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William E. Coughlin Partner

Bill chairs the Environmental Group and also heads the firm’s Environmental Litigation and Enforcement practice.  For more than 30 years, Bill has represented business and public sector clients involved in litigation and administrative enforcement proceedings under Superfund, RCRA, the Clean Water Act, the Clear Air Act, and corresponding state laws and regulations.

His notable environmental cases include the successful defense of a major Ohio municipality against federal and state Clean Water Act enforcement claims and the recovery by a publicly-traded metals manufacturer of $20 million from its seller to pay for plant site remediation.

Bill’s business litigation experience includes winning multi-million dollar jury verdicts and judgments in tortious interference, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud trials; and winning defense jury verdicts and judgments in breach of contract, minority shareholder oppression, fraud, and licensing trials.

Recognized as a “Leading Lawyer for Business” in Chambers USA (“displays thorough and creative trial skills;” “strong environmental legal knowledge;” “an expert on environmental litigation”), Bill has also obtained millions of dollars for claims involving the purchase and sale of businesses, breach of representations and warranties, and shareholder redemption rights. Bill holds an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings.

Examples of Bill’s work include:

Business, Corporate and Commercial

  • A $3.8 million jury verdict on tortious interference and breach of fiduciary duty claims brought by the thwarted buyer of a defunct business
  • A $1.1 million jury verdict, including interest and attorney’s fees, on a contested joint and several promissory note
  • A $3.7 million jury verdict for a breach of commercial supply agreement
  • A jury verdict in one of the first cases to apply the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods
  • A defense jury verdict on minority shareholder oppression and breach of fiduciary duty claims by a terminated shareholder of a closely-held corporation
  • A dismissal, affirmed on appeal, of breach of fiduciary duty and fraud claims brought by redeemed shareholders of a closely-held corporation
  • An emergency injunction enforcing a settlement agreement requiring the payment of a work-out fee pending the sale of the business
  • Emergency injunctive relief terminating a franchisee where the franchisee engaged in unauthorized use of the franchisor’s IT assets
  • A jury verdict (with the subsequent award of attorney’s fees) enforcing indemnity obligations on behalf of the buyer for breach of financial and accounting representations and warranties by the seller incident to the sale of a manufacturing business
  • Temporary and preliminary injunctive relief through and after a consolidated trial on the merits to enforce a former employee’s covenants not to complete and not to disclose trade secrets
  • A bench trial judgment, affirmed on appeal, rejecting a founding partner’s claims to royalties on the sale of updated products by an IT hardware manufacturer
  • Dismissal, affirmed on appeal, of an inventor’s RICO and associated claims alleging an obligation to pay royalties under a licensing agreement
  • Summary judgment under the parole evidence rule against claims that no payment was owing where the claimant alleged the contract had failed of its essential purpose
  • Summary judgment, affirmed on appeal, for the seller of a commercial building against a claimed commission by the broker for an unsuccessful bidder
  • Emergency vacatur of an ex parte TRO requiring a manufacturer to continue to supply product after its facility had been disabled.

Environmental

  • Dismissal, affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, of federal and state law cost recovery, contribution, unjust enrichment and declaratory judgment claims brought by plaintiff PRPs against a defendant PRP sealant manufacturer alleged to have disposed of hazardous substances at a large Superfund industrial waste site in southwest Ohio
  • A 2% allocation of liability for the largest owner/operator in a multi-party Superfund site allocation arbitration where opposing parties sought to impose a 20-25% share
  • A de minimis consent decree settlement for a PRP at a $1 billion Superfund site; also served as coordinating counsel for the de minimis PRPs for the affirmance on appeal
  • Voluntary dismissal of a defendant manufacturer from a putative class action involving allegations of TCE subsurface soil and groundwater contamination of, and vapor intrusion into, residential properties
  • Zero dollar settlement, after opening statements at jury trial, against owner’s claims that national environmental engineering and consulting firm had negligently failed to close a hazardous waste landfill
  • Represented paints and coatings, metals, chemicals, plastics, and industrial gases manufacturers as PRPs at Superfund sites in 25 states

Clients whom Bill has represented include:  Praxair, Union Carbide, Neenah Foundry, City of Youngstown (OH), Chase Brass & Copper, American Campus Communities, RPM International, Key Bank, Carboline, Sunoco, TT Electronics, Travel Centers of America, Waste-Quip, DAP, Stackpole, Complient, Hukill Environmental, Air Products, FirstEnergy/Cleveland Electric Illuminating, Pressco, Figgie International, AECOM/Metcalf & Eddy, American Spring Wire, Meister Media, and the State of Ohio Department of Transportation.

Bill has served as a member of several charitable, civic, and educational boards and committees, including as a Trustee and Executive Committee member of the Diocese of Cleveland Catholic Charities Services Corporation and as chairman of its Government Relations Committee.  Bill chairs Georgetown University’s Northeast Ohio Undergraduate Alumni Admissions Committee, and he is a founding member and 2013 Chairman of the Loyola Club, Greater Cleveland’s Jesuit Alumni Network.

An experienced author and speaker, Bill has addressed the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s Annual Environmental Law Symposium and its Business Litigation Institute on several occasions.  His published works include “Ohio’s Environmental Audit, Qualified Privilege, and Limited Immunity Act,” published in the Cleveland Bar Journal.

Bill served as a judicial clerk with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1983 to 1984.  He began his tenure with Calfee in 1984, becoming a partner in 1991.

>> View Bill’s PowerPoint Presentation on Climate Change

>> View Bill’s PowerPoint Presentation on Carbon Regulation

>> View Bill’s Presentation: Federal Civil Rules of Procedure Update