Although many environmental cases are instituted by state or federal agencies, there are also cases that involve only private parties. These cases have serious implications for the parties involved, not the least of which is the risk that public airing of facts and contentions may stimulate private tort or property related class actions from the general public in the vicinity of the problem. A private mediation or arbitration of such disputes can be invaluable to obtaining a just resolution without undue publicity.
Reaching out to your client’s opposing parties early and suggesting a private arrangement for mediation or arbitration of claims can keep the tort bar from getting wind of potential class action situations. So long as the parties are attentive to their obligations not to cause harm to others, there is nothing at all inappropriate about private dispute resolution.
During mediation, the parties may also call on expert witnesses, such as engineers and medical professionals, to consult on how to create a fair settlement agreement in environmental law and toxic tort matters. Reference to existing state and federal standards on acceptable risks in the environment can be accomplished without need of official approval in a great many cases. Even where there is need for some form of no further action decision by a regulatory agency, it is sometimes advantageous to ask for such a determination after work has largely been completed, rather than beforehand.