Litigation and Expert Witness Support

Expert Witness Training

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Case Studies

PCB Contamination of Big Spring Creek, Lewistown, Montana

Property Damage; Cost Allocation

When Big Spring Creek, famous for its fly fishing and scenery, was found contaminated with PCBs in the sediments and fish, catch and release signs were posted along a number of fishing access sites along the creek. Subsequent investigations conducted by Montana DEQ revealed the contamination came from PCB-containing paint applied to the concrete troughs at the Big Springs trout hatchery located upstream of the sediment contamination.

Law firms representing property owners living along Big Spring Creek filed suit against a number of parties including Montana’s Fish Wildlife and Parks Division (FWP) who operated the hatchery, the supplier of the PCB-containing paint, and Monsanto over the PCB contamination in the sediments and fish. FWP then cross claimed against Monsanto for remediation damages of the creek.

Over a three year period we provided expert witness support to Dr. Jack Matson, an expert retained on behalf of the plaintiffs to explain how the PCBs entered the stream from the hatchery and to evaluate whether Monsanto, the sole U.S. producer of PCBs, met a reasonable standard of care in the formulation, marketing and ultimately withdrawing of PCBs for certain uses, particularly those applications with direct contact with the environment. We assisted in the search, review and synthesis of literature and discovery concerning Monsanto’s marketing and sales of PCBs, and on the chemistry, fate and transport of PCBs in aquatic environments. We peer-reviewed Dr. Matson’s expert report for accuracy and completeness, for adherence to case strategy and for ensuring the methodology was defensible under Daubert. We also assisted Dr. Matson prepare for deposition. The case settled.

A year later, FWP’s cross claim against Monsanto for remediation costs went to trial in state court. Dr. Matson was retained as an expert witness on behalf of FWP to testify on his expert opinions from the prior case. We prepared jury-friendly trial demonstratives and assisted Dr. Matson prepare for his direct and cross-examinations. The case ultimately settled after FWP finished putting on its case at trial.


Photo credit: WDNR

Arsenic Contamination of the Menominee River, Wisconsin

Insurance Coverage

A manufacturer of arsenical herbicides located along the Menominee River in Wisconsin sought to have its insurers cover the costs of characterizing and remediating soil, groundwater, and sediment contaminated by its storage of massive piles of arsenic waste salt adjacent to the river. In response, the insurers, represented by a joint defense group of law firms, argued coverage was excluded because the waste storage practices were expected or intended to contaminate the environment and the manufacturer knew the contamination would result in future liabilities.

We provided expert witness support to Dr. Jack Matson, an expert retained on behalf of the joint defense group to evaluate the company’s waste handling and disposal practices of arsenic waste, to determine whether the company expected or intended the contamination and to determine whether there was knowledge of future liabilities stemming from the contamination. Faced with a particularly tight timeline, we assisted Dr. Matson by efficiently and thoroughly searching and synthesizing documents, industry standards and federal and state regulations, as well as reviewing fact witness depositions to support of his expert opinions. We also peer-reviewed the expert report for accuracy, completeness, adherence to the case strategy, and for Daubert challenges. Prior to closure of expert discovery, the case settled favorably for a number of the insurers while another carrier prevailed in a summary judgment motion.


Oil Contamination, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Natural Resource Damages

The Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands filed a lawsuit against the owners and operators of a petroleum refinery sited on the island of St. Croix for  both groundwater pollution and contamination of the surface water, sediments and aquatic life along the south coast of the Caribbean Sea.   We provided expert witness support to Dr. Jack Matson, an expert retained on behalf of the plaintiffs to evaluate the oil handling and disposal practices, procedures and policies implemented at the petroleum refinery to explain the presence of over 40 million gallons of oil in the subsurface.

Our research quickly uncovered that corrosion was responsible for many of the problems at the refinery leading to the discharges of oil into the groundwater. We assisted plaintiff counsel with finding and selecting a corrosion engineer with expertise in corrosion prevention and industrial infrastructure – tanks and piping. For both experts, we searched and synthesized historical trade association standards and journals, technical literature, federal regulations, discovery materials, and fact witness depositions to assemble a strong body of information for them to consider in forming their expert opinions.

We also assisted plaintiff’s counsel with its rebuttal strategy by reviewing the opposing parties’ expert reports for Daubert issues and formulating important questions to expose weaknesses in their methodologies and basis for opinions during deposition. We helped Dr. Matson and plaintiff’s counsel in successfully defending a motion to exclude his testimony, and then began working on trial demonstratives when the case settled..


Solvent and Perchlorate Contamination, Virginia

Insurance Coverage

A manufacturer of solid rocket propellants and metal rocket components sought to have its insurers cover the costs of characterizing and remediating soil and groundwater contaminated with industrial solvents (TCE, PCE, and TCA) and ammonium perchlorate resulting its historical chemical handling and disposal practices.

In response, the insurers, represented by a joint defense group of law firms, argued coverage was excluded because the industrial chemicals were recognized as pollutants and the manufacturer’s handling and disposal practices were expected or intended to contaminate the environment resulting in future liabilities.

Retained on behalf of the insurers, Dr. Jack Matson provided rebuttal opinions in response to plaintiff experts. We provided expert witness support to Dr. Matson, which included efficiently and thoroughly searching and synthesizing documents, framing handling practices in the context of industry standards and federal and state regulations, and examining fact witness depositions. Drawing on an accumulated library of in-house industrial handling and disposal literature, and employing honed research skills to track down pertinent technical documents, we adeptly assembled a strong body of knowledge for Dr. Matson to consider in forming his expert opinions.

We were also integral in assisting the joint defense group with deposition strategy. By providing key documents and formulating strong technical questions; and offering real-time support throughout the depositions; we assisted counsel in exposing the weaknesses of the opposing experts’ methodologies and basis of opinions at the depositions.  Our efforts contributed in part to the parties reaching a settlement prior to Dr. Matson’s deposition.


PCB Contamination at a Transformer Manufacturing Facility, Mississippi

Property Damage

In 2000, extensive PCB soil contamination was discovered at an electrical transformer manufacturing facility in Mississippi that handled PCB-containing dielectric fluids from the 1950s through the 1990s. Storm water runoff, contaminated with PCBs, flowed from the facility to a lake via an earthen ditch, which resulted in contamination of the ditch, floodplain, residential and commercial properties, and the lake sediments and fish. The city owned and managed the lake – a public resource for recreational activities – and filed suit against the facility owners over the cost of remediating the sediments in the lake.

Retained on behalf of the plaintiff, Dr. Jack Matson was asked to evaluate the storage, handling, disposal and treatment of PCBs with respect to industry customs and practices. We provided expert witness support to Dr. Matson, which included efficiently reviewing and synthesizing technical information from discovery materials, trade journals, scientific literature, government reports, and federal and state regulations for Dr. Matson to consider in forming his expert opinions.  We fact-checked his expert report before it was filed and assisted Dr. Matson in preparing for deposition. We also assisted plaintiff’s counsel in preparing a response to motions to exclude Dr. Matson’s testimony that were ultimately denied by the court.

During the discovery phase, we supported plaintiff’s counsel with technical research on various scientific issues and with its rebuttal strategy; preparing technical questions for an opposing expert’s deposition; and providing real-time support during the deposition.  In addition, we prepared a number of trial demonstratives for use in explaining complex engineering concepts to the jury, but the case settled prior to trial.


PCB Contamination in the Lower Duwamish River,  Washington

Cost Allocation

In 2001, the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund Site was added to the EPA’s National Priorities List due to elevated levels of contaminants including PCBs in the river sediments. A power company that supplied an asphalt manufacturing company with waste transformer oil to burned as fuel sued the company over remediation costs of the site and sediments. The asphalt manufacturer cross claimed the current owner of the site for remediation damages.

Dr. Jack Matson was retained on behalf of the 3rd party defendant to determine whether the PCBs, predominantly Aroclor 1260 (Monsanto’s trade name for one of its PCB compounds), present in the soils at the site and in the river sediments came from the waste transformer oil supplied by the power company.  We provided expert witness support which included thoroughly reviewing our extensive collection of PCB reference materials pertaining to the historical marketing, sales, usage and phase-out of PCBs in the electrical industry, reviewing fact witness depositions for facts, and assisting with the quantitative analysis of thousands of transformer oil data sheets to determine the dominant PCB compounds in the power company’s transformer oil during the various time periods. We then assembled a strong body of evidence for Dr. Matson to consider in forming his expert opinions.  We assisted Dr. Matson with preparing for his deposition and the case settled shortly thereafter.

During discovery we assisted counsel for the 3rd party defendant with strategy to depose the experts retained on behalf of the power company and the asphalt manufacturer.  We provided assistance in understanding technical issues involved with the dispute, scrutinized opposing expert reports for methodology and basis of opinions, and prepared strong technical questions for their depositions.