Environmental Tort Litigation Section

Environmental Torts is defending cases filed under the “Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2021,” which included the “Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022” (“CLJA”).  For questions regarding this litigation, please call the CLJA Hotline at 202-353-4426 or send an email to CampLejeune.PACTAct@usdoj.gov

The Environmental Torts Section (ET) defends the government in property damage, wrongful death, and personal injury cases, involving toxic substances in the environment, the workplace, and government-owned housing.  ET’s toxic tort matters are filed and litigated under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and commonly involve complex scientific and medical issues requiring expert testimony.  ET operates within a wide range of litigation, often defending the government in multiple-plaintiff lawsuits and in mass tort actions. 

Most ET 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. For example, some of the more recent cases ET has litigated have related to: (1) legionella bacteria at a government hospital facility; (2) alleged heavy metal exposures from mine waste released into a river; (3) alleged formaldehyde exposures from emergency housing units deployed by FEMA after Hurricane Katrina; (4) the Department of Interior’s application of herbicide over a portion of Idaho;  (5) alleged groundwater contamination at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; (6) alleged exposure to per-fluorinated compounds; (7) EPA’s oversight of state and local agencies’ activities concerning lead in the water supply of Flint, Michigan; (8) alleged exposure to contaminants at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard; and (9) alleged exposure to jet fuel in the Navy’s underground Red Hill Bulk Storage Facility.  

The potential impact on the Treasury of the cases that ET continues to handle is massive. The cases are large and involve complex matters based on injuries allegedly caused by various contaminants – frequently over a long span of time.  Because of the complexity, long duration, and the need for specialized knowledge and expertise in these matters, ET does not delegate these cases to the United States Attorney Offices. This office has worked with high level agency officials at the EPA, Department of Defense and its military departments, as well as numerous other agencies to develop nationwide policy positions for litigation. 

While these complex actions are typically brought under the FTCA, they can also be premised on admiralty and contract law, or on environmental statutes.

Examples of pending and past ET cases include:

  • Hercules, Inc. v. United States, 516 U.S. 417 (1996)
  • OSI, Inc. v. United States, 285 F.3d 947 (11th Cir. 2002)
  • Bibeau v. Pacific Northwest Research Foundation Inc., 339 F.3d 942 (9th Cir. 2003)
  • Loughlin v. United States, 393 F.3d 155 (D.C. Cir. 2004)
  • Marina Bay Realty Trust LLC v. United States, 407 F.3d 418 (1st Cir. 2005)
  • Snyder v. United States, 504 F. Supp. 2d 136 (S.D. Miss. 2007), aff’d per curiam, 296 F. App’x 399 (5th Cir. 2008)
  • Garcia v. United States Air Force, 533 F.3d 1170 (10th Cir. 2008)
  • In re Fema Trailer Formaldehyde Products Liability Litigation, 719 F. Supp. 2d 677 (E.D. La. 2010)
  • In re Yosemite National Park Hantavirus Litigation, 24 F. Supp. 3d 1370 (J.P.M.L. 2014)
  • In re Camp Lejeune North Carolina Water Contamination Litigation, 263 F. Supp. 3d 1318 (N.D. Ga. 2016)
  • Pieper v. United States, No. CCB-15-2457, 2016 WL 4240086 (D. Md. Aug. 11, 2016), aff’d per curiam sub nom. Pieper v. United States by & through Dep’t of Def., 713 F. App’x 137 (4th Cir. 2017), cert. denied sub nom. Pieper v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 2028 (2018)
  • Schultz v. United States, No. 15-454, 2017 WL 635289 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 16, 2017)
  • Burgess v. United States, No. 4:17-cv-11218-LVP-RSW (E.D. Mich. filed April 18, 2017)
  • In re Gold King Mine Release in San Juan County, Colorado on August 5, 2015, Multi-District Litigation No. 1:18-MD-2824-WJ (D.N.M. filed April 4, 2018) 
  • Five Point Holdings, LLC et al v. United States of America, No. 3:20-cv-01480-JD (N.D. Cal. filed on Feb. 27, 2020)
  • Feindt v. United States of America, No. 1:22-cv-00397-LEK-KJM (D. HI filed on August 31, 2022)

Contacts:

J. Patrick Glynn, Director, 202-616-4200 or j.patrick.glynn@usdoj.gov

Christina M. Falk, Assistant Director, 202-616-4216 or christina.falk@usdoj.gov

Bridget Bailey Lipscomb, Assistant Director, 202-616-9356 or bridget.lipscomb@usdoj.gov

 

Updated October 21, 2022

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