Real Estate and Environmental Litigation

Our attorneys regularly handle all types of real estate and environmental conflicts. We understand that land is unique and that real estate disputes create challenging legal, financial and sometimes even emotional issues. Our litigators have the ability, resources and trial experience necessary to resolve these challenging issues in a creative and cost-effective manner.

We have successfully resolved cases on behalf of developers, contractors, buyers, sellers, landlords, commercial tenants, municipalities and utilities. We regularly handle zoning and subdivision disputes and appeals before local permitting boards, the Housing Appeals Committee for affordable housing projects under Chapter 40B, and in court. We have litigated numerous disputes arising out of the purchase and sale of real estate, including claims for breach of contract, misrepresentation and unpaid commissions. We have also litigated a variety of matters involving title, adverse possession, boundary disputes, title insurance, tax abatement and eminent domain matters.

Our Firm has a vibrant environmental litigation practice where we represent clients in all aspects of environmental litigation, enforcement, regulatory appeals and permitting. These cases include cleanup disputes, cost recovery actions and related environmental insurance claims, as well as enforcement and permitting matters involving air, water, wetlands and endangered species. From cutting-edge issues involving emerging contaminants like PFAS and 1,4 dioxane at landfills and manufacturing facilities, to more common releases involving chlorinated solvents, oil and gasoline at dry cleaners and gasoline stations, our team has the knowledge, experience, network and contacts to navigate the evolving landscape of federal, state and local regulation of our environment.

If a conflict concerns real estate, chances are good that a member of our litigation team has had experience handling similar matters. In all land use disputes, we provide practical, creative and cost-effective solutions informed by the perspective that sophisticated trial experience provides.

2024 Best Lawyers Awards Announced

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Brian Falk quoted in Telegram, "Central Mass. draws interest as hub of marijuana business"

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Representative Matters


  • Represented owners, developers and municipalities in a variety of zoning, wetlands, Chapter 40B and wireless communication tower cases.

  • Obtained a dismissal of zoning-related claims for a commercial property owner concerning the non-conforming use of the property.

  • Successfully prosecuted claims on behalf of a real estate investment company against an insurance carrier for failure to provide coverage and benefits under a commercial property policy.

  • Represented a seller of real estate in obtaining an Appeals Court decision awarding our client damages for a buyer's failure to complete the purchase of commercial property.

  • Successfully defended a large commercial tenant in lease claims related to the termination of the lease and building repairs.

  • Successfully defended beneficiaries of a trust sued by a family member who sought ownership of trust real estate. Legal issues raised at trial included judicial estoppel, laches, the statute of frauds, the statute of wills, the canons of ethics, adverse possession and constructive trust.

  • Negotiated a resolution to a long-term dispute by forcing the sale of real estate through a petition to partition and by filing suit against an escrow agent.

  • Represented a land owner in Land Court and the Appeals Court in an adverse possession case in which our client obtained title to upland and tidal flats.

  • Derailed an abutter's challenge to a special permit granted to a client for the construction and use of property as a continuing care retirement facility.

  • Represented a municipality before the Appeals Court, which upheld a zoning board's decision to deny modifications to a comprehensive permit under Chapter 40B for an affordable housing development.


  • Obtained a judgment and award of attorney’s fees after trial for a property owner under M.G.L. c. 21E (the Massachusetts Superfund statute), and successfully defended the judgment on appeal, against a municipality requiring it to conduct a multi-million dollar assessment and remediation of an historic landfill.

  • Successfully represented the municipal owner of the then-largest solid waste landfill in Massachusetts in federal and state groundwater contamination claims involving 1-4 dioxane and other contaminants. The claims were brought by two non-profit environmental groups and over 30 families under the federal Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act and Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 21E and various tort theories.

  • Represented a customer of a barrel recycling facility in federal litigation under CERCLA involving a Rhode Island site contaminated with dioxin.

  • Represented an international bank in a dispute involving TCE contamination of a distressed property briefly owned by our client after a foreclosure.

  • Successfully obtained the rescission of our client’s purchase of a 78-acre property based on the seller’s failure to disclose known-PCB contamination.

  • Represented a municipality in litigation and drafting regulations related to the potential siting of a soil reclamation facility.

  • Obtained a multi-million dollar arbitration award and judgment for breach of contract and unfair business practices claim on behalf of a leading designer of pollution control systems for power plants.

  • Represented a regional school committee in the defense of various constitutional and tort claims involving the alleged lead contamination of drinking water.

  • Represented property owners, operators and municipalities in various wetland enforcement actions under the Massachusetts Wetlands Act and state and local wetlands regulations.

  • Represented a Massachusetts municipality before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in a case of first impression regarding regulatory takings.

  • Represented numerous clients in a variety of industries (including technology, manufacturing, automotive and construction) defending and resolving environmental compliance actions brought by State and federal regulators.

A Classic Distinction Between Legal Remedies and Equitable Remedies:  1st Circuit Overturns Decades-Old Precedent On Citizen Enforcement of Clean Water Act

The First Circuit recently overturned a thirty-one year old decision on citizen enforcement of the Clean Water Act (CWA).  The now-overruled decision is North and South Rivers Watershed Ass’n v. Town of Scituate, 949 F.2d 552 (1st Cir. 1991), in …

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Municipal Law:  Supreme Court Lightens Up On Standard of Review for Certain Sign Bylaws

Recently, the Supreme Court addressed a challenge from two private entities related to the constitutionality of a sign bylaw (“Bylaw”) instituted by the City of Austin (“City”).  In City of Austin v. Reagan National Advertising of Austin, LLC, et. al., …

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“A Trap for the Unwary:”  Bankruptcy Court Declares Debtor’s Homestead Deficient

In In re Luu, Danny Luu (the “Debtor”) argued that he had a homestead exemption in the amount of $324,960.00.  He argued that because he filed a homestead declaration on March 18, 2021—just two days prior to filing his Chapter …

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State’s Highest Court to Determine Scope of Dover Amendment Solar Protection in M.G.L. c. 40A

Last week, the SJC heard oral arguments for a case that is anticipated to potentially impact municipal zoning, specifically in the realm of solar energy projects.  The outcome of this case will either aid or inhibit a municipality’s ability to …

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Remote Public Meetings Authorized Through April of 2022; New Law Extends Additional COVID-19 Emergency Rules

Public bodies may continue to hold remote meetings through April of 2022 under new legislation enacted this week. The statute, Chapter 20 of the Acts of 2021, authorizes a quorum of a board or committee to meet remotely and require remote …

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Municipal Permitting Timelines Resume on December 1

Effective December 1, municipal boards must follow the usual permitting deadlines following a COVID-19 statute enacted last week. Towns and cities had been operating under Section 17 of Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020, which tolled the deadlines for commencing …

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Important Update – The Impact of Coronavirus on the Construction Industry

Since our post on March 18, a lot has happened from both a health and regulatory standpoint as far as the impact from the outbreak of COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) on local and state construction practice.  Here is an update, as of …

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The Impact of Coronavirus on the Construction Industry

The outbreak of COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) has impacted all industries, including construction.  First and foremost, we are in the midst of a public health crisis, and the safety and well-being of all project participants should be top of mind.  We are …

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Executive Order Loosens Open Meeting Law Requirements During Coronavirus Emergency

Governor Baker signed an Executive Order relieving government boards and committees from compliance with certain Open Meeting Law requirements during the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency. The Order gives public bodies greater leeway to hold closed-door and remote meetings, so that government agencies …

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SJC Reverses Appeals Court on Standing Requirements Under the Zoning Act – With Record Speed

All zoning conformities are alike, to rephrase Tolstoy’s famous opening line, but each zoning-related injury is injurious in its own way. Such has been the time-honored tenant of Massachusetts law for abutter standing under the Zoning Act.  To successfully challenge …

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PFAS Concerns Mounting for Cities and Towns as MassDEP Proposes Maximum Contaminant Level in Drinking Water

Many of our readers will be aware that on December 27, 2019, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) proposed a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for PFAS in drinking water of 20 parts per trillion (0.02 ug/L or ppt) for six PFAS …

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Building the Boroughs: A Year in Review

In 2019, Mirick O’Connell’s permitting attorneys were proud to help our clients, large and small, with local approvals in Marlborough for 6 great projects. Thank you to our clients and the City of Marlborough for a wonderful year! Click here …

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Our Practices