Christopher D. Strunk

Partner

  • Office Contact Info
  • Biography

    Christopher Strunk is a partner in Gordon & Rees’ Oakland office with more than 20 years of experience litigating complex environmental and toxic tort disputes.

    He focuses on the defense of large, multi-party environmental matters, including mass tort and products liability litigation involving alleged toxic injury arising from asbestos, lead, mold, solvents, and other contaminants. He has represented microchip and technology companies, chemical and petrochemical companies, heavy equipment manufacturers, and the pesticide and fertilizer industry. Over the past five years, he has also developed a significant industrial hemp and cannabis practice, defending ancillary and plant-touching businesses in environmental disputes and litigation.

    Mr. Strunk has earned a Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent peer review rating in toxic torts, litigation and products liability each year from 2011 to the present.

    Environmental

    Mr. Strunk has extensive knowledge of relevant state and federal environmental statutes, with considerable experience in CERCLA and RCRA claims. He has also successfully defended numerous nuisance and trespass cases arising out of alleged site contamination, and aggressively defends clients in administrative enforcement actions arising out of alleged violations of state law and local ordinances.

    Toxic Tort

    Mr. Strunk is particularly experienced in the defense of toxic tort matters, having litigated dozens of cases from filing through final resolution in both state and federal court. He enjoys the challenge of developing creative, “out of the box” approaches to complex issues in order to obtain the best result possible for his clients, whether that means a reduced settlement, winning a dispositive motion, or obtaining a defense verdict. He has also served in a national counsel role for several product manufacturers, overseeing and managing complex litigation and spearheading the coordination of statewide discovery.

    Regulatory

    Recognizing that the best defense in a lawsuit is avoiding one in the first place, Mr. Strunk counsels clients on compliance with state and federal environmental statutes and assists clients in drafting product warnings and other liability-limiting documents in order to proactively limit downstream litigation risks. He also has experience developing internal policies and procedures for his clients to address environmental risks, including responding to the airborne or water-borne releases of contaminants. Finally, Mr. Strunk assists clients in managing environmental incidents and their aftermath, including appropriate response and reporting, managing health and safety issues, and working with regulators to address remediation issues.

    Business Transactions & Counseling

    In the commercial context, Mr. Strunk has experience with business litigation, including business torts, breach of contract claims, insurance coverage, and bankruptcy. He has counseled businesses, large and small, on all aspects of business formation, operation, and dissolution. In the process, he has drafted operating agreements, vendor agreements, policies and procedures, commercial leases, liability releases, rights agreements, and agreements governing ownership of intellectual property. Chris also has experience overseeing environmental due diligence in real estate transactions involving contaminated sites.

    Cannabis

    Mr. Strunk has represented clients in the industrial hemp and cannabis sector since 2014, assisting companies in complying with state environmental laws, managing downstream risk, and defending them in high-stakes product liability litigation. Mr. Strunk is nationally recognized for his work on the environmental issues facing the cannabis industry, including litigation risks, state regulations, and agency enforcement. He is the vice chair of programming for the American Bar Association’s TIPS Cannabis Law Committee, and serves on the Defense Research Institute’s 2019 Cannabis Law Conference Committee. His nationally-published work has been featured in the Defense Research Institute’s The Voice and in the American Bar Association Environmental Law Section's The Year in Review 2018. In 2018, DataBird Research Journal named Chris one of “250 Cannabis Law Experts.” In addition, he is a member of the National Cannabis Bar Association and the San Francisco Bar Association’s Cannabis Law Section.

    Admissions

    California
    Illinois
    Pennsylvania
    U.S. District Courts, Northern & Central Districts of California
    U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois

  • Practice Areas
  • Representative Experience

    Cannabis

    • Won a motion to dismiss a claim brought against an out-of-state hydroponics supplier to the cannabis industry in a high stakes toxic tort matter involving pesticide exposure with more than $10,000,000 in potential liability.
    • Successfully litigated a motion to compel arbitration in a seven-figure breach of contract and unfair business practices claim against a large, Nevada based hydroponics supplier, barring plaintiff from pursuing equitable relief and severely capping money damages and resulting in a complete dismissal of the claim.
    • Obtained a complete dismissal on behalf of a medical cannabis plant nutrient manufacturer defendant in a high-stakes catastrophic toxic injury claim on personal jurisdiction grounds. 
    • Drafted industry-appropriate product warnings for suppliers to the industry, including packaging and plant supplement manufacturers.
    • Provides guidance to the industrial hemp community on environmental liabilities in the wake of hemp legalization via the 2018 Farm Bill.
    • Defends cannabis growers in court and before state-level administrative agencies for alleged violations of environmental laws and ordinances.

    Environmental & Toxic Tort

    • Participated in a three-week complex federal CERCLA trial as a lead trial lawyer, resulting in a verdict which was less than 25% of plaintiff’s “bottom line” pre-trial demand.
    • Defense of a large microchip manufacturer in multi-jurisdiction mass tort litigation involving exposure to glycol ethers in “clean rooms” and contributing to multiple favorable settlements.
    • Successfully defense of a toxic injury claim on behalf of an industrial brake manufacturer involving an Australian resident plaintiff, necessitating investigation, discovery, and litigation on two continents and over $35,000,000 in claimed economic damages.
    • Prosecuted a complex breach of contract, business tort, and Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 claim on behalf of an equine business owner and obtaining a substantial settlement.
    • After obtaining concessions at deposition from plaintiffs' key expert, won summary judgment for an industrial equipment manufacturer upon reconsideration in an asbestos-related death claim involving more than $1.5 million in claimed economic damages.
    • Developed a detailed spill response protocol for a large technology company pursuant to relevant state and federal environmental statutes.
    • Drafted detailed product warnings and downstream liability limiting documents for an international pesticide and fertilizer manufacturer.
  • Publications & Presentations
    • How Green is the “Green Rush”? Recognizing the Environmental Concerns Facing the Cannabis Industry," Volume 21 (2019-2020) Vermont Journal of Environmental Law, co-author
    • Moderator, “It’s Not Easy Being Green: Environmental Issues in Cannabis,” presented at ABA TIPS conference From Regs to Riches: Navigating the Rapidly Emerging Fields of Cannabis and Hemp Law (Chicago, IL, October 2019)
    • “Environmental Issues in the Cannabis Industry: Evolving Regulations and Litigation for Marijuana, CBD, and Hemp.” Strafford Webinar (October 2019)
    • Featured Speaker, “Understanding the USDA Interim Hemp Regulations: A Nuts & Bolts Guide to Compliance,” presented by the National Industrial Hemp Council (Washington DC, November 2019)
    • Featured Speaker, “"The Current Legal Regulatory Framework on Industrial Hemp," presented at National Industrial Hemp Council Hemp Business Summit (Portland, OR, August 2019)
    • Featured Speaker, “Smoke on the Water: Environmental Issues in Cannabis,” Defense Research Institute Cannabis Law Conference (Washington, DC, May 2019
    • Gordon & Rees ETT Defense Insight Blog
      • Colorado Marijuana Distributor Wins Battle in “First of Its Kind” Pesticide Exposure Lawsuit, But Is the War Just Beginning?, Gordon & Rees ETT Defense Insight Blog (April 11, 2016)
      • California appellate court bucks national trend, allows plaintiff experts to opine that “every asbestos exposure is a substantial factor”, Gordon & Rees ETT Defense Insight Blog (March 4, 2016)
      • Welcome to the Hotel California? Out-of-state plaintiffs should check out and leave, says new decision, Gordon & Rees ETT Defense Insight Blog (June 22, 2015)
      • Mesothelioma Linked to Therapeutic Radiation, Gordon & Rees ETT Defense Insight Blog (March 4, 2015)
      • Is the MDL a “sophisticated misuser” of California law? California appellate court refuses to apply sophisticated user doctrine, rebukes Feds, Gordon & Rees ETT Defense Insight Blog (October 31, 2014)
      • An Enticement to Double Recovery?, Gordon & Rees ETT Defense Insight Blog (April 15, 2014)
    • National Spotlight on Asbestos and Equipment, Valve, & Component Manufacturers, HB Litigation Conference (December 15, 2010)
  • Education

    Education

    J.D., Villanova University School of Law, 1998

    • Associate Editor, Villanova Environmental Law Journal
    • Niagara International Law Moot Court Team

    B.A., cum laude, English and Political Science, Boston College, 1995

    • Officer, Fulton Debating Society

    Honors

    Top Rated Lawyer-AV® Preeminent™, Martindale-Hubbell

    The Legal 500, recognition in Environmental Litigation (2019)

  • Meet Me

    What do you enjoy most about your practice?

    Each case is like a puzzle.  It is extremely rewarding to be able to fit each of the pieces together to build a defense and obtain excellent results for the client, whether it be by winning on summary judgment, favorably resolving the case or taking the matter all the way through trial. 

    What is the secret to obtaining successful trial results?

    Understanding and appreciating the client's concerns as if they were your own, knowing how to argue a position persuasively and convincingly, and above all, extensive preparation and research.  There is no substitute for hard work at any phase of the trial process. 

    What are your favorite pastimes when you are not practicing law?

    Spending time with my family, whether it is skiing, camping or coaching soccer.  Also, I have been playing guitar, bass and and singing in local rock bands for more than a decade, and currently play in the San Francisco band Genevapop.  It's a great creative outlet and entertaining a crowd is exhilarating and fun.