Lester Levy

Lester J. Levy, Esq.

JAMS Mediator, Arbitrator, Referee/Special Master, Neutral Evaluator

Case Manager
John Graber
T: 212-607-2765
620 8th Ave, 34th Floor, New York, New York 10018


Lester J. Levy, Esq. is one of the most experienced environmental mediators in the country today.  He has resolved thousands of the most challenging environmental cases in most every area on environmental legal practice over the past twenty years.  He is the Founder and former-Managing Director of JAMS’ Environmental Dispute Forum.  Mr. Levy was selected by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to serve as a Neutral Allocator in its National Program.  Mr. Levy’s mediations involve individuals, private property owners, corporations, insurance carriers, and governmental agencies, including the U.S. EPA and Department of Justice, state and local regulatory agencies, and attorneys general.

Mr. Levy has a keen understanding of the scientific issues which underlie environmental disputes and works closely with technical experts to design creative and cost-effective solutions to complex environmental problems towards reaching a settlement. He understands the legal and practical advantages and limitations of environmental insurance coverage having successfully worked with all major insurance companies in settling large and small matters throughout the United States. Mr. Levy is often called upon to design and implement coordinated processes to resolve mass claims in environmental, toxic tort and other areas of law. Due to his vast experience in the fields of ADR and environmental law, the National Law Journal recognized Mr. Levy as a 2016 Energy & Environmental Trailblazer.

Representative Matters

CERCLA and State Superfund Mediation and Allocation Processes

  • Federal District Court-appointed mediator and special master to conduct settlement proceedings involving five intermingled plumes of groundwater PCE contamination resulting from discharges from multiple dry cleaners throughout city.  Parties included municipal government officials, business owners, private parties, environmental regulators, attorneys’ general and insurance carriers.  Mediation involved in-depth analysis of relevant hydrogeology, investigative and remedial technologies and the allocation of related costs among hundreds of parties and their insurance carriers.  Mediation also involved use of neutral expert and independent, party/policy holder-specific negotiations with that party's insurance carriers where helpful to facilitate settlement.  Governmental environmental regulators and attorneys’ general participated as invited guests where beneficial 
  • Mediated apportionment of liability for costs of investigation and remediation under CERCLA for TCE contamination in soil and groundwater large airplane manufacturing and servicing facility.  Mediation involved coordinated private sessions between individual PRPs and their insurance carriers
  • Arbitrated apportionment of liability under the GORE factors for contamination on and under lands, and in the waters, of the State of California emanating from open mine pits and dredge ponds used in largest gold mining operations over many years
  • Appointed by Federal District Judge in Houston, TX to mediate responsibility between owners, operators and generators for investigation and cleanup of PCP contaminated run-off ponds at two historical wood treating sites in Arkansas.
  • Mediated multi-party CERCLA superfund case involving historical DDT contamination in Richmond Harbor.  Remedy selection process included the use of harbor dredging technologies
  • Mediated cost recovery action by the US EPA against multiple dry cleaners for historical PCE groundwater contamination.  Mediation also involve claims against the manufacturers of PCE and dry cleaning machines
  • Mediated multi-billion dollar CERCLA cost recovery action and natural resource damages (NRD) claims relating to historical operations at various large-scale mining sites throughout the Western United States.  Mediation involved federal and state attorneys’ general, environmental regulators and consultants from multiple states and regions, US EPA and DOJ
  • Mediated claims by Municipal School District for costs of investigation and remediation of contiguous industrial parcels, including heavy metals, to be converted into a school site.  Mediation also involved evaluation of past eminent domain settlements
  • Mediated numerous cases allocation costs of environmental investigation and remediation among neighboring gas station sites and dry cleaning sites. 
  • Mediations often involve an evaluation of the most efficacious remedy and possible
  • Mediated numerous disputes arising from Phase I environmental investigations performed in connection with real estate sales and acquisition of real estate loans

Federal and State Enforcement Proceedings

  • Appointed Hearing Officer, in administrative action by public utility company against metal plating company for regulatory violations including excedences of environmental discharge standards
  • Mediated administrative action of first impression brought by US Department of Justice against international ship broker for TSCA relating to the transport and disposal of ships bearing PCBs in waters outside of the United States
  • Mediated state-law enforcement action by Office of Attorney General against a diesel oil and gasoline carrier and distributor that operated multiple service stations throughout the US
  • Mediated a state-law enforcement and contribution action against a lead battery recycling company and multiple generators at large soil contamination site
  • Appointed mediator and Special Master over penalty action involving violations of wastewater discharge limits at municipal wastewater treatment plant.  Action was brought by environmental interest group

Environmental and Toxic Torts and Property Damage Cases

  • Mediator and Settlement Master for settlement and allocation of personal injury and property damage awards to more than 10,000 residents living near a large petroleum refinery affected by 13-day airborne environmental release of a chemical catalyst used in refining gasoline products.  Settlement involved negotiation of a fixed fund from which claimants were proportionately compensated according to, inter alia, proximity to release point, location within plume and nature and severity of injury, through abbreviated hearings or pre-determined awards
  • Mediated settlement and oversaw distribution of settlement funds to 65,000 mass claimants impacted by airborne toxic plume resulting from a fire at a major oil and gas refinery
  • Adjudicated allocation of settlement funds, through abbreviated hearings, to 75 residential beach-front property owners for soil and groundwater contamination caused by leaking fuel lines running underneath their properties from refinery to oil tankers in waters off coastal community
  • Appointed Special Master over class of 4,000 residents in Milwaukee, Wisconsin alleging personal injuries and wrongful deaths allegedly caused by the introduction of Cryptosporidium contamination into the city’s drinking water system
  • Mediated claims by residential subdivision property owners relating to health risks and real property diminution in value allegedly due to construction of homes over former landfill property
  • Mediated hundreds of toxic tort, personal injury and property damage cases arising from the airborne release of chlorine gas from a rail car accident
  • Mediated disputes between franchisees and franchisors over costs of remediating soil and groundwater contamination at gasoline station
  • Mediated personal injury, property damage and environmental cleanup claims by neighboring landowners arising from lead contamination at battery reconditioning facility
  • Mediation, asbestos mesothelioma case involving shipyard worker and family members allegedly exposed by proximity to asbestos covered work clothes
  • Mediated mold exposure cases allegedly caused by inadequate ventilation in construction of new homes
  • Mediated claims by property owners relating to health and safety risks and real property diminution in value allegedly due to construction of homes over former landfill property

Environmental Insurance Coverage

  • Mediated Aerojet environmental insurance case on remand from California Supreme Court involving issues of first impression in connection with the interpretation of defense and indemnity provisions of multiple historical Comprehensive General Liability (CGL) insurance policies
  • Mediated nine-figure settlement of historical insurance coverage profile maintained by asbestos trusts, involving multiple layers of primary and excess insurance coverage over a 30- year period of claimed asbestos injuries.  Issues involved negotiation of allocation methods among multiple years of coverage, between primary and excess limits, including lost-policies, and defense vs. indemnity coverage
  • Mediated national coordinated environmental insurance coverage (“buy back”) action by railroad of its historical insurance program of primary and excess coverage by multiple insurers for losses at more than 600 environmentally contaminated sites throughout the United States
  • Arbitrated numerous fee disputes between attorneys and insurance companies over the reasonableness of time spent and rates charged in defense of insured party in underlying case
  • Mediated dispute between policy holder and insurer over the availability of defense and indemnity coverage for pre-tender fees and expenses
  • Mediated several disputes between policy holders and insurers that issued manuscript environmental stop gap and excess pollution remediation coverage
  • Appointed discovery master in a variety of insurance coverage cases in both federal and state courts to assist the parties in developing discovery plans and deciding discovery disputes as they arise.  Disputes include written and oral discovery and Rule 34 Requests for Inspection
  • Mediated cases with most environmental insurance issuers, present and past, involving lost policies, secondary evidence of coverage, defense vs. indemnity coverage, pilot remediation studies, exhaustion of limits and allocation of risk and settlement among co-primary and excess insurance policies, re-insurance, and pre-tender issues

NEPA, Water and Land Use

  • Mediated NEPA and CEQA dispute between major university, municipality, county and citizens groups over long-range (20-year) development plans (water, housing, traffic and population). The resolution addressed longstanding grievances, recalibrating the university-city relationship and establishing an innovative relationship model to resolve future disputes
  • Mediated settlement among citizens’ groups, developers, regulators, municipalities and counties over the construction of 11,000 luxury homes in an undeveloped tract of land.  Issues involved water quality and availability, transportation and related growth issues
  • Mediation between landowner/developer, municipalities, citizens groups and water quality agencies over the construction of a championship golf course.  Issues involved engineering feasibility, water quality and animal habitat

Other Matters

  • Facilitated the negotiation of between major oil companies and the State of Alaska environmental regulatory agencies over the renewal of the Oil Spill Contingency Plan in Anchorage, Alaska
  • Mediated professional liability matter between landowner and environmental consultant regarding the construction and operation of a landfill
  • Mediated professional liability dispute between single PRP and its environmental consultant over advice relating to dredging of Richmond Harbor
  • Mediated professional liability dispute between property owner and environmental consultant regarding alleged deficiencies in Phase I and Phase II real estate investigations
  • Mediated several Prop 65 cases, including SFO and LAX, alleging failure to adequately warn of chemical exposure risks
  • Completed Virtual ADR training conducted by the JAMS Institute, the training arm of JAMS
  • Energy & Environmental Trailblazer, National Law Journal, 2016
  • "ADR Swiftly Compensates Parties in Mass Actions and Toxic Tort Cases," New Jersey Law Journal, April 12, 2016
  • "Mediation Can Accelerate Cleanup," New Jersey Law Journal, March 7, 2016
  • Fellow, College of Commercial Arbitrators
  • Founder, JAMS Class Action and Mass Tort Settlement Program
  • Registered Mediator, United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York
  • Former Adjunct Professor, Alternative Dispute Resolution, University of San Francisco Law School
  • Member, ADR Panels for the Northern California Federal District Court, and the Superior Courts of San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, and San Mateo Counties
  • Member, ADR Panels for the Bankruptcy Courts in the Districts of Delaware and the Southern District of New York
  • Former Vice Chair & Member, Toxic Torts and Environmental Law Committee, Tort Trial & Insurance Section of the American Bar Association
  • Chair & Member, ADR Committee, American Bankruptcy Institute, 2005-2008
  • Vice Chair, ADR Committee of ABA Section on Environment, Energy and Resources (SEER)
  • Founder, JAMS Environmental Judicial College
  • Trained in mediation/negotiation at Harvard Law School (Roger Fisher, author of Getting to Yes)
  • Written and lectured on ADR to Bar Associations including the ABA, IBA, law firms, private companies, and law schools throughout the United States
  • “A Comment on Communication and Complex Case Mediation,” Daily Journal, September 17, 2010
  • "Mediator Creates Healthy Settlement Environment," ADR Profile, Daily Journal, March 23, 2007
  • Munger, Tolles & Olson, San Francisco and Los Angeles, California, 1986-1994
  • Law Clerk, Hon. Irving R. Kaufman, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 1985-1986
  • J.D., magna cum laude, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, 1985; Chief Articles Editor, Cardozo Law Review
  • B.Mus., San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 1981, Classical Guitar Performance and Composition

Counsel Comments

    • “Lester’s honest and direct style creates a trusting relationship and open dialogue with attorneys and their clients. He transforms the most complex and emotionally challenging disputes into a process the parties can use to constructively resolve their differences. He quickly identifies the key issues, sets a course of action including a range of possible settlements, then gets it done.”
    • "...There are a lot of people who are not in the courtroom...that ought to be thanked, in particular, Mr. Levy, the special master, who, from my observations...has done an outstanding job shepherding this through, a very lengthy, time-consuming, difficult litigation because of the number of parties; and he simply has done a wonderful job, bringing this to a resolution."   

      - Federal Judge

    • “Lester Levy’s effectiveness as a mediator is the result of both a keen mind and relatable personality. He handles complex issues and challenging personalities with equal aplomb. The hallmark of an effective mediator is evenhanded persistence, and Lester is highly skilled at keeping the parties engaged and moving toward a mutually acceptable resolution.”

    • “Lester takes the time to learn the nuances of each case so he can foster a constructive dialogue between the parties to achieve resolution. He always invests whatever it takes to make sure the case settles, never giving up until the documents are signed.”

    • “Lester is thoughtful, and takes his time to speak directly with each party to better understand the issues. He is deliberate and careful in communicating messages between sides.”

    • “He was very patient yet effective at permitting each side to put forth their arguments which led to a fair resolution for all parties. His knowledge of environmental litigation and the issue that surround it certainly helped move the mediation along.”



Practice Areas

Available nationwide


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