MAPC Victory: Court Throws Out Environmental Lawsuit Against San Gabriel Valley Gun Club

Attorneys with Michel & Associates, P.C. have been defending the San Gabriel Valley Gun Club since 2006 in an environmental case brought against the Club by its former landlord, Vulcan Mining Company (one of the largest miners of stone, sand, and gravel in quarries throughout the United States.) Over the last five years,Vulcan had taken an extremely aggressive “no holds barred” approach to the litigation. Now, thanks to the efforts of the MAPC legal team, and particularly MAPC attorney Scott Franklin, Vulcan’s lawsuit has been thrown out of court.

Vulcan terminated the Club’s shooting range lease in 2005, in part to draw attention away from environmental risks created by Vulcan’s own mining operation around the shooting range, and in part to placate Azuza politicians who were attempting to zone the range out of existence. After Vulcan terminated the lease, Vulcan relentlessly threatened the Club with litigation regarding the lead bullets left behind on the range. This, notwithstanding that Vulcan (and its predecessors) knowingly and repeatedly leased the property over the years as a shooting range-for the express purpose of operating a place to “deposit” lead bullets. But when the Club made a good faith effort in 2007 to start a lead removal project, Vulcan threw the contractor off the site and prevented the clean-up project from going forward. Vulcan then filed a federal lawsuit in 2008, even though Vulcan had not even gone to the applicable government regulator to determine what, if any, environmental cleanup was needed at the range (and has not to this day).

Vulcan’s lawsuit was, in many ways, a typical CERCLA lawsuit. The case included multiple discovery disputes (at least three of which were resolved in the Club’s favor based on “meet and confer” letters drafted by MAPC), approximately 25 depositions, numerous motions, detailed summary judgment briefing, and fact-intensive oral arguments at the hearing on the parties’ cross-motions for summary/partial judgment.

Because of MAPC’s work, the Club won a ruling dismissing Vulcan’s entire lawsuit on ripeness grounds. This ruling is not only important to the Club and its past members, but it is also likely to help solidify the developing body of case law that prevents a landowner from obtaining speculative relief in CERCLA cases, particularly when those cases are brought against shooting ranges.