Jim Butler. (Photo: John Disney/ALM)

Plaintiffs firm Butler Wooten & Peak has opened a Savannah branch.

Butler Wooten, which has been based in Atlanta and Columbus since Jim Butler and Joel Wooten founded the firm in 1988, is opening the Savannah location to handle cases in the coastal region—and because of a new local affiliation.

Butler said he’s spending a lot more time in Savannah since he married local lawyer Kim Cofer Butler, nee Cofer Harris, on May 26. His new wife is of counsel at Savannah’s Ellis Painter Ratteree & Adams.

Ellis Painter is a defense firm, Butler noted, “for those who think I can’t get along with defense lawyers.”

“We’ve wanted a Savannah office for years. Now the need is inescapable,” Butler said.

“Years ago I tried a lot of cases there. I really like Savannah,” he added, saying he’s planning to do more work there.

“We’ve got cases pending there now, and lots of friends in the bar both in Savannah and elsewhere along the coast,” said Brandon Peak in a statement. “This will make helping people on the coast easier for us.”

The office will be located in downtown Savannah in the Realty Building at 24 Drayton St. Besides himself, Butler said, there’s room for an associate and a paralegal. “We anticipate staffing up and getting more space,” he added.

Butler Wooten has handled cases in two-thirds of Georgia’s 159 counties, according to the firm. Nationally, it has achieved 177 verdicts and settlements for over $1 million, including six verdicts over $100 million.

Wooten worked on a landmark wetlands pollution case in Brunswick that resulted in a $50 million settlement and cleanup agreement from Allied/LCP Chemical, now part of Honeywell International, for decades of contamination from a plant making chlorine and caustic soda for nearby paper mills. He and a squad of plaintiffs’ lawyers filed a suit by Glynn County and a separate class action of about 240 property owners against Honeywell.

The plant discharged hundreds of thousands of pounds of mercury and PCBs that drained through its outfall canal into the Turtle River estuary and the adjacent marshes. After the plant closed in 1994 the massive, 770-acre industrial site on the Brunswick waterfront was designated Georgia’s first Superfund site.

After almost 12 years of litigation, Honeywell settled both cases in 2006 for $50 million, plus additional cleanup at the site. Other plaintiffs lawyers on the suits were Augusta firms Bell & Brigham and Pam James Law, Greg Feagle, now of Ballard & Feagle, Bob Killian, now of the Killian Law Firm in Brunswick, and solo Gary Moore of St. Simons Island. King & Spalding defended Honeywell.

Honeywell and Georgia Power, which formerly had an operation on the site, entered into a consent decree for environmental remediation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice that was finalized in July 2017.

Wooten has his own coastal connections. He is a director of the Georgia Ports Authority and chair of Georgia’s Jasper Ocean Terminal joint venture with South Carolina.