Baron & Budd’s shareholder John Fiske  received a Presidential Award of Merit from the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC) for his legislative advocacy protecting public entities’ constitutional property rights in the aftermath of California’s 2017 wildfires. Fiske was recognized by CAOC at its annual convention on November 15, 2018, at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

Following the historic 2017 wildfires that swept across Northern and Southern California, private utility defendants including PG&E and Southern California Edison spent millions of dollars lobbying California’s legislature to limit fire victims’ ability to receive compensation for damages caused by the 2017 fires. This lobbying led the California Legislature to examine the issue through a special legislative committee. The committee called on Fiske as the only attorney to provide testimony on behalf of thousands of property owners, businesses, and public entities.

On August 10, 2018, Fiske delivered a blistering counter-testimony to the private utilities, noting that any proposed changes to inverse condemnation would have a direct impact on thousands of wildfire survivors, including hundreds of business owners, ranchers, farmers, and the 7,000 families who lost their homes because it would deny these victims of their constitutional rights to just compensation as well as a jury trial against the power companies who are allegedly responsible for causing the 2017 fires throughout the state.

After hearing testimony on the issue for nearly five months, the legislature moved to protect public entities’ constitutional property rights against the private utilities, delivering a legislative victory to public entities throughout the state.

“It was truly an honor to be selected to give a voice to the thousands of consumers who would have lost their constitutional rights provided through inverse condemnation, had public utility sponsored legislation passed the California Senate,” said Fiske. “Particularly in light of the historic fires that continue to blaze throughout the state, this legislative victory is deeply important and will help to ensure that those harmed by the negligence of private utilities will get their day in court.”

CAOC is a professional organization of plaintiffs’ attorneys who represent consumers seeking accountability against wrongdoers in cases involving personal injury, product liability, environmental degradation and other causes. The organization works closely with legislative advocates to ensure that California courts remain accessible to all and to level the playing field for underdog consumers facing wealthy and powerful foes.

Baron & Budd represents thousands of fire victims including hundreds of business owners, ranchers, farmers and approximately 25 public entities. Currently, the firm is actively investigating the Camp Fire in Northern California, as well as the Woolsey Fire in Southern California, both of which began on November 8, 2018. On November 14, 2018, the firm filed its first case on behalf of a Paradise, Calif., property owner whose home was destroyed by Camp Fire.

Earlier this year, the firm successfully petitioned the Judicial Council of California for a Judicial Council Coordinated Proceeding (“JCCP”) to coordinate all cases against Southern California Edison arising from the 2017 Thomas and Rye Fires and to separately coordinate all cases against PG&E arising from the 2017 North Bay Fires.

California Water ServiceEarlier this week, the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) announced that Baron & Budd client, California Water Service (Cal Water), has won a NAWC Management Innovation Award for its approach to treating water contaminated by soil fumigants containing 1,2,3-trichloropropane (TCP). On Oct. 9th, the 2018 NAWC Water Summit in San Antonio formally recognized Cal Water.

TCP has been found to be highly toxic in drinking water. Through animal studies, researchers have concluded that TCP is a potent carcinogen. Concern over TCP’s toxicity led the State of California to adopt a Public Health Goal (PHG) for TCP of 0.7 parts per trillion (5 ppt), one of the lowest PHGs ever set. In 2017, California went a step further and adopted a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 5 ppt for TCP.

On November 2017, Baron & Budd secured settlements from Dow and Shell, which each manufactured soil fumigants that contained TCP.  Cal Water used the settlement funds secured by Baron & Budd to purchase a granular-activated carbon treatment system to address the TCP contamination and comply with State regulation. This treatment system was concurrently installed at 21 Cal Water sites with the highest TCP concentrations beginning in 2017 and was then extended to all Cal Water sites in 2018. The settlement funds enabled Cal Water to make these sweeping changes without increasing customers’ water rates.

“We were extremely pleased with the result of the settlements we were able to secure on behalf of Cal Water, as well as Cal Water’s ability to rapidly put those dollars to work to protect their customers,” said Baron & Budd Shareholder, Scott Summy.

In addition to the award for its approach to treating TCP contaminated water, Cal Water was also recognized for its innovative sample tap adapter kit. The kit has helped to eliminate non-representative water samples, saving the utility thousands of dollars related to additional sample collection, testing and customer notifications.

PCB Lawsuit Monsanto

LONG BEACH, Calif. Today, the City of Long Beach, Gomez Trial Attorneys, and Baron & Budd filed the seventh lawsuit of its kind against Monsanto for PCB contamination of Long Beach’s city storm water and the Port of Long Beach. Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are toxic chemicals which cannot be contained and last for decades. PCBs off-gas from their original application, enter into city storm water through urban run-off, and deposit into the Port of Long Beach.

Long Beach joins San Jose, San Diego, Seattle, Oakland, Berkeley, and Spokane, all which have filed similar lawsuits against Monsanto. The case was filed in federal district in the Central District of California, Case No. 2:16-cv-03493.

Monsanto produced PCBs for approximately 50 years until the U.S. Congress banned them because they endanger human and environmental health. Despite the 1979 ban, today PCBs are a common environmental contaminant found in all natural resources including water and plants as well as tissues of marine life, animals and humans. PCBs bioaccumulate in the food chain and are associated with illnesses and cancer in humans.

“The City is committed to holding Monsanto responsible for the significant amount of contamination it has placed into the City’s eco-system and Monsanto should shoulder the burden of cleaning up the environment, not the taxpayers of Long Beach and the State,” says City Attorney Charles Parkin. “Long Beach is standing up for clean water and holding Monsanto responsible for producing and distributing products in knew would become a significant risk to the environment.”

During the five decades prior to the 1979 ban, Monsanto’s PCBs were incorporated into a wide variety of products and applications including power transformers, electrical equipment, paints, caulks and other building materials. Monsanto knew that PCBs were toxic and could not be contained as they readily escaped into the environment, finding their way into bays, oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, soil and air. Although documents show Monsanto recognized PCBs were becoming a global contaminant, Monsanto continued to manufacture PCBs and ignored the health risks to humans and the environment.

“Monsanto unleashed an environmental virus that cannot be contained and is now in virtually every living organism in our food chain,” says Baron & Budd attorney Scott Summy, who leads the litigation for each of the seven cities. “Long Beach is standing up for clean water and holding Monsanto responsible for manufacturing a product it knew would become a global contaminant.”

California’s Water Quality Control Board has determined that the presence of PCBs in storm water runoff in Long Beach threatens fish and wildlife in the Port of Long Beach. Long Beach will continue to incur significant costs related to PCBs in its storm water and the sedimentary deposits in Port of Long Beach and adjacent ocean floor areas.

“PCBs are found in the consumable tissue of fish and other wildlife. Monsanto’s PCBs are one of the largest public nuisances on the planet,” says attorney John Fiske of Gomez Trial Attorneys. “It’s unfair that Long Beach taxpayers and cities are stuck cleaning up Monsanto’s mess.”

Gomez Trial Attorneys, based in San Diego, represents cities and families in water contamination cases. Baron & Budd, P.C., based in Dallas, Texas, has represented hundreds of public entities nationwide whose water supplies, properties or natural resources are affected by chemical contaminants.

For questions, please contact John Fiske at Gomez Trial Attorneys at 619-237-3490 or [email protected].

PCB Water Contamination Seattle

Gomez Environmental Law Represents Seattle and 5 Other Cities Against Monsanto for PCB Water Contamination

Gomez Environmental Law and Baron & Budd recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of the City of Seattle against Monsanto Company for PCB contamination of city storm water and urban run-off. Seattle joins 5 other major American cities, including San Diego, San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley, and Spokane. The lawsuits allege that Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of PCBs in America between 1930 and 1979 when PCBs were outlawed by Congress due to their toxic effects on the environment. PCBs are man-made chemicals that cannot be contained, last decades, and are toxic. Impaired bodies of water such as San Francisco Bay, San Diego Bay, the Lower Duwamish River, and the Spokane River are polluted with Monsanto’s PCBs. The lawsuits allege Monsanto manufactured, promoted, and sold PCBs despite knowing that PCB were a toxic “global contaminant,” becoming one of the largest man-made public nuisances in the country.

“These cities are standing up for clean water and holding Monsanto accountable for pushing a chemical that it knew was toxic, could not be contained, and lasts a very long time,” says John Fiske of Gomez Trial Attorneys. Scott Summy of Baron & Budd says, “Monsanto unleashed an environmental virus and now wants the taxpayers to clean it up.”

Gomez Trial Attorneys and Baron & Budd have received high levels of interest from major municipalities up and down the west coast and expect more lawsuits to be filed.

Featured Video Play Icon

An explanation of our ‪PCB‬ lawsuit against Monsanto, which we are litigating with Baron & Budd | Protecting What’s Right

Water Contamination

Animas River fouled by 1 million gallons of contaminated mine water

On August 5, 2015, the Animas River was contaminated with heavy, toxic metals such as lead and arsenic after the U.S. EPA mishandled a cleanup effort at the Gold King Mine in Silverton, Colorado. The Animas River runs throughout Colorado and into New Mexico, intersecting with the San Juan River.

For days, the Animas turned bright yellow-orange as metal particles flowed through the twisting river. In addition to the acute pollution, the heavy metals sank into the river sediment, potentially causing longer-term problems.

Much has been made in the media of EPA’s negligence. However, the less popular but possibly more important story lies in the many abandoned mines throughout Colorado and the country, which are potential sources of future toxic contamination. In fact, some have suggested the mines in Colorado should become a Superfund site.

And, while there are a few hundred abandoned mines around the Animas River area in Colorado, there are thousands of abandoned mines throughout the country.

Whatever the fate of the Colorado mines and the thousands of mines throughout the country, it is clear more toxic disasters are sure to occur.

The EPA and others have been quick to declare water quality standards are back to pre-spill conditions. But, that conclusion does not tell the whole story. Many questions remain unanswered. What is the quality of the sediment? What are the long-term effects of sediment pollution in the Animas? What was the water quality of the Animas prior to the spill due to those abandoned mines? And, how many more mines are ticking time-bombs?

Gomez Trial Attorneys’ Environmental practice handles water contamination cases, including surface water, groundwater, drinking water, and storm and waste water.

Please call John Fiske on 619.237.3490 or visit our news section to learn about our water contamination cases.