Evans earned the honor for representing copper mining giant Asarco in a federal court trial that resulted in 2018’s largest contribution judgment under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). A U.S. District Court ordered Atlantic Richfield to pay $28.8 million toward the cleanup of a Superfund site in East Helena, Montana. Asarco agreed to pay the EPA for all response costs needed to remove dangerously high levels of arsenic from the community’s groundwater. Although Atlantic Richfield, a BP subsidiary, operated a smelter and caused arsenic groundwater contamination, it refused to contribute anything toward cleanup costs.
The court initially dismissed Asarco’s lawsuit in 2014, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling in 2017, providing needed clarity on when a settling party such as Asarco can seek contribution from nonsettling parties under CERCLA. Evans argued the case in the 9th Circuit and took it to trial in Missoula, Montana. Evans told the NLJ that the judgment amount “will encourage more cooperation and integrity in environmental investigations and related federal court litigation.”
Asked to share two tips that have been important to his success, Evans said, “Be indignant when you spot something wrong. Your clients expect it. If your opponent misled the government, [it has] likely misled you.” Evans said trial lawyers also must learn to persevere.
“I filed this case in 2012,” he said. “It took six years to get it to trial. Difficult litigation is a like a journey home. It is never too long.”
Evans has earned national recognition for trials and litigation. The National Law Journal honored him in its 2018 Energy and Environmental Trailblazers issue, citing his work representing Asarco. Evans also earned recognition in Financial Times’ prestigious North America Innovative Lawyers report and in Law360 as an “Environmental MVP” in 2017. He has been recognized previously by The National Law Journal and The American Lawyer for his litigation and trial success.