recovery actions tried to a jury.

  • Defended large commercial building owners and managers in Proposition 65 lawsuit.

  • Defended a large manufacturer in Proposition 65 lawsuit.

  • Defended a major concert venue owner and retailer in Proposition 65 lawsuit.


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