Britt K. Strottman is a seasoned practitioner who brings to Baron & Budd almost two decades of experience as a powerhouse litigator in cases relating to high-stakes state and federal safety regulatory investigations, enforcement matters for energy companies, the opioid crisis and other public entity matters. Ms. Strottman has litigated more than 30 jury trials and participated in more than 60 state and federal administrative hearings in her role as “Giant Slayer,” representing communities and public entities against the sometimes devastating malfeasance of powerful utility companies, energy firms and drug manufacturers.
Ms. Strottman, one of California’s most successful environmental legal advocates for public entities, joined Baron & Budd’s Environmental Litigation Group as a shareholder in 2018. Numerous local, state and national recognitions track Ms. Strottman’s successful representation of many California cities and counties in pioneering litigation to win hundreds of millions of dollars from utility companies, including the largest utility in California, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), for deadly and catastrophic explosions and fires caused by the utility’s failure to comply with safety and recordkeeping regulations relating to its underground natural gas pipelines and aboveground electric power systems. Ms. Strottman’s pioneering work on behalf of the City of San Bruno against PG&E regarding a deadly gas line explosion that attracted international news coverage, transformed California’s utility regulatory landscape and raised concerns about utility regulations across the United States.
Ms. Strottman also represents the counties of Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, Yuba and Nevada, and the cities of Napa, Santa Rosa and Clearlake in litigation against PG&E for damages resulting from the devastating wildfires of 2017 and 2018. Like her work on behalf of those hurt by PG&E’s failure to comply with safety regulations pertaining to underground natural gas pipelines, Ms. Strottman is resolute in her quest for justice on behalf of those harmed by the negligence of utilities in the care of electric power lines. She was instrumental in the successful negotiation of a $1 billion settlement with PG&E in 2019 on behalf of several of the public entities for losses caused by the 2017 North Bay Fires and 2018 Camp Fire. In 2018, Ms. Strottman proved to be a critical member of the team that recovered $25.4 million on behalf of Calaveras County against PG&E for damages as a result of the 2015 Butte Fire.
In addition, Ms. Strottman has turned her attention to the national opioid crisis. She is working with Baron & Budd’s Pharmaceutical Litigation Group to pursue litigation on behalf of 10.5 million California residents through the California Opioid Consortium, a group of 32 counties in California that are suing the nation’s largest pharmaceutical distributors and manufacturers for their role in aggressive promotion of opioids that have so devastatingly ravaged communities in every part of the state.
Before joining Baron & Budd, Ms. Strottman served as Special Counsel to the City of San Bruno, California, handling legal, regulatory and crisis management issues relating to a pipeline explosion and fire that killed eight people, injured 58 others and destroyed or damaged 90 homes in 2010. She served as a member of the City’s negotiating team that obtained a $70 million settlement from PG&E to fund the City’s community development trust and $50 million to pay the City’s expenses for physical recovery as well as its participation in state and federal legal and regulatory matters. Ms. Strottman also advised the City on non-profit and governance matters relating to implementing long-term local community support programs.
Ms. Strottman’s previous work included serving as lead counsel in complex and high-profile evidentiary hearings before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) which resulted in a record $1.6 billion penalty against PG&E, the largest fine ever levied against a utility in the U.S. She also assisted the City in its federal regulatory investigation and hearings about the explosion before the National Transportation Safety Board. In August 2016, a federal court jury convicted PG&E of obstructing the federal probe of the blast and of knowingly violating pipeline safety laws before and after the disaster. In January 2017, a federal judge ordered PG&E to pay a maximum $3 million fine, complete 10,000 hours of community service and serve five years of probation.
As a result of her significant experience, Ms. Strottman understands the complex, sensitive, and ethical issues that public agencies and companies face in highly-regulated industries, and not just from the standpoint of litigation. In addition to her legal work, Ms. Strottman served as Vice President at a renowned public relations firm, Van Prooyen Greenfield LLP, where she specialized in developing and implementing litigation and crisis communications marketing and public relations plans for public agencies, law firms, law schools and corporations.
Ms. Strottman has earned numerous honors for her expertise, results and leadership in the legal profession, including “Energy Trailblazers” (2017), “Top Women Lawyers” (2014, 2015, 2017), “Top 100 Lawyers” (2016, 2017), ”Top 20 Under 40″ (2015), and “Giant Slayer” (2015). These awards highlight Ms. Strottman’s unique expertise in high-profile state and federal safety regulatory investigation and enforcement matters relating to the storage, transportation, maintenance and delivery of natural gas, as well as the generation, storage, maintenance and transmission of electric power. Ms. Strottman earned these awards through her tenacious challenging of the status quo at PG&E, for which the Daily Journal recognized her as PG&E’s “chief nemesis.”
When she is not slaying giants, Ms. Strottman enjoys traveling with her husband and three children. She has belonged to the same book club for almost 20 years and is also the board President at her children’s school. “My law school professors and experiences taught me how to have emotional intelligence, which is something a lot of lawyers don’t have,” she says. “Being a lawyer is not just about being book smart, but having a passion for the law and for helping people,” a virtue Ms. Strottman has made a hallmark of her practice.
The City of San Bruno’s City Manager, Connie Jackson, describes Ms. Strottman as a “smart and highly skilled lawyer who understands the law, is able to explain it in layperson’s language, and demonstrates the highest level of integrity and an ability to apply the law to achieve her clients’ interests.” Baron & Budd Shareholder Scott Summy, who leads the firm’s Environmental Litigation Group had this to say: “Britt Strottman’s experience and tenacity for seeking accountability and taking on complex, high-profile issues is in direct alignment with Baron & Budd’s national reputation.”
Presentations and Publications
- Presenter, “Lessons Learned from a Deadly Gas Pipeline Explosion,” American Public Power Association Legal & Regulatory Conference, 2017
- Presenter, “City of San Bruno Gas Pipeline Explosion: A Six-Year David vs. Goliath Investigation that Slayed Two Giants,” Anti-Fraud Alliance Quarterly Meeting, 2017
- Presenter, “Recent Developments in the Laws that Affect Government Agency Communications,” University of San Francisco School of Law CLE program, 2017
- Presenter, “Women in the Courtroom,” Women Leadership in Law conference, hosted by the Daily Journal. 2017
- Feature Article Interview, “People Power: A Passion for Helping People Motivates Ms. Strottman to Fight the Good Fight – and Win!”, USFLAWYER, University of San Francisco School of Law alumni magazine, Spring 2017 “Trailblazers” issue
- Presenter, “Uh-Oh! How to Steer the Ship Back to Safety in Emergency Situations,” California Special Districts Association Annual Conference, 2016
- Profile Interview, “Ms. Strottman vs. Goliath: Fighting for Accountability,” University of San Francisco School of Law website home page, October 2015
- Presenter, “To Disclose or Not to Disclose? Public Records Act Requests at the California Public Utilities Commission, “Conference of California Public Utility Counsel, 2015
- Author, “What Lies Below: Are high-pressure pipelines running through your community?” Lamorinda Weekly, July, 2015
- Attendee, “Lest History Repeat Itself- Pipeline Safety Initiatives,” Mayors Council on Pipeline Safety 2015 Conference, Philadelphia, 2015
- Presenter, “San Bruno’s Actions to Seek Pipeline Safety and Reform,” Introduction to Energy Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall), 2015
- Presenter, “Uh-Oh! How to Steer the Ship Back to Safety in Emergency Situations,” California Special Districts Association (CSDA) 46th Annual Conference, 2015
- Presenter, “Crisis Communications: Strategic Messaging, Team Management and Plan Implementation,” Contra Costa County City Attorneys Association, 2015
- Presenter, “How to Lead Without Breaking the Rules,” California Council of School Attorneys (CCSA), 2014
- Author, “Protecting our Power Grid,” Daily Journal. April, 2014
- Author, “Under California: Knowing What Lies Beneath,” Western City Magazine, June, 2013
- Author and Presenter, “The San Bruno, California Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion: Response, Investigation and Regulatory Actions,” International Municipal Lawyers Association, Washington, DC, 2012
University of San Francisco School of Law, JD, 2000
Vanderbilt University, BA, English Literature and Spanish, 1997
Bar and Court Admissions
Mayors’ Council on Pipeline Safety
Power Association of Northern California
Conference of California Public Utility Counsel
Women Lawyers of Alameda County
California Women Lawyers
Association of Women in Water, Energy and Environment
St. Perpetua School Board (President)
Honors and Awards
“Top 100 Lawyers,” Daily Journal, 2017
“Energy Trailblazers,” The National Law Journal, 2017
“Top 100 Women Lawyers,” Daily Journal, 2017
“Top 100 Lawyers,” Daily Journal, 2016
“Top 100 Women Lawyers,” Daily Journal, 2015
“Top 20 under 40,” Daily Journal, 2015
“Giant Slayer” award, The Recorder, Litigation Department of the Year Contest, 2015
“Top Women Lawyers,” Daily Journal, 2014
Advanced Moot Court, Advocate of the Year Competition
W. Manuel Award for Pro Bono Legal Services, State Bar of California