Environmental Litigation & Toxic Torts
Toxic Tort Class Action Defense: Rail Accident
A Major Railroad
Working with in-house General Counsel, R&E served as lead outside counsel on the second phase of a case involving a tank car leak and fire which resulted in short-term evacuations and alleged chemical exposure of 10,000 residents of a nearby neighborhood.
The first phase class action trial, handled by other counsel, resulted in compensatory damage verdicts of $100,000 per person for twenty plaintiffs, and a punitive damages verdict of $3.5 billion. After the initial trial, the railroad retained Mr. Rodney and other firm attorneys for the appeal of the initial verdict and for the trial of a second flight of twenty plaintiffs, which resulted in zero verdicts for many plaintiffs and average compensatory damages of less than $30,000 per person for those who were found to have received damages. This outcome enabled the client to settle the case with the rest of the class for a greatly reduced amount.
The case was yet another illustration of R&E's history of achieving outcomes significantly below initial levels of financial exposure for its clients. What had been a significant victory for plaintiffs in the initial phase -- to the point that plaintiffs were demanding participation on the client’s Board of Directors -- became a loss for plaintiffs in the second phase. As a result of our efforts, our client was able to resolve the entire case through mediation and settlement for amounts less than one percent of the value after the conclusion of the first phase.
Toxic Tort Class Action Defense: Lead Exposure
Housing Authority of New Orleans
In Casey Billieson, et. al. v. City of New Orleans, et. al. (CDC No. 94-19231, Current), R&E served as lead defense counsel, working with Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) in-house general counsel and the HUD legal department in a class action suit including more than 200 individual lead exposure cases along with a class of claims for childhood lead exposures at ten HANO public housing developments.
Plaintiffs contended that over 3,500 children who were living in the HANO developments had elevated blood lead levels, and that there could be more than 8,500 class members with claims valued at more than $2 billion total.
Working with R&E, HANO filed third-party demands and cross claims against property management firms, and former liability insurers, and even obtained payments from insurers for defense costs, thereby reducing HANO’s on-going and past out-of-pocket expenses in defense of this suit.
Billieson is significant because of the terms of the settlement. Other lead-exposure claims against housing authorities in other jurisdictions have resulted in crippling awards orders of magnitude greater than the settlement in Billieson. We believe this settlement was a result of R&E’s aggressive pursuit of all options and the firm’s readiness to take the case to trial. Billieson demonstrates our firm's ability to defend against noted plaintiff attorneys in Gulf South region and achieve outstanding results for our clients.