Toxic Tort and Environmental Litigation


Goodell DeVries Secures Dismissal for Small Eastern Shore Town Accused of Failing to Abate Contamination

On April 15, 2011, the Circuit Court for Caroline County granted a motion to dismiss filed by Goodell DeVries' attorneys Linda S. Woolf and K. Nichole Nesbitt on behalf of the Town of Goldsboro, Maryland. 

The plaintiff, who owned a large piece of property that previously operated as a campground and recreational lake facility, alleged that her property has been subjected to ongoing contamination since the 1970s as a result of leaking private septic tanks in Goldsboro.  She asserted that, although the septic tanks were privately owned by residents and not publicly operated, Goldsboro had a duty to abate the contamination because Goldsboro entered into a consent order with the Maryland Department of the Environment in which it agreed to study the potential solutions to the leaking septic tank problem.  The plaintiff sought an injunction that would require Goldsboro to abate the problem as well as damages for loss of value to her property. 

Goodell DeVries argued that the injunction claim failed as a matter of law because the plaintiff lost ownership of the property to foreclosure following the filing of the original complaint.  The court agreed that the plaintiff had no standing to seek an injunction, given that she no longer owned the property.  The court further held that the damages claimed were barred by the statute of limitations, given that the plaintiff admittedly had knowledge of the contamination more than a decade before she filed the complaint.  Having found that the complaint was time-barred, the court did not reach the immunity defenses that Goodell DeVries asserted on Goldsboro’s behalf.


Goodell DeVries Secures Summary Judgment for Asbestos Client in Mesothelioma Case

In 2009, David W. Allen obtained summary judgment in an mesothelioma case before the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.  The client was a finishing contractor who plaintiff alleged used asbestos containing products at various work sites.  On behalf of the client and through the use of experts in the fields of construction, industrial hygiene and asbestos medicine, David W. Allen convinced the court that the client was not in any way responsible for plaintiff developing mesothelioma.


Maryland's Highest Court Upholds Lead Paint Defense Verdict

On July 27, 2009, Goodell DeVries won another important victory in the Court of Appeals of Maryland.  In Lanay Brown v. Daniel Realty Co., the Court of Appeals of Maryland affirmed the Court of Special Appeals, which had upheld a Baltimore City jury’s defense verdict in a lead paint case.  The jury found that the evidence at trial failed to show that the defendant’s property contained the lead paint hazard alleged by the plaintiff – chipping, peeling paint.  The jury believed the defense evidence that the property was in good condition throughout the plaintiff’s tenancy.  Thomas J. Cullen, Jr. and Michele R. Kendus conducted the 8-day trial and also prevailed in the Court of Special Appeals.  Derek M. Stikeleather assisted with the appellate briefing.  The Court of Appeals agreed with the defense argument that evidence was properly admitted, and that evidentiary errors raised by the plaintiff on appeal were not properly preserved at trial.  The Court further agreed with the defense argument that evidentiary errors raised on appeal were not prejudicial.


Goodell DeVries Asbestos Attorneys Secure Summary Judgment Victory in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia

On September 17, 2008, Thomas M. Goss and Malcolm S. Brisker of Goodell DeVries obtained summary judgment in favor of a third-party defendant in an asbestos mesothelioma case before the Honorable Judith Bartnoff in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. The third-party defendant was a manufacturer of a product allegedly containing asbestos.

The Motion for Summary Judgment argued that the third-party plaintiff had failed to prove that the defendant’s product was a substantial contributing factor as required under District of Columbia law.  The Court agreed and issued a five page unpublished opinion awarding summary judgment.


Goodell DeVries Obtains Fourth Circuit Affirmance of Important Dismissal for Local Government in Long-Running Environmental Litigation

On April 23, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in a published opinion, affirmed the dismissal of Carroll County, Maryland from a federal law suit alleging violations of the Clean Water Act.  The Piney Run Pres. Ass'n v. County Com'rs of Carroll County, MD, 523 F.3d 453 (4th Cir. 2008).  Attorneys Linda S. Woolf, K. Nichole Nesbitt, and Joseph B. Wolf of Goodell DeVries secured the victory, which established important authority on the issue of “diligent prosecution” in environmental cases.

Carroll County moved to dismiss the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that any permit violations were being “diligently prosecuted” by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), the governing agency.  MDE had brought an enforcement action against Carroll County and subsequently executed a comprehensive Consent Judgment, pursuant to which the County is required to pay penalties for any violations of the permit and engage in extensive efforts to improve the environmental wellbeing of the Piney Run and its aquatic and plant life.  The County argued that, under the terms of the Clean Water Act, such diligent prosecution is a bar to any citizen’s suit, such as the one brought by the plaintiffs.  The United States District Court for the District of Maryland agreed and dismissed the action with prejudice. 

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal.  The court held that MDE’s decision to enter into the Consent Judgment is “precisely the type of discretionary matter to which we should defer.” 


Goodell DeVries Assists Asbestos Client Obtain Defense Verdict in Supreme Court of San Francisco

In 2005, Goodell DeVries attorneys, Richard M. Barnes and Thomas J. S. Waxter, III, serving as national coordinating counsel, assisted in the defense of a supplier of dental products in a deceased mesothelioma case. The jury returned with a defense verdict in favor of their client - the only remaining defendant.


Goodell DeVries Obtains Seminal Decision in favor of Asbestos Client

Goodell DeVries' attorneys Charles P. Goodell, Jr., Susan T. Preston and Thomas J. Cullen, Jr., assisted in the defense of their client in a seminal Third Circuit asbestos case rejecting the asbestos fiber drift theory and requiring proof of actual causation.  Robertson v. Allied Signal, Inc., 914 F.2d 360 (3d Cir. 1990).


Goodell DeVries Successfully Manages over 10,000 Asbestos Risk Actions for Metropolitan Life

In Abate v. AcandS (Circuit Court for Baltimore City) Goodell DeVries attorneys David W. Allen, Sidney G. Leech and Thomas M. Goss represented Metropolitan Life in a year-long consolidated trial involving several thousand plaintiffs and cross- and third-party claims arising from 10,000 cases. Metropolitan Life was sued on the theory that it had engaged in a conspiracy to hide the risks of asbestos in the 1930s and 1940s.  All claims remaining against it at the close of trial were dismissed with prejudice.