Davis & Whitlock has prevailed on appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and obtained the reversal of a 2016 decision of the District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. The case involves four threatened grizzly bears who are confined to two tiny, virtually barren and archaic concrete pits at the Cherokee Bear Zoo in Cherokee, North Carolina. Davis & Whitlock, on behalf of two enrolled members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, brought suit against this roadside zoo in 2013, alleging that such treatment constituted the unlawful “take” of these protected grizzly bears in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act. On appeal, in a published opinion, the Fourth Circuit agreed with Davis & Whitlock and held that the District Court’s interpretation of the regulatory definition of “harass” under the Act – and specifically the definition’s exception for captive held wildlife – was legally incorrect, and vacated the District Court’s decision and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. This is a landmark decision, not only for the potential it presents for a better future for these four grizzly bears, but also because it is the first time a Circuit Court of Appeals has applied Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act to protected wildlife held in captivity. On behalf of our clients, we look forward to taking the next steps to ensure that these four bears are removed from these outdated pit enclosures and are allowed to live out the rest of their lives in an appropriate natural habitat with meaningful environmental enrichment.
Davis & Whitlock achieved an important settlement in a federal Clean Air Act citizen suit filed on behalf of landowners who reside in close vicinity to Scepter Greeneville Inc.’s secondary aluminum production facility in Midway, Tennessee. The settlement, which was accomplished through a Consent Decree approved by the Department of Justice and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, required that Scepter completely replace the hoods which capture the emissions from the furnaces used in the secondary aluminum production process at the Scepter facility. This will ensure that all emissions from the facility’s operations are properly routed to air pollution control devices prior to being released into the atmosphere. This settlement will result in improved air quality in East Tennessee, and will allow Plaintiffs and others in the vicinity of the Scepter facility to use and enjoy their properties without having to worry about the health concerns associated with the smoke, emissions, and noxious vapors previously emitted by the Scepter facility.
Davis & Whitlock and Gulf Oil Spill Litigators achieved a $2.7 million dollar settlement for the City of Key West and a $2 million dollar settlement for Keys Energy Services, the electric utility for the Lower Keys, on July 15, 2015. The settlements were part of an $18.7 billion global settlement between BP and federal, state, and local governments, which included civil penalties under the Clean Water Act, natural resource damages, and loss of revenues for state and local governments. The settlements were approved by the City of Key West and Keys Energy on July 14 and July 8, respectively.
Davis & Whitlock, together with three Vermont law firms, Langrock Sperry & Wool, LLP, Witten, Woolmington, Campbell & Bernal, P.C., and Barr Sternberg Moss Silver & Munson, P.C., are representing North Bennington, Vermont residents who have been impacted by the discovery of widespread perflourooctanoic acid, or PFOA, contamination on their properties around a former manufacturing plant in North Bennington last operated by Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics. The State of Vermont has linked the PFOA contamination to a former manufacturing plant, which was operated by ChemFab Corporation from approximately 1970 to 2000, when Saint-Gobain purchased ChemFab and took over manufacturing operations at the plant. To date, over 125 private drinking water wells of local residents have been sampled and found to contain levels of PFOA well in excess of Vermont’s health advisory level of 20 parts per trillion. For over 30 years, the plant was engaged in the manufacture of Teflon coated fiberglass fabrics, and PFOA was a key chemical used in this process. PFOA is toxic to humans, and a probable link between exposure to PFOA and a number of diseases has been established. For more more information, please call us at (828) 622-0044.