Background

Shortly after acquiring a portion of the Sherwin-Williams plant in south Chicago, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) required PMC to investigate and remediate soil and groundwater at the newly acquired plant. Though PMC had contract guarantees and warranties, they were forced to sue Sherwin-Williams to recover their remediation expenses.

Approach

The expert strategy was to demonstrate that the chemicals driving the remediation were placed there by Sherwin-Williams during its ownership. Historical and photographic analyses were used to assess Sherwin-Williams’ operations and waste disposal practices. Analytical data and risk analysis were used to demonstrate that the chemicals of concern were related to Sherwin-Williams’ operations; animation was used to illustrate Sherwin-Williams’ landfilling over the years and the impact to the property.

Results

Through historical and photographic analysis, we showed that the PMC facility was largely located on former waste dumping areas used by Sherwin-Williams. Analytical results also demonstrated that the contaminants (largely metals) were associated with Sherwin-Williams’ paint production and the pigments used in their paint products. As a result, the federal judge ruled, “Based in large part upon the testimony of PMC’s expert [from Foth], whose testimony was the most persuasive and credible of the expert witnesses…we conclude that Sherwin-Williams should be allocated 100% of the costs associated with Occurrence #9, and we declare that it shall be solely responsible for all future remediation cost at the PMC facility.” Based on this ruling, Sherwin-Williams was forced to pay all past costs incurred by PMC and take over the responsibility for all future investigation and remediation efforts required by the IEPA.