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The Torts Branch, Environmental Tort Litigation Section (ETL) was established in 1982 to defend the United States in asbestos litigation brought against the government principally by asbestos product manufacturers. In 1985 ETL’s practice was expanded to include all toxic tort claims. ETL’s outstanding results in its asbestos litigation led to additional responsibility for Agent Orange-related cases in the Court of Federal Claims. Today, ETL defends the government in property and personal injury cases involving toxic substances in the environment, the workplace, and government-owned housing. These cases commonly involve complex scientific and medical issues requiring presentation of expert testimony.

Most ETL cases arise from military and government contractor activity, and from environmental regulatory action. These cases are often brought by plaintiffs alleging injuries caused by air, surface, water, or groundwater contamination, or by direct contact with hazardous substances. Ongoing litigation includes claims of exposure to substances such as PCBs and dioxins, lead-based paint, volatile organic compounds, herbicides, and biological agents. Tort claims alleging injury to persons or property in the course of Environmental Protection Agency clean-up activities are also defended by ETL. These complex actions are typically brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act, but are also premised on admiralty and contract law, or on environmental statutes.

The Environmental Torts Litigation Section has successfully defended the Federal Government from billions of dollars in lawsuits.

Examples of ETL cases include:

  • Hercules, 516 U.S. 417 (1996)
  • Garcia, 533 F.3d 1170 (10th Cir. 2008)
  • Marina Bay, 407 F.3d 415 (1st Cir. 2005)
  • Loughlin, 393 F.3d 155 (D.C. Cir. 2004)
  • Bibeau, 339 F.3d 942 (9th Cir. 2003)
  • OSI, 285 F.3d 947 (11th Cir. 2002)
  • In re FEMA Trailer Formaldehyde Products Liability Litigation, _ F.Supp.2d _ (E.D. LA 2010); 2010 WL 2559082; 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79832
  • Snyder, 504 F.Supp2d 136 (S.D. MS 2007)

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