David Hird is a retired partner in Weil’s Washington, D.C. office who concentrated his practice on litigation in the areas of environmental law, insurance, and general commercial litigation, including bankruptcy cases.
Mr. Hird was a former senior trial attorney with the Environmental Enforcement Section of the Department of Justice, where he was lead counsel on behalf of the United States on several of the seminal Superfund cases including Reilly Tar, Ottati & Goss, Vertac and Cannons Engineering, and received two Special Achievement Awards from the Attorney General, and two Special Commendations.
At Weil, Mr. Hird represented numerous clients in environmental litigation, including both enforcement actions brought by government and private litigation. In United States v. W.R. Grace (D. Montana), a case described by the government as its significant environmental criminal prosecution, Mr. Hird defended former W.R. Grace officer Robert Bettacchi, and obtained a jury verdict of acquittal on all charges, including a knowing endangerment charge under the Clean Air Act which could have resulted in 15 years imprisonment if he had been convicted. Mr. Hird obtained a judgment of no liability for Avatar Holdings in United States v. Avatar Holdings, Inc. (M.D. Fla.), where the government was seeking $5 million in penalties for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. In United States v. Anderson Greenwood & Co. (S.D. Tex.), Mr. Hird persuaded the Court to refuse to enter a Superfund Consent Decree between EPA and 117 other parties because Mr. Hird’s client was unfairly excluded from the settlement process. In United States v. CBS Corp., Mr. Hird renegotiated a Consent Decree with the government that resolved CBS’s liability at five Superfund sites at substantially reduced cost. Mr. Hird successfully represented Elementis Chemicals in recovering the costs of cleanup against the prior owner of the 14 contaminated properties.
Mr. Hird also represented companies in bankruptcy with substantial environmental liabilities, both litigating these issues and negotiating favorable settlements. In particular, he assisted such corporate debtors as Enron, Motors Liquidation Company (the “old” General Motors), Armstrong, Sunbeam, SemGroup, Aleris, and Circle K in resolving environmental liabilities in the course of their bankruptcy cases. He served on the Environmental Claims Working Group of the National Bankruptcy Conference.
Mr. Hird was recognized as a leading Environmental Law practitioner in Chambers USA.
Mr. Hird represented policyholders in numerous actions against insurance companies.
He successfully represented National Steel Corporation and Alumet in recovering environmental response costs against their insurers. He also represented International Wire Group in recovering product liability damages, Electrical Components, Inc., in recovering product recall expenses, and Guilford Mills in recovering property damage and business interruption losses. Mr. Hird advised debtors in bankruptcy about their insurance rights under various types of policies, including commercial liability, director and officer liability, fiduciary liability, political risk, and crime policies. In addition, Mr. Hird represented insurance companies in defending against suits brought to challenge their marketing practices and in reinsurance disputes.
Commercial and Bankruptcy Litigation
Mr. Hird represented numerous clients in commercial litigation. He represented clients enforcing security interests, guarantees, letters of credit, and contract rights in cases in federal and state courts, bankruptcy courts, and arbitration proceedings. He represented debtors in major chapter 11 cases, including Washington Mutual, Nortek, Armstrong, SemGroup, Enron, WorldCom, and Crescent Resources.
Mr. Hird authored of Chapter 4 “Federal Brownfields Legislation” in the ABA Book:Brownfields: A Comprehensive Guide to Redeveloping Contaminated Property (3d Ed. 2010), edited by Todd S. Davis and Scott A. Sherman.
Mr. Hird holds an A.B. from Cornell University, an A.M. from the University of Michigan, and a J.D. from New York University, where he served as Associate Editor of the New York University Law Review and was a member of the Order of the Coif. He received the Edmond Cahn award for his work as an editor of the Law Review.
- Elementis Chemical Inc. v. TH Agriculture & Nutrition LLC – Mr. Hird served as lead counsel for the plaintiff in this recently filed action seeking to recover under CERCLA and the terms of the contract the costs of environmental remediation which the plaintiff had incurred at 14 sites acquired from the defendants under an Asset Purchase Agreement.
- United States v. Viacom Inc. – Along with his partner David Berz, Mr. Hird was principal counsel for Viacom (formerly Westinghouse Electric Corporation) in this Superfund case involving five sites allegedly contaminated with PCBs from a former Westinghouse manufacturing plant. In this case, the parties had agreed to a remedy in a 1985 consent decree. Mr. Hird represented Viacom in proceedings with respect to the selection of an alternative remedy and in response to the government’s attempt to revive claims which it relinquished in the 1985 consent decree. Mr. Hird also resisted actions by citizen groups to impose even more rigorous cleanup obligations on Viacom.
- International Wire Group, Inc. v. National Union Fire Ins. Co. – Member of the team for International Wire Group (IWG) in a lawsuit seeking insurance coverage for over $20 million of products liability claims. Following a three month trial, the Court ruled that IWG was entitled to coverage and awarded IWG attorney fees. Mr. Hird was principally involved in developing the litigation strategy, and supervised the drafting of the briefs on the principal coverage issues including choice of law, misrepresentation, known loss and attorney’s fees.
- National Union Fire Ins. Co. v. International Wire Group, Inc. – IWG prevailed on a motion to dismiss this case filed by an insurer seeking a declaratory judgment that it had not acted in bad faith. Mr. Hird was responsible for the winning briefs.
- Daiwa Special Asset Corp. v. Desnick – Mr. Hird was a member of the litigation team on behalf of Daiwa in this action to enforce a loan guaranty by the owner of a bankrupt hospital. Daiwa prevailed on a summary judgment motion, obtaining the total amount of its claim of $5.9 million, plus attorney’s fees. Mr. Hird was the principal drafter of the summary judgment briefs, along with his partner Peter Isakoff.
- In re Greater Southeast Hospital – Member of the trial team representing Daiwa in an adversary proceeding in a hospital’s bankruptcy case. The hospital was seeking to set aside Daiwa’s security interest by asserting the superior rights of another security interest. After setbacks to Daiwa’s theory in the initial proceeding, Mr. Hird developed the theory which ultimately prevailed, resulting in a ruling that Daiwa’s security interest was valid and superior. Daiwa ultimately recovered over $10 million.
- United States v. Avatar Holdings Inc. – Lead counsel for defendant Avatar Holdings Inc. and co-counsel for its subsidiary Florida Cities Water Company in an action brought by the United States for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. At the outset of the case, the United States demanded $5 million in civil penalties from the two defendants. But after a two week trial, Avatar Holdings was found not liable and Florida Cities was found liable only for $310,000. Mr. Hird was the principal trial counsel for Avatar and assisted with respect to Florida Cities.
- United States v. Anderson Greenwood & Co. – Lead counsel for Westinghouse in this Superfund action in which Westinghouse succeeded in persuading the court not to enter a Superfund consent decree between EPA and 117 other parties because it was unfair to Westinghouse. Although EPA’s documentation showed that Westinghouse was responsible for less than 0.01% of the total volume of waste at the site, EPA and the other companies wanted Westinghouse to pay 15% of the multi-million dollar cleanup of the site because Westinghouse was alleged to be the sole cause of PCBs at the site. Because Mr. Hird was able to undermine the credibility of the EPA’s witnesses and show that PCBs at the site must have come from other sources, the court refused to enter the consent decree because of its unfairness to Westinghouse. Faced with the court’s action, EPA allowed Westinghouse to settle for $15,000.
- National Steel Corp. v. CNA and CNA v. National Steel Corp. – Lead counsel for the policyholder National Steel in these two lawsuits seeking coverage for National Steel’s environmental liabilities at plants and facilities around the country. Through his efforts, National Steel prevailed in having the case decided in its preferred forum. Thereafter, National Steel was able to negotiate favorable settlements with each of its carriers. Although the terms of the individual settlement are confidential, the total amount recovered was in excess of $20 million.
- Alumet v. CNA – Lead counsel for Alumet in an insurance coverage action for environmental costs at a manufacturing facility in Colorado. Through Mr. Hird’s efforts, the client prevailed on a motion for summary judgment on defense costs, and settled the action for a substantial amount in a confidential settlement.
- Guilford Mills v. Factory Mutual Ins. – Lead counsel for Guilford Mills in suing an insurerfor property damage and business interruption due to a hurricane damaging its plants. Mr. Hird negotiated a favorable settlement for Guilford Mills.
- Solow v. DeStefano – Mr. Hird was a member of the trial team in this action involving a dispute between two members of a limited liability company created to develop oil and gas properties. The opposing parties demand $87 million. After a month and half jury trial, the case settled on highly favorable but confidential terms.
- United States v. Pfaltz & Bauer – Lead counsel for defendant in action brought by the United States seeking civil penalties for the alleged violation for RCRA. Although the government demanded $2.75 million in civil penalties at the outset of the case, Mr. Hird was able through development of the facts to expose weaknesses in the case so that the government ultimately settled for less than $200,000.
- In re Circle K Corp. – Lead counsel for Circle K, a debtor in bankruptcy, in a dispute with the United States and 29 state governments concerning claims for environmental clean up costs at underground storage tank sites around the country. Circle K prevailed before the Bankruptcy Court and District Court with respect to its right to reject leases for sites at which underground storage tanks were located. Mr. Hird then negotiated a favorable settlement for Circle K with the governmental parties.
- Circle K Corp. v. Southland Corp. – Lead counsel for Circle K in an adversary proceeding against Southland to recover the costs of environmental clean up at sites sold by Southland to Circle K. Mr. Hird negotiated a favorable settlement for Circle K in the amount of $8 million.
- SemGroup Corporation – Represented oil and natural gas pipeline, terminal and storage operator SemGroup Corporation and its subsidiaries in their $500 million senior secured exit facility.
- SemGroup Corporation – Represented oil and natural gas pipeline, terminal and storage operator SemGroup Corporation and its subsidiaries in their $300 million second lien secured term loan exit facility.