The Daily Journal recognized SL Environmental Law group with a 2021 “Top Verdict” of California award. The publication highlighted the firm’s $48 million jury verdict for the City of Pomona against SQM North America Corporation, the American subsidiary of a multinational mining company based in Chile, as one of the state’s 10 largest plaintiffs’ verdicts last year.
As the jury found, fertilizer sold by SQMNA and used for decades in the citrus orchards of Pomona was tainted with perchlorate which ended up in Pomona’s drinking water supplies as a result. Perchlorate is a toxic chemical that can be particularly harmful to children as it disrupts hormones needed for healthy growth and development, and is banned from drinking water in California above very low concentrations. The presence of perchlorate in 14 of its drinking water wells required Pomona to build a specialized plant, costing tens of millions of dollars to build and operate, to remove the contaminant from its water. The jury awarded Pomona $48 million as the costs of these measures, including for operating the plant for the decades into the future that the perchlorate is expected to persist in Pomona’s wells, and rejected SQMNA’s arguments that blamed local businesses for the contamination, claimed the treatment plant was not necessary, and accused Pomona of waiting too long to bring the lawsuit.
The SL team representing the City of Pomona included Ken Sansone, with Jason Sheasby and Lisa Glasser of Irell & Manella LLP serving as co-counsel.