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Joseph W. Hovermill


Principal
Joseph W. Hovermill

Joe is President and Chief Executive Officer of the firm and a senior member of our Product Liability and Mass Tort and Environment and Energy practices. He is an active leader in our cross-disciplinary team focused on the representation of clients in manufacturing and distribution industries.

Joe’s practice focuses on the defense of manufacturers in a variety of complex product liability, toxic tort and environmental litigation regionally and nationally. He supervises the management of mass tort, product liability and other multi-party litigation nationally for several manufacturing clients, developing and implementing coordinated litigation strategies to control or eliminate the significant exposure posed by such claims. Joe also litigates and tries complicated environmental disputes involving other companies, states and municipalities, the US Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Justice. Joe’s litigation includes mass torts and environmental disputes connected with a variety of allegedly toxic substances, including dioxin, PCB’s, asbestos, silica, mold, vinyl chloride, benzenes, nickel, perchlorate and TCE/PCE.

Joe is part of the firm’s insurance coverage practice and has extensive experience in locating and securing legacy insurance coverage to cover the cost and risk of the matters he defends for them. The long-term nature of the matters he handles has required Joe to study, understand and litigate complicated corporate organization and successor-liability issues in state and federal courts around the country.

Joe received an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, is named one of the Best Lawyers in America® and is listed as a Maryland Super Lawyer. He was also named among the "Top 50" and "Top 100" Maryland Super Lawyers® from 2011 through 2014. Until assuming a firm-wide leadership position in 2014, Joe chaired the firm's Product Liability and Mass Torts Practice Group. Joe is on the firm's Board of Directors and is part of our executive leadership committee with primary responsibility for the firm's practice group strategy and day-to-day operations.

Representative Matters:

Superfund Remedy Selection Challenge – U.S. District Court, District of Rhode Island: Lead trial counsel in a trial against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island challenging the remedy selected by U.S. EPA for the Centredale Manor Superfund Site in North Providence, Rhode Island. This trial also required defense of an enforcement claim and a claim for over $40 million in fines and penalties for the client’s refusal to comply with an EPA Unilateral Administrative Order requiring the implementation of the challenged remedy. The trial involved EPA and client fact witnesses and experts on both sides in the areas of human health and ecological risk assessment, environmental engineering, construction and chemical fate and transport. After 13 bench trial days spanning six months, extensive briefing, and a full day of closing argument, the court found certain aspects of EPA’s remedy selection process to be arbitrary and capricious, remanded remedy to EPA, retained jurisdiction over the case through remedial design in connection with other issues, stayed enforcement of the UAO, and found objective good faith “sufficient cause” for the client to refuse to comply with that order, awarding none of the over $40 million in fines and civil penalties sought by the EPA. (Emhart Industries, Inc. v. United States Department of the Air Force v. Black & Decker, Inc. (C.A. No. 11-023 S))

Related Press Coverage:

  • "Court Takes Rare Step of Blocking Enforcement of EPA Superfund Order," INSIDEEPA.com (August 28, 2017).
  • "EPA Superfund Cleanup Order Paused Over Superfund Violation," Law360 (August 18, 2017).
  • "Feds Seek 32M From Black & Decker In Cleanup Dispute," Law360 (March 7, 2017).

Superfund Divisibility Defense Trial – U.S. District Court, District of Rhode Island: Lead trial counsel in a CERCLA liability trial brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice asserting a “divisibility defense” in connection with dioxin contamination at the Centredale Superfund Site in North Providence, Rhode Island. The trial required over 20 trial days spanning two months and live and deposition testimony of over 20 fact witnesses. The trial involved over a dozen expert witnesses covering complex issues of chemistry, molecule formation and synthesis, chemical fingerprinting, process chemistry, aerial photographic analysis, chemical fate and transport, and environmental engineering. Although the client ultimately did not prevail in establishing this rarely applied defense to CERCLA joint and several liability, the trial resulted in a 186-page opinion, express recognition by the court of “second to none” skilled management and presentation of complex issues, and the defense provided partial basis for subsequent finding of client’s good faith “sufficient care” defense to fines and penalties sought by the U.S. EPA for client’s refusal to comply with a UAO issued to it during pendency of the litigation. (Emhart Industries, Inc. v. United States Department of the Air Force v. Black & Decker, Inc. (C.A. No. 11-023 S))

Superfund Litigation – Rockets, Fares and Fireworks Superfund Site, Rialto, California: Lead litigation counsel for a client pursued for perchlorate groundwater contamination in the Rialto-Colton Groundwater Basin in San Bernardino County, California. This multi-year litigation involved state judicial and administrative proceedings, as well as federal judicial and administrative proceedings. The parties included the cities of Rialto, California, and Colton, California, the County of San Bernardino, the Santa Anna Regional and State Water Board, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Defense, and over a dozen other alleged PRPs. The team extensively litigated CERCLA liability/divisibility defenses and a variety of corporate successor liability issues for multiple historic entities under the laws of multiple states. After a court-deferred resolution of successor liability issues for trial, we negotiated a favorable settlement for the client limited to implementation of an interim remedial action, utilizing a trust funded by other PRPs, including the Department of Defense, with continuing cost-sharing by the Department of Defense in capital and O&M costs. The interim action was negotiated with significant limits on scope of remedial action and re-openers and no past or future EPA oversight costs. (City of Colton v. American Promotional Events, et al., USDC, Central District California (5:09-cv-01864-SG-SS)).

National Multi-Purpose Power-Tool Dust Exposure Litigation: Lead national counsel defending manufacturer of multi-purpose power tools through three waves of mass tort litigation asserting claims for exposure to dust containing a variety of allegedly hazardous materials (asbestos, silica, wood and metal dusts) contained in work pieces and materials manufactured by other companies. Developed comprehensive, coordinated assertion of “no legal duty to warn” defense as a variation of evolving “component parts” and “bare metals’ defenses in state and federal claims asserted in multiple jurisdictions over nearly a decade. This strategy resulted in dozens of dismissals without payment in cases across the country and successful summary judgment decision eliminating litigation in certain jurisdictions and providing a basis for subsequent dismissals without payment in other jurisdictions. (Summary Judgment Decision – Abate v. Advanced Auto Parts, et al., Connecticut Superior Court, Bridgeport (FBT-CV10-6005674))

Related Press Coverage:

  • "Black & Decker Sinks Suit Claiming Tools Released Asbestos," Law360 (January 31, 2013).

Plumbing Fixture Manufacturer Asbestos Liability, Indemnity and Successor Liability Litigation: Lead national counsel defended a plumbing fixture manufacturer in connection with asbestos claims brought in multiple jurisdictions around the country. Conducted a forensic product-line investigation that established product defenses for the client on the merits, pursued indemnity claim against a corporate predecessor based on transaction documentation and successfully established an asset purchases defense to future cases (demonstrating direct liability of corporate predecessor). Obtained dismissals without payment on early asbestos claims on the merits. After unsuccessful indemnity litigation in California State Court with the predecessor, successfully asserted successor liability defense in future cases and obtained summary judgment (opposed by the predecessor) for the client establishing no liability for the client for product line, and direct liability of the predecessor for such claims. (Whelan v. A.O. Smith, et al., Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County (L-7161-12AS))

Federal Securities Fraud Litigation – U.S. District Court, District of Delaware: Lead trial counsel in a federal securities claim arising out of a failure to disclose fees due to financial advisers in connection with the purchase of a publicly traded healthcare information management company. The purchaser was required to reimburse undisclosed financial advisors millions of dollars in fees due as a result of the acquisition. Coordinated claims and parties to access predecessor D&O coverage for officers and a director for failure to disclose financial advisors in representations and warranties for transaction. Favorable settlement reached after successful opposition to motions to dismiss and extensive negotiation involving complex D&O coverage issues. (Stanley Black & Decker v. Gulian, et al., USDC, District of Delaware (1:12-cv-01342))

Related Press Coverage:

  • "Stanley B&D Sues Infologix Brass over $4.3M Merger Fees," Law360 (October 19, 2012).

Successor Liability Defense, Industrial Equipment Manufacturer – Asbestos Litigation: Lead national counsel for an industrial equipment manufacturer sued in multiple asbestos claims in multiple jurisdictions. Conducted a forensic product-line investigation to develop product defenses to the claims on the merits and developed comprehensive and coordinated assertion of the client’s asset purchaser successor liability defense. Thoughtful assertion of defense, after filing, after discovery, by motion or before trial resulted in aggregating track record of dismissals without payment from dozens of cases in most active asbestos dockets nationally. Momentum of accumulated dismissals has diminished new filings for the client and allowed for agreements to dismiss client in new cases, avoiding unnecessary defense expense.

Affiliations & Recognition

Professional Involvement

  • American Bar Association: Trial Tort and Insurance Practice Section

  • Baltimore City Bar Association

  • Baltimore County Bar Association

  • Defense Research Institute, Inc.

  • International Association of Defense Counsel

  • Maryland Defense Counsel, Inc.

  • Maryland Law Review: Editor

  • Maryland State Bar Association

Recognition

  • Baltimore Business Journal: 40 Under 40 Award (2007)

  • Best Lawyers in America®: Selected for inclusion in the areas of Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions - Defendants (2009-2019); Product Liability Litigation - Defendants (2013-2019)

  • Corporate Counsel and American Lawyer Magazines: Listed among the 2013 Top Rated Lawyers for Energy, Environmental and Natural Resources (2013)

  • Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating: AV Preeminent® Rated

  • Maryland Super Lawyers®: Selected for inclusion in the area of Class Action/Mass Torts, Personal Injury Defense: Products, Insurance Coverage (2009-2014); Class Action/Mass Torts (2013-2018); Named among the Top 100 Maryland Super Lawyers (2012-2014); Named among the Top 50 Maryland Super Lawyers (2011)

  • Super Lawyers® - Corporate Counsel Edition: Selected for inclusion in the area of Personal Injury Defense: Products (September 2009)

Blogs

Case Examples

Focus

Industries Served:

Practices:

Press Coverage

Publications

"Working Within and Outside the Administrative Record: Preserving and Advancing Challenges to Superfund Remedy Selection Decisions for Judicial Review," For The Defense (June 2018).
"Reincarnation Through Insurance: Recent Cases Address Viability of Suits Against Dissolved Corporations That Have Unexhausted Insurance Policies," Law.com Contributor Network (Co-Author) (June 30, 2014).

Speaking Engagements