A California case that settled a key area of law concerning when a party is considered to be indispensable has been named one of the state’s most significant verdicts by the Daily Journal and earned Alston & Bird partner Jeffrey Dintzer and counsel Matt Wickersham a spot on its annual list of “Top Verdicts.”
One of only 20 defense verdicts highlighted by the publication, the case – City of Riverside, et al. v. American Promotional Events Inc. in Los Angeles Superior Court – focused on a cost recovery action brought by local government agencies against several companies over alleged perchlorate contamination of the Rialto-Colton groundwater basin near the Santa Ana River in San Bernardino County, with remediation likely to exceed $50 million. Named among the defendants was Goodrich Corp., which at the time of the alleged contamination was a U.S. contractor.
Dintzer and Wickersham, members of Alston & Bird’s Environment, Land Use & Natural Resources Group, argued for the lawsuit’s dismissal against Goodrich due to the lack of an indispensable party; in this instance, the United States, which was an active participant in the alleged contamination but was not a party to the case since it could not be sued in state court.
Superior Court Judge John S. Wiley agreed, holding that he had discretion to determine that the United States was indispensable to the claims because it would play a central role in the viability of Goodrich's defense strategy — that the company was immune under the government contractors defense, which can protect contractors from suit when the federal government itself is immune from tort liability.
The Daily Journal is California’s largest newspaper covering the legal industry. Its annual “Top Verdicts” features the largest and most significant actions and appellate reversals in California in 2018.