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Partner Norman M. Hirsch has been recognized by The National Law Journal as one of 11 “winning” trial lawyers nationwide who are “model(s) of the modern litigator” with “a great story to tell.” Mr. Hirsch, along with a trial team that included Partners David Jimenez-Ekman and Christopher Tompkins and Associates April Otterberg and Anne Ray, was honored for his $56.859 million trial victory on behalf of the Firm’s client Energy Northwest in Energy Northwest v. United States.
The case arose out of the U.S. Department of Energy's failure to accept and dispose of spent nuclear fuel. Energy Northwest owns and operates the Columbia Generating Station, a 1,150-megawatt nuclear reactor located outside of Richland, Washington. As required by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, in 1983, Energy Northwest and the DOE entered into a contract that required the DOE to accept and dispose of spent fuel generated by utilities with nuclear power plants beginning in 1998, in exchange for Energy Northwest's ongoing payment of fees. Not only did the DOE fail to meet its 1998 deadline, to date it still has not met its obligation to remove any spent nuclear fuel from any nuclear utility site. As a result, Energy Northwest had to spend millions of dollars to build additional facilities to store the waste that would have otherwise been removed by the government. Energy Northwest sued to recover costs related to the building of the additional storage.
Approximately 70 similar lawsuits have been filed by nuclear utilities across the country. In this case, the Firm won a summary judgment ruling on liability in 2006; the damages issues were tried in a three-week bench trial in 2009; and the court’s award was made in February 2010. The NLJ article noted that “although the Energy Northwest win was not the largest award to a nuclear utility in these cases…it was the only case so far in which a nuclear utility recovered its entire claim.”
Additional members of the Energy Northwest team included Partner William D. Heinz; Associates Joshua Rafsky, Christine P. Benavente, David E. Hutchinson, Michael H. Margolis, and Jacob P. Zipfel; and Of Counsel Lisa M. Eddington.
In the NLJ profile, Mr. Hirsch and the trial team attributed their victory to simplifying the complex and highly technical case into a “classic breach-of-contract case,” casting the case in realistic terms, showcasing the experience and expertise of the client’s engineers and executives who testified at trial, using video animations at trial to bring spreadsheets to life, and anticipating and preparing for various complex scenarios affecting damages.
Mr. Hirsch is a partner in the Firm’s Litigation Department and a member of the Professional Responsibility and Antitrust Litigation Practices. He was the principal attorney for Exelon Generation LLC in lawsuits against the United States government which, as in the Energy Northwest case, sought substantial damages for the government’s breach of contract in failing to remove spent nuclear fuel from Exelon nuclear reactors. Those cases settled in August 2004 on very favorable terms for the client.
This is the second year in a row that the Firm has been recognized in the NLJ’s annual profile of successful litigators. In 2009, a trial team led by David J. Bradford, Co-Chair of the Litigation Department, was honored by the publication for their trial victory on behalf of client Equity Lifestyle Properties.