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Showing 7 posts in Causation.

In a 2-1 decision last week, the Michigan Court of Appeals declined to dismiss a lawsuit against Dow Chemical in connection with dioxin contamination in the soils of the Tittabawassee River flood plain. Henry v. Dow Chemical Co., LC No. 03-047775-NZ (Mich. Ct. App. June 1, 2017).  Affirming the lower court’s denial of Dow’s motion for summary disposition, the Court of Appeals rejected the argument that the plaintiffs’ claims for negligence and nuisance were barred by the applicable statute of limitations even though the public was made aware of potential dioxin contamination in the river from Dow’s operations as early as 1984.  The Court’s analysis, which was accompanied by a dissenting opinion, turned on the fact that Dow failed to support its motion with evidence that the floodplain soils on the plaintiffs’ property were contaminated as far back as the 1980s.  Read More »

In the 2012 case of New Jersey Schs. Dev. Auth. v. Marcantuone, 428 N.J. Super. 546 (App.Div. 2012), the New Jersey Appellate Division held that a passive landowner who purchased contaminated property prior to the enactment of the New Jersey Spill and Compensation Act (“Spill Act”) was a liable party under the Act even if the owner did not contribute to the contamination, unless it could meet the Spill Act’s definition of an “innocent purchaser.”  This decision gave rise to an entirely new wave of litigation against landowners who, previously, were not thought to be PRPs under the Spill Act.  Last week, however, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey returned some hope to these property owners when it affirmed a Superior Court decision holding that, while a passive landlord is a  liable party under the Spill Act, application of the equitable principles of allocation may result in a finding that such a landlord is nevertheless 0% responsible  for the costs of remediation.   Read More »

We’ve been following the case of Strudley v. Antero Resources Corp., No. 2011 CV 2218, since May, 2012, when a Colorado trial court dismissed the action following plaintiffs’ failure to establish, pursuant to a Lone Pine order, a prima facie case showing that the defendant, a natural gas drilling company, was responsible for plaintiffs’ personal injuries.  The Lone Pine order required the Strudleys to submit to the Court, before it would allow any discovery, sufficient expert opinions, scientific testing results, and personal medical information to support their claims.  In July, 2013, a Colorado Court of Appeals reversed, finding that Lone Pine orders were not permitted under Colorado law and thus the plaintiffs could not be shut out of the courthouse at such an early stage. Read More »

Since the United States Supreme Court decided Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2451 (2011), plaintiffs in contamination cases have struggled to meet the raised bar for class certification.  And that bar was certainly not lowered by the Seventh Circuit in its decision in Parko v. Shell Oil Co., Nos. 13-8023 & 13-8024 (7th Cir. Jan 17, 2014).  Parko involved a putative class comprised of property owners in the town of Roxana, Illinois, who claimed that their property values had been diminished by benzene contamination of the groundwater from an adjacent oil refinery which had been in operation for nearly 100 years.  In checking off the certification requirements, the district court held that the question of whether the multiple defendants who owned and operated the refinery during the preceding 90 plus years failed to “contain petroleum byproduct [resulting] in contamination to Roxana property” predominated.   The Seventh Circuit panel unanimously disagreed.  Judge Posner, writing for the Court, described the opinion as necessary for clarification of a trial court’s responsibility to conduct a “rigorous analysis” of whether common issues predominate; in doing so, he did not hesitate to take the district judge to task for “treat[ing] predominance as a pleading requirement” rather than an evidentiary one.  Read More »

Last Friday, the Sixth Circuit upheld a $250,000 sanction award levied against the attorneys representing a large group of plaintiffs in an Ohio federal environmental contamination suit, on the basis that plaintiffs’ medical monitoring claims were objectively unreasonable.   The case – Baker et al. v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc. et al., Nos. 11-4369, 12-3995 (6th Cir., Aug. 2, 2013) – was on appeal from the Southern District of Ohio, which had granted Chevron’s motion for sanctions after plaintiffs had failed to meet the legal and factual burdens for establishing a medical monitoring claim under Ohio law.  Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 (“Rule 11”) provides litigants with a mechanism to attack claims that are “not well grounded in fact . . . [and/or] not warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for extension, modification, or reversal of existing law.”  Generally, Rule 11 sanctions are limited to those circumstances where an attorney’s conduct was unreasonable under the circumstances.  Read More »

In May, we reported on the case of Strudley v. Antero Resources Corp., No. 2011 CV 2218 (Denver Co. Dist. Court  May 9, 2012), in which a state trial court issued a Lone Pine order requiring the plaintiffs to show, prior to the initiation of discovery, that there was a prima facie basis for associating their personal injury claims with the defendants’ hydraulic fracturing activities.  The court subsequently dismissed the case when the plaintiffs failed, in the court's view, to meet this initial burden.  The dismissal was appealed and in Strudley v. Antero Resources Corp., Court of Appeals No. 12CA1251 (Co. Ct. Appeals, 1st Div., July 3, 2013), reversed.   Read More »

New Jersey’s Spill Act is similar to, but older than, CERCLA and like CERCLA, many of its contours have yet to be defined.  The New Jersey Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in NJDEP v. Dimant (No. 067993 Sept. 26, 2012), attempts to rectify that in two important areas. Read More »