(l-r) Matthew Pawa, Benjamin Krass, and Wesley Kelman.
(l-r) Matthew Pawa, Benjamin Krass, and Wesley Kelman. (Courtesy photos)

Plaintiffs firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro has bolstered its environmental practice and added an office just outside Boston, absorbing the three-lawyer Pawa Law Group in an effort to pursue climate change litigation against companies.

Seattle-based Hagens Berman announced the move Tuesday, saying that the three former members of Pawa Law—Matthew Pawa, Benjamin Krass and Wesley Kelman—would help Hagens Berman “renew its focus” on environmental law.

Pawa will become co-chair of Hagens Berman’s environmental practice, alongside firm co-founder and managing partner Steve Berman. Krass and Kelman will serve as of counsel. All three will remain based in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, which will become the second Hagens Berman office in the Boston area. The firm’s other Boston office is in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In its announcement, Hagens Berman touted its past environmental work, describing it as an area that was critical to the firm’s early success. Among other cases, Hagens Berman said it had a hand in litigation stemming from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. With the trio of former Pawa Law lawyers, Hagens Berman will focus part of its environmental practice on taking on fossil fuel companies that allegedly contributed to global warming, the firm said.

“Matt, Ben and Wes bring with them more than a decade of nationally recognized victories for the planet—a track record that helped lay the foundation of global warming law,” said Berman, the firm’s managing partner. “Our merged effort will be broader and more robust—a dedicated effort that is in dire need, as corporations inflict global warming damages on the environment and on the public.”

Outside of global warming cases, Hagens Berman’s newly-bolstered environmental practice plans to represent government and private clients in cases alleging toxic contamination of property and cases in which consumers were misled about environmental issues, according to the firm.

The former Pawa Law lawyers have recently played a role in lawsuits related to groundwater contamination from the gasoline additive MTBE. Pawa, Krass and Kelman represented the state of New Hampshire for more than a decade starting in 2003, helping the state pursue MTBE litigation against the likes of ExxonMobil and Shell Oil Co. Those cases resulted in settlements worth more than $130 million and a $236 million verdict against ExxonMobil that the New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld in October 2015.

In Tuesday’s announcement, Hagens Berman said the Pawa-led team also represents the states of Vermont and Rhode Island in pending MTBE contamination cases that they’ll take with them to their new firm.