Real Estate/Environmental Litigation


Real estate and environmental litigation can be highly complex given the broad scope of industry-specific regulations and circumstances that can weigh into litigation or arbitration, as well as the variety of parties and types of properties that may be involved.

Ulmer attorneys represent real estate developers, joint venture partners, public agencies, contractors, design professionals, commercial landlords, tenants, property owners, and others involved in commercial real estate disputes. We have particular experience in the following areas of litigation and disputes:

  • Land use
  • Eminent domain
  • Construction
  • Developer-contractor agreements
  • Development agreements
  • Joint venture/partnership agreements
  • Environmental
  • Distressed assets
  • Landlord-tenant (commercial)

Our trial lawyers bring valuable knowledge, experience, and strategic insights to every case, to ensure each matter is handled with a customized approach and efficiency. Recognizing that each client has a specific, unique objective in their real estate dispute, we are careful to suggest alternative strategies.

Ulmer’s team also has extensive experience in every aspect of distressed real estate investing. We represent lenders, developers, tenants, investors, trustees, and receivers in a wide variety of structuring transactions — both out of court and in state and federal proceedings.

Our attorneys represent lenders in bankruptcy, foreclosure, and receiverships involving offices, warehouses, manufacturing, retail, apartments, and residential condominiums, as well as real estate buyers in receivership sales. We also develop strategies to overcome legal impediments to closing caused by uncertain case law.

Based on years of experience from every perspective of a troubled real estate transaction, Ulmer’s team provides clients with solid, practical, cost-effective advice. We also represent clients on several types of regional and national engagements, including acquisitions and dispositions, lending and development, and bond financing.

Gain Access to a Key Referral Network

Our expertise also allows us to determine the right blend of skill and experience to produce the highest level of service and results. To that end, we are able to draw from a wealth of contacts and resources outside the firm, utilizing longstanding professional relationships to direct clients to a variety of key resources, including:

  • Valuation expertise
  • Property management
  • Equity capital
  • Loan workouts/restructuring
  • Interim/crisis management
  • Asset sales

Ulmer & Berne LLP is pleased to share that Associate Brett C. Altier has been named to the Cleveland Bridge Builders Class of 2020. Altier is part of a diverse group of professionals chosen by the Cleveland Leadership Center to participate in this highly selective 10-month leadership program. Cleveland Bridge Builders prepares...

Ulmer & Berne LLP is pleased to announce that Associate Brett C. Altier has been appointed to a three-year term on the Board of Directors of Ingenuity Cleveland. Ingenuity is a nonprofit that provides a unique platform to explore the boundaries of art and technology through outreach, creative partnerships, and...

Ulmer is ranked in 39 categories in the 2017 U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” rankings. Among these, the firm earns U.S. News – Best Lawyers highest rankings in 21 categories. The firm also ranks nationally in 15 categories. Firms included in the 2017 “Best Law Firms” are...

Ulmer & Berne is ranked in 39 categories in the 2016 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” rankings. Among these, the firm earns U.S. News – Best Lawyers highest rankings in 21 categories. The firm also ranks nationally in 16 categories. Firms included in the 2016 “Best Law...

“Michael Nathan Ungar | Ulmer & Berne LLP” Cleveland Jewish News January 15, 2015 Perennial Super Lawyer Michael Nathan Ungar considers settlement of a dispute embroiling Case Western University among his most memorable cases of 2014. Read the full article »

Ulmer & Berne LLP has been ranked within the top 10 percent of all law firms by The BTI Consulting Group, one of the nation’s leading legal industry research firms, in their recently published 2015 BTI Litigation Outlook report. The firm was selected as a “Litigation Powerhouse” and is named...

Ulmer & Berne LLP was named 2014 Ohio Firm of the Year by Benchmark Litigation at the second annual Benchmark Litigation US Awards held at the Essex Hotel in New York City on January 29, 2014. The US Benchmark Awards were based on a six-month research period involving extensive interviews...

Representative Experience

  • Defended a major real estate developer of a large Northeast Ohio mixed-use commercial development project, where an oil and gas well operation on the development site obtained issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) before the firm’s engagement. We successfully litigated the defense position in a hearing to oppose the well interest-holders’ position and persuaded the court to increase the bond to a very high amount in order to continue the TRO. With the new high bond, the plaintiffs dropped their opposition, allowing the resumption of the development with only a minor project delay.
  • Represented owners in litigation and administrative proceedings, including matters involving purchase/sale, title issues, mineral rights, landlord-tenant disputes, commercial eviction, and environmental compliance and violations.
  • Defended a developer in an alleged Clean Water Act violation for impacts to over 100 acres of wetlands.
  • As lead counsel for the property owners, obtained a favorable recovery in a settlement on behalf of two clients — a family-owned local business owning commercial property and a family-owned local outdoor advertising business — in a multiparty lawsuit that included complex and novel eminent domain issues that arose after a landslide occurred on the clients’ commercial property during a government project performed by the sewer district and its hired contractors, which caused significant damage to the land and a billboard owned by the outdoor advertising client.
  • Represented the developer of a multimillion dollar mixed-use commercial development against a contractor with lien, contract, and quasi-contract claims of several hundred thousand dollars.
  • Represented a national retailer on evaluation of ground settlement and methane gas intrusion associated with the development over a former landfill. Coordinated expert investigations, negotiations with the landlord and eventual store closing, lease termination, and post-termination claims by the landlord.
  • In common area maintenance litigation pending more than seven years, we were successful in reversing a grant of summary judgment with respect to the charging of certain insurance coverage costs under 15 different leases with a multinational consumer electronics retailer. As a result of the win in the Court of Appeals, the case was remanded to the District Court for further proceedings on key affirmative defenses for the majority of the lease years at issue. After the remand, the parties reached an out-of-court settlement.
  • In a significant public development project, as co-trial counsel we won a TRO permitting $275 million in financing to close and then won a week-long trial, obtaining a preliminary injunction against the architectural firm that tried to block the redevelopment project in a dispute over the ownership of the project drawings. A state court judge found that the developer had the right to maintain ownership of and use the drawings, and that not recognizing this right would irreparably harm the developer, the project, and the local area.
  • In the largest commercial eminent domain trial in Ohio history, served as lead trial counsel in a five-week trial won by a large city against a neighboring suburb. The suburb had filed an eminent domain action to take a convention center that was needed for the city’s plans to expand its airport for an international runway.
  • Represented a commercial tenant with claims against the landlord for improvements to property in excess of $5 million.
  • Successfully prosecuted claims against an environmental contractor on behalf of a design-builder.
  • Serving as lead counsel, obtained a significant settlement for a port authority in an eminent domain action to acquire 14 commercial properties for a significant redevelopment project. After five weeks of trial, all the owners agreed to settle and transfer ownership for the project, allowing the development to proceed.
  • Successfully defended the seller of industrial property against a claim for environmental damages by the buyer.
  • Secured a substantial settlement on behalf of a publicly held REIT plaintiff in litigation against the sellers of a $330 million commercial shopping center development portfolio. At issue was the earn-out portion of a purchase agreement. The sellers settled after the plaintiff prevailed on hotly contested issues of venue and jurisdiction, and a significant portion of the sellers’ counterclaims were dismissed.