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Lewis Cooper Sutherland

Lewis Cooper Sutherland Partner, Environmental & Natural Resources

Lewis has been practicing environmental law since 1993, and has a broad range of environmental law experience encompassing litigation, business transactions, and client counseling. His litigation practice includes toxic tort, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and a multitude of other statutory and common law claims in both state and federal courts. Lewis’ litigation practice also encompasses a broad range of class action and complex litigation experience arising from toxic tort, products liability, insurance, consumer protection, and other types of actions. He has substantial experience addressing complex scientific and engineering issues in the litigation context, and has worked with nationally recognized scientific experts in a number of different fields to address failure analysis investigations and to develop related expert testimony.

Lewis’ business transactions and client counseling practice focuses on a wide variety of environmental matters that arise in business transactions, including environmental due diligence, negotiating and drafting environmental risk and liability allocation provisions in contracts, and resolution of related disputes.

Experience Highlights

  • Led a scientific and legal team developing environmental, toxicological, and geochemical evidence in defense of litigation arising from allegations that industrial wastes that were historically used to build rural roads were now causing harm; including work with (1) toxicologists and chemists to design and implement testing protocols for a risk assessment to address human exposure resulting from direct handling of waste materials, and (2) environmental and statistics experts to develop a sampling plan and statistical approach to characterize the surface and subsurface of approximately 1500 miles of rural road
  • Lead class action lawyer for multi-law firm team addressing a large toxic tort class action arising from historical smelting operation; including development of an innovative class settlement structure that used settlement funds to accomplish key environmental management objectives
  • Represented a large international coal and petroleum coke terminal in litigation brought under the citizen suit provisions of the Clean Water Act; the plaintiffs in the case are the Sierra Club and two other environmental activist groups; the case has received publicity as part of the Sierra Club’s “beyond coal” campaign
  • Represented one of the nation’s largest railroads in alleged class action for alleged property damages and personal injury arising out of train derailment and subsequent environmental releases occurring in January 2007
  • Primary environmental litigator in a products liability case against a plastic resin manufacturer, where the alleged damages are based on the failure of plastic piping systems at gasoline stations and subsequent environmental contamination; successfully litigated admissibility of scientific testimony addressing piping failure analysis and causation for environmental damages

Environmental & Toxic Tort Litigation Matters

  • Represented a large international coal and petroleum coke terminal in litigation brought under the citizen suit provisions of the Clean Water Act; the plaintiffs in the case are the Sierra Club and two other environmental activist groups; the case has received publicity as part of the Sierra Club’s “beyond coal” campaign
  • Representing an upstream oil and gas company in a dispute with a surface landowner over alleged environmental impacts arising from historical oil and gas activities; the proceeding is pending before an administrative law judge assigned to provide recommendations to the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC); the proceeding is the first regulatory hearing of its kind before the NDIC 
  • Led a scientific and legal team developing environmental, toxicological, and geochemical evidence in defense of litigation arising from allegations that industrial wastes that were historically used to build rural roads were now causing harm; including work with (1) toxicologists and chemists to design and implement testing protocols for a risk assessment to address human exposure resulting from direct handling of waste materials, and (2) environmental and statistics experts to develop a sampling plan and statistical approach to characterize the surface and subsurface of approximately 1500 miles of rural road
  • Led a technical team of corrosion and pipeline experts investigating the cause of the failure of a crude oil pipeline on the North Slope of Alaska that resulted in a spill that received national media attention, including coordination with simultaneous technical investigations and data gathering by U.S. EPA and the State of Alaska 
  • Provided emergency response legal support for a toll chemical manufacturer in north Texas following a release and fire that completely destroyed its facility, including legal input on media statements, evidence and document preservation, communications with regulators, preparation of employees for interviews by investigators from OSHA and environmental agencies, and engagement of experts to do the failure analysis 
  • Managed pipeline failure analysis experts for arbitration involving pipeline failures and alleged defects in natural gas pipeline systems located in the eastern United States 
  • Represented one of the nation’s largest railroads in alleged class action for alleged property damages and personal injury arising out of train derailment and subsequent environmental releases occurring in January 2007
  • Primary environmental litigator in a products liability case against a plastic resin manufacturer, where the alleged damages are based on the failure of plastic piping systems at gasoline stations and subsequent environmental contamination; successfully litigated admissibility of scientific testimony addressing piping failure analysis and causation for environmental damages
  • Primary attorney for a docket of more than 45 cases defending a building products manufacturer from claims by property owners for property and mold-related damages arising from improperly constructed commercial and residential buildings; successfully litigated issues related to the admissibility of scientific testimony addressing complex construction causation analysis and mold-related damages
  • Obtained a dismissal for a major chemical manufacturing company from a multistate putative class action brought by present and former coal miners alleging personal injuries arising from exposure to methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (“MDI”) in their workplace
  • Key member of the trial team in a Superfund private cost recovery action in which the firm defended a prior owner of a property operated as an oil refinery from approximately 1910 through the early 1960s; obtained a defense verdict rejecting plaintiffs’ claims for contribution
  • Key member of the litigation team in the successful defense of a chemical company client against potential criminal allegations under investigation by the county district attorney

General Class Action & Complex Litigation Matters

  • Lead class action lawyer for multi-law firm team addressing a large toxic tort class action arising from historical smelting operation; including development of an innovative class settlement structure that used settlement funds to accomplish key environmental management objectives
  • Lead attorney in a class action based upon allegedly improper lease-financing practices; negotiated a class settlement on terms very favorable to our client that included payment by a co-defendant of a significant percentage of both our client’s economic loss and our client’s attorney’s fees
  • Class action lawyer on a litigation team for defendant that negotiated a multistate class action settlement of alleged contaminated gasoline products liability claims involving more than one million class members in four primary southern states
  • Primary class action lawyer on a litigation team that defeated plaintiffs’ motion for certification of a class of Texas homeowners with homes using our client’s building products
  • Primary class action lawyer on a litigation team for defendant that negotiated a successful class settlement of several hundred thousand wage suppression claims against more than a dozen defendants in the offshore oil and gas drilling industry
  • Participated as a key member in a trial team in the defeat of class certification in an alleged statewide class of property owners damaged by leaking underground gasoline storage tanks
  • Drafted briefing in support of class certification in a breach of contract and fraud case pending in federal court in Utah; the federal district court certified the proposed class from the bench following a short hearing; drafted, as primary author, the appeal briefs on class certification in this same case; this case was settled as a class action on terms favorable to our client while on appeal to the 10th Circuit
  • Participated in the development of a unique class certification defense strategy in an insurance case where both private plaintiffs and the Texas Attorney General (AG) sought damages on behalf of Texas consumers; strategy involved early settlement with the AG on favorable terms, and then argument against class certification by the private attorneys because the AG had adequately represented Texas consumers’ interests and the AG settlement obviated the need for additional litigation via a class action

Transactions

  • Representing a major private equity client in its environmental due diligence in connection with a potential acquisition of refining and pipeline assets
  • Represented a foreign rolled steel manufacturer in its environmental due diligence in connection with the purchase of several U.S.-based manufacturing facilities
  • Represented a global chemical company in its environmental due diligence and negotiation in connection with its joint venture with another global chemical company involving styrene and polystyrene facilities worldwide
  • Represented a global chemical company in connection with the environmental due diligence and other environmental matters arising from its $1.9 billion public offering
  • Represented one of the world’s largest energy companies in the negotiation of three complex and comprehensive safety, health, and environmental indemnification agreements that were necessary to facilitate the acquisition of interests in eight refineries, dozens of terminals, hundreds of miles of pipelines, and more than 9,000 gasoline service stations in a transaction valued in excess of $4 billion
  • Represented a major chemical company in its environmental due diligence in connection with the possible purchase of chlorine/caustic and plastic production facilities located throughout Europe and the Middle East


Contact Details

Houston

T +1.713.758.2367
F +1.713.615.5322
lsutherland@velaw.com
1001 Fannin Street
Suite 2500
Houston, TX 77002
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Lewis' Practices

  • University of Houston Law Center, J.D. with honors, 1993 (Order of the Coif)
  • Rice University, B.S., Chemical Engineering, 1981
  • Admitted to practice: Texas; U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas; U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
    • Prior to graduating from law school, Lewis worked for an agricultural and specialty chemical manufacturing company, where he was a practicing chemical engineer for approximately eight years and an environmental manager for four and one-half years
      • Legal 500 U.S., Environment: Litigation, 2017−2019