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CAOC Attorney of the Year Award: W&L Finalists for Porter Ranch

September 14, 2022
Home Firm News CAOC Attorney of the Year Award: W&L Finalists for Porter Ranch

Weitz & Luxenberg associate attorney Devin Bolton, along with an experienced team of environmental pollution and consumer protection litigants, has been named a finalist for the prestigious Consumer Attorney of the Year award. They have been recognized by the Consumer Attorneys of California organization for significantly advancing “the rights or safety of California consumers by achieving a noteworthy result in a case”: that case being the Porter Ranch Aliso Canyon oil and gas leak case. (1)

W&L Partner and Practice Group Co-Chair Robin L. Greenwald served as co-lead for the case. She, Ms. Bolton, and a coordinated team of 15 stellar plaintiffs’ attorneys secured compensation for “35,000 Californians sickened by a massive oil and gas leak,” a global settlement nearing upwards of $1.8 billion. (2)

“It’s an incredible honor to be nominated for this award,” Ms. Bolton says. “Working with Robin on this exceptional team has been a privilege. Even more, though, we’re all thrilled with the resolution the settlement brings. To be able to help the thousands of California residents who were harmed by this catastrophe is immensely gratifying.”

“It’s all about dedicated teamwork,” Ms. Greenwald says. “I couldn’t have asked to work with a finer team. Being acknowledged in this way is both an honor and a privilege. But the bottom line is that we were able to compensate thousands of California residents for the disruption and displacement of their lives and the injuries they were forced to endure.”

Background of Porter Ranch Aliso Canyon Oil and Gas Leak

Nearly seven years ago, on October 23, 2015, “the largest natural gas leak in U.S. history and one of the largest environmental disasters in California history occurred at one of the natural gas wells located at Southern California Gas Co. and Sempra Energy’s Aliso Canyon Storage Facility near Porter Ranch.” (3)

The blowout released roughly 100,000 metric tons of methane gas and other toxins into the surrounding region. The catastrophe continued unrelenting for 118 days.

People in the region reported strong gasoline odors for miles. An oily mist fell on neighborhoods. “Noxious fumes spilled into the homes of Porter Ranch.” Thousands of residents were forced to endure sickening physical symptoms: (4)

  • Headaches.
  • Nosebleeds.
  • Dizziness.
  • Respiratory problems.
  • Nausea.

Two schools needed to be moved. Residents from more than 8,000 households were forced to evacuate and relocate to some form of temporary housing, sometimes up to an hour away from their jobs and homes. (5)

SoCalGas Bungled Relief Efforts

Attorneys for the plaintiffs “argued that the blowout was the culmination of decades of mismanagement and failure to maintain proper facility maintenance and operational procedures. In addition to their dereliction of their duty to prevent the blowout, SoCalGas also bungled several efforts to stop the leak, thereby causing the impact of the blowout to last for significantly longer and be more severe than necessary.” (6)

“After nearly $6 million in discovery sanctions against the defendants and their counsel for willfully violating discovery orders and withholding over 180,000 documents from plaintiffs, and after 585 days of depositions of 470 witnesses, SoCalGas and Sempra agreed to settle claims of approximately 35,000 residents six years into the litigation in what is believed to be the largest settlement ever for a natural gas release.” (7)

In 2021, attorneys for the plaintiffs reached a settlement agreement for multiple lawsuits consolidated under Southern California Gas Leak Cases in California’s Superior Court for Los Angeles County.

A Leader in Environmental Litigation

Robin Greenwald, Esq., had already earned the reputation of being a renowned environmental and consumer class action attorney before ever joining W&L in 2005. Since then, she has continued to take on leadership roles and pursue large-scale environmental pollution cases that had the potential to affect hundreds of thousands of lives.

The 2010 BP oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is just one of Ms. Greenwald’s successful efforts. In addition, she served as lead counsel in an MDL against more than 50 petroleum companies that had contaminated the nation’s groundwater with MTBE, a gasoline additive.

Promising Attorney Tackling Environmental Litigation on a Grand Scale

Ms. Bolton joined W&L as an associate attorney in 2015, serving with the firm’s Environmental, Toxic Torts, and Consumer Protection Unit. Currently, she is most recognized for her role in having supported our unit’s efforts in seeking justice on behalf of thousands of California residents injured during the 2015 Aliso Canyon gas leak.

In addition to seeking justice for victims of water contamination, Ms. Bolton plays a key role in investigating cases concerning soil and air pollution across the country.

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