Environmental Tort Defense
Bethany J. Ring
Practice Area Leader
In addition to her legal education and accomplishments, Bethany Ring holds a graduate degree in mathematics and brings an insider’s perspective from her seventeen years of forensic experience in the engineering and environmental sciences, including hydrology, flooding, earth movement, and groundwater transport/contamination.
Ms. Ring’s integration of law and science is especially valuable to clients whose cases require complex problem solving, analysis of intricate data, and evaluation of expert investigations for scientific, environmental, and regulatory issues. Additionally, she can provide clients with understandable explanations of scientific concepts during various phases of litigation and can advance legal strategies that depend on technical expertise.
Ms. Ring’s work has been published in both legal and scientific journals following several decades in forensic civil engineering where she specialized in hydrology and hydraulics. Her work ranged from Master Plans of Drainage for Southern California cities and counties, to conducting analysis and research on water-related matters in preparation for litigation, to management of case project teams for expert witness foundation development. She has worked on litigation matters involving surface flow analysis, including debris flows, mud flows, rock falls, flooding, flash floods, low water crossings, vehicular hydroplaning, stream gage analysis, flood stage analysis, and channel capacity analysis. Ms. Ring has also dealt with structural failures leading to both sudden and gradual inundations, such as dam breaks, levee breaches, channel over-topping, subsidence, landslides, and sink holes. In association with many of these analyses, she has studied extreme storm events, rainfall return frequencies, RADAR calibration and ground-truthing.
Ms. Ring rounds out her experience having examined groundwater contamination, groundwater transport, chemical degradation in groundwater, infiltration, and leaching. While Ms. Ring has spent significant time analyzing and modeling various hydrologic and hydraulic features, she also has considerable experience in the field ferreting out the physical evidence often necessary to substantiate expert witness analysis.
While attending Chapman University Fowler School of Law, Ms. Ring earned top academic honors and served as the senior symposium editor of Chapman Law Review. Working with the Constitutional Jurisprudence Clinic, Ms. Ring drafted and submitted three United States Supreme Court briefs, two in support of writ of certiorari and one on merits. She has had two articles published in the Chapman Law Review and was recently invited to speak at the Chapman Law Review Symposium on the Non-Delegation and Chevron Deference Doctrines.
- March 2023 – present, Orange County Waste Management Commissioner.
- 2020 – present, Associate Attorney, Graves & King LLP
- 2019 – 2020, Law Clerk, Graves & King LLP
- 2018 – 2019, Law Clerk, Meyers Nave
- 2017 – 2020, Research Assistant, Donald Kochan, Associate Dean for Research & Faculty Development, Chapman University Fowler School of Law
- 2002 – 2017, Senior Forensic Scientist, Hromadka & Associates
- 2001 – 2002, Forensic Scientist, Integral Consultants, Inc
- 2000 – 2001, Scientist, Exponent Failure Analysis Associates, Inc
- Riverside Bar Association
- Orange County Bar Association
- Los Angeles County Bar Association
- American Planning Association
- Environmental Law Institute
- American Bar Association – Environment, Energy and Resources Section, State & Local Govt Section, Science & Technology Law Section
Publications & Awards
- American Planning Ass’n, Planning and Law Division 36th Annual Smith-Babcock- Williams Student Writing Competition, 3rd place nationally
- CALI Excellence for the Future awards (highest grade in law school class): Civil Procedure, Legal Research & Writing, Wills & Trusts, First Amendment & Equal Protection, Constitutional Jurisprudence Clinic
- Ring, B., Chevron Deference: An Empirical Review of Rigor of Application at the District Court Level, Chapman Law Review (in print, Spring 2021)
- Ring, B., Ripples in the Pond: United States Supreme Court Decision Impacts v. Reality, 23 Chapman Law Review 205 (Winter 2020)
- Rao, P., Hromadka II, T.V., Huxley, C., Souders, D., Jordan, N., Yen, C.C., Bristow, E., Biering, C., Horton, S., Espinosa, B. (prior married surname), Assessment of Computer Modeling Accuracy in Floodplain Hydraulics, International Journal of Modeling and Simulation (December 20, 2016)
- Espinosa, B., Hromadka II, T.V., Perez, R., Comparison of Radar Data Versus Rainfall Data, Methods X2 Elsevier (Oct 2015) e423-e431
- Hromadka II, T.V., McInvale, D., Phillips, M., Espinosa, B., Assessment of Ice Volume Changes in the Cryosphere via Simplified Heat Transport Model, American Journal of Climate Change (December 2014) Vol. 3, No 5, p. 421-428
- Hromadka II, T.V., McInvale, D., Gatzke, B., Phillips, M., Espinosa, B., A Cumulative Departure Model of the Cryosphere during the Pleistocene, ASCE Journal of Cold Regions Engineering (April 2014)
- Hromadka II, T.V., Phillips, M., Rao, P., Espinosa, B., Hromadka III, T., Rainfall Infiltration Return Frequency Estimates, Journal of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences (October 2013) p. 595-609
- Hromadka II, T.V., Phillips, M., Rao, P., Espinosa, B., Perez, R., Barton, M., What Rainfall Return Frequency?, Journal of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences (July 2013) Vol. 3, No. 3, p. 385-396
- Espinosa, B., Water Quality Data for Los Angeles & Ventura Counties, Floodplain Management Conference – Lake Tahoe (September 23-26, 2001) (presentation)
- Martelli, M., Johnston, B. (maiden name), Global attractivity and forward neural networks, Applied Mathematics Letters (1995) Vol. 9, No. 4, p. 77-83
- Juris Doctor, Chapman University Fowler School of Law, 2020 (Cum Laude • Senior Symposium Editor, Chapman Law review 2019-2020 • Staff Editor, Chapman Law Review 2018-2019 • Honor Council Chair, 2019-2020 • Honor Council Committee, 2018-2019 • Office of Law School Advocate, 2017-2018)
- Master of Arts, Mathematics, California State University Fullerton, 2001
- Bachelor of Arts, Mathematics, California State University Fullerton, 1996
Graves & King offers litigation services for defense of environmental and toxic torts, specializing in soil, air, and water movement and contamination transport, including: Landslide & Subsidence, Inundation & Intrusion, Soil/ Water/Air Contamination, Transport Mechanisms, Environmental Compliance , and Remediation Analysis & Oversight. Our expertise in the field of environmental tort and regulation is founded on our attorney scientific background and experience as well as our excellent working relationships with environmental experts.
The ground beneath our feet is something we take for granted every day. It’s not until something changes – landslide, sink hole, contamination discovery – that we actually look down and re-evaluate this medium we have been happily ignoring as we walk, drive, and build. In Southern California, our landslides come in cycles, mostly on the heels of intense rain or in post-fire areas exposed to minor or moderate rain. Additionally, the San Gabriel mountains are geologically young and therefore are subject to a higher degree of shed (i.e., rock falls, debris flows etc.) than their older counterparts.
In every landslide case, it is essential to:(1) determine how the soil matrix became weakened, (2) identify all mechanisms contributing to the failure, (3) evaluate the scope of damage (past, on-going, etc), and (4) analyze the legal ramifications for all parties contributing to the failure.
Subsidence is frequently the result of groundwater depletion in areas where the aquifer is close to the ground surface. Issues with water have plagued California for hundreds of years and as a result, our groundwater aquifers are highly regulated. Nonetheless, over-pumping can deplete an aquifer to the point the ground above loses strength and begins to buckle and sink. Localized sink holes can also develop where an underground pipe has developed a leak and supporting soil has been washed away.
Soil contamination from activities that either pour contaminants directly on the ground surface to be absorbed into the soil or that expose the ground surface to hazardous materials long enough for the contaminants to work into the soil matrix. These contaminants include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), PCBs, asbestos, and metals, among others. Soil contamination analysis includes testing of the soil matrix for the presence of compounds in the matrix as well as testing of the air occupying the voids in the soil for the presence of contaminated soil vapor.
Extensive environmental regulations, promulgated by the EPA and the State, dictate how the parties who may have contributed to the contamination (known as PRPs: Potential Responsible Parties) can be held responsible their past actions and how each PRP must contribute to the mitigation process.
Surface water inundation includes events caused both by nature and by man. Natural events, often resulting from rain fall, snow melt, or ice jams, can cause flooding, debris flows, mud flows, rock falls, flash floods, and overbank flow, among others. When man’s actions are involved, inundation can result from dam breaks, levee breaches, controlled releases, and backwater effects. Sometimes man’s actions are taken deliberately – sometimes man’s inaction is to blame.
Graves & King has extensive experience with surface water inundation cases, especially with flooding and debris flows. The facts of these cases often give rise to inverse condemnation claims which the firm has handled adroitly for decades.
Infiltration can come from either surface water or groundwater. Infiltration usually refers to the gradual seepage of water through semi-porous media into areas where water is unwelcome. This can include weeping through walls, wicking through concrete, and trickling through cracks in structures. The process can take years or days and the damage can range from the annoyance of staining to the debilitation of structure flooding and weakening of structural components.
Subsurface structures (basements, underground parking, structural footings, etc.) are especially prone to infiltration, usually when the presence of water in the surrounding soil has not been accounted for or has been severely underestimated. Infiltration cases often come to light under the guise of construction defect matters. Nonetheless, these cases require an understanding not only of the construction process giving rise to the issue, but the ability to analyze the original plans for the project, as well as the impacts of any post-permitting change orders.
Water contamination begins many times with surface water, but left unabated, eventually reaches groundwater. Contaminants most likely found in water are chlorinated solvents (TCE, PCE, TCA, etc), MTBE, perchlorate, and freon, to name a few. Surface water contamination can be easier to identify and mitigate than groundwater contamination.
Groundwater contamination is assessed by sampling and modeling. Several wells are usually drilled and samples are taken from each well and tested for the spectrum of contaminants. Then the groundwater aquifer is studied to determine its relevant characteristics and a computer model is created to mimic the subsurface regime. Using contaminant measurements taken over time, movement of contaminants through the aquifer is modeled to help predict the extent of the contaminated plume, the plume’s trajectory, and the ideal sites for mitigation wells.
Particulate Matter (or PM) refers to soil and dust particles that become entrained in the wind and carried to undesirable locations. PM is identified by a threshold size. For example, PM10 is entrained particles with diameters of 10 micrometers or smaller whereas PM2.5 refers to much smaller particles (2.5 micrometer or smaller) which can penetrate deeper into the lungs and even pass into the blood stream. PM particles can become airborne through farming practices, loading & hauling processes, outdoor grinding or sawing, construction site activities, mining, or via natural phenomena such as wind over a dry riverbed.
Contaminants are often carried in the air as particulate matter. Analysis of PM contamination requires laboratory testing of the PM as well as clear establishment of the prevailing wind patterns on the day(s) of entrainment. From there, experts work up-wind to identify all possible sources for the PM and thereby all possible contaminating parties.
A myriad of environmental regulations have been promulgated over the last several decades by the State and Federal government with the goal of protecting soil, water, air, and other natural resources. Most regulations aim to control, limit, or exclude discharges of pollutants into the environment. Environmental laws also address the handling of hazardous wastes. Environmental compliance refers to an entity’s active observance of, and conformity with, such laws to avoid violations and governmental intervention. Our goal is to advise our clients on how to avoid environmental regulation infractions and, if one does occur, to help our clients navigate the labyrinth of mitigation to re-establish compliance. We are well-versed in environmental statutes and procedures, including, for example, CERCLA, NEPA/CEQA, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act.