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Showing 21 posts in Class Actions.

Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed a district court’s ruling to decertify a class action filed by landowners for releases from Exxon’s 850-mile Pegasus Pipeline that crosses four states from Texas to Illinois.  The case, Webb, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., et al., Dkt. No. 15-2879 (8th Cir., May 11, 2017), was filed by a group of landowners who claimed that Exxon materially breached the terms of their right-of-way easement agreements by allegedly failing to inspect, maintain, repair, and replace the pipeline, which was originally installed in the mid-1940s.  At various times since the 1980s, the pipeline had releases in Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri, which the plaintiffs claim resulted in damage to their properties.  The plaintiffs sought to rescind their right-of-way easement agreements and force Exxon to remove or replace the entire pipeline, or in the alternative, to be paid damages for breach of contract and diminution in property value.  Read More »

In a unanimous decision of a three judge panel last week, the Second Circuit decided that it lacked jurisdiction to overturn a S.D.N.Y. judge’s order enforcing the terms of the Tronox bankruptcy settlement against a group of more than 4,000 Pennsylvania state court plaintiffs. Tronox, Inc. v. Kerr-McGee Corp., No. 16-343, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6949 (2d Cir. Apr. 20, 2017).  Both the district court’s decision and the Second Circuit’s decision protected Kerr-McGee, bankrupt Tronox’s corporate parent, from a Pennsylvania toxic tort suit related to contamination surrounding a wood treatment plant in Avoca, Pennsylvania. Read More »

In the recent decision of Cole v. Marathon Oil Corporation, Case No. 16-10642 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 25, 2016), a district court in the Eastern District of Michigan dismissed, in its entirety, a putative class action lawsuit against a refinery operated by the Marathon Oil Corporation (“Marathon”).  The court dismissed two of the complaint’s three common law claims as time-barred under Michigan law because the complaint failed to plead a “plausible” basis for the court to infer that the claims accrued within the limitations period, and the third cause of action, strict liability, was dismissed on the ground that it is not an independently-recognized cause of action in Michigan.  The decision suggests that, at least under Michigan law, plaintiffs in tort cases must allege more than mere ongoing harm when the allegations on the face of the complaint do not anticipate and provide a plausible basis to avoid an obvious, although unstated, statute of limitations problem. Read More »

Yesterday, Judge Corbett O’Meara, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, dismissed a proposed class action complaint filed by a group of residents in Flint, Michigan regarding the drinking water contamination crisis against the City of Flint and several City employees, local politicians, Michigan’s Governor Snyder, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the Michigan Department of Health.  The proposed class action included various state statutory and common law claims, as well as a constitutional claim asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a civil rights cause of action that allows private parties to recover monetary damages from state and local government entities for deprivation of constitutional rights.  The plaintiffs did not include a Safe Drinking Water Act claim in their complaint, possibly as a tactical maneuver, since the sole remedy available in a citizen suit filed under the Safe Drinking Water Act is injunctive relief, rather than monetary damages which are available for a § 1983 constitutional claim.   Read More »

In a dispute that once generated the “largest environmental bankruptcy award ever,” the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York this month issued a decision further clarifying the effects of the monumental 2014 bankruptcy settlement agreement.  The February 1, 2016 decision in In re Tronox Incorporated, No. 1:14-cv-5495, determined that beneficiaries of the 2014 settlement agreement could not reignite their toxic tort claims against the debtors’ surviving corporate parent, Kerr-McGee Corporation (“(new) Kerr-McGee”), in the underlying settlement agreement. Read More »

Yesterday in two parallel class action interlocutory appeals, the Sixth Circuit joined the Third Circuit in holding that the Clean Air Act does not preempt state common law tort claims related to air pollution.  The first case, Merrick v. Diageo Americas Supply, Inc., involved excess ethanol emissions from Johnny Walker and J&B brand whiskey distilleries located in Louisville, Kentucky that allegedly caused the growth of a specific type of mold on neighboring properties.  The proposed class of local property owners asserted claims for negligence, nuisance, trespass, and injunctive relief, relying on violations of a local ordinance that prohibited air pollution which caused “injury, detriment, nuisance, or annoyance to any considerable number of persons or to the public.”  The second case, Little v. Louisville Gas & Electric Co., involved dust and coal ash emissions from a coal-fired power plant which effected local residents, and which were the subject of multiple notices of violation issued to the power company.  The class action claims in Little included claims for violations of the federal Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, as well as state common law claims for nuisance, trespass, negligence, negligence per se, and gross negligence.  In both cases, United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky allowed the common law claims to survive defendants’ motions to dismiss, ruling that the common law claims were not preempted by the federal Clean Air Act.   Read More »

Last week, in the case of Maroz v. Arcelormittal Monessen LLC, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140660 (W.D. Pa. Oct. 15, 2015), a judge of the Western District of Pennsylvania declined to dismiss a proposed class action in which residents living near ArcellorMittal’s coke plant in Monessen, Pennsylvania alleged that noxious odors and air particulates from the plant polluted their properties.  After allowing the residents to amend their original complaint, U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab found that the residents adequately pled the state common law tort claims for private nuisance, negligence, and trespass, despite the judge’s acknowledgement that there was “not a large number of detailed facts” set forth in the amended complaint.   However, the Court did dismiss claims for public nuisance and punitive damages. Read More »

This week, in the case of Smith v. ConocoPhillips Pipe Line Co., No. 14-2191 (8th Cir.  Sept. 15, 2015), the Eighth Circuit overturned a district court’s grant of a certification to a class comprised of property owners who alleged that the contamination of a neighboring property, and their fear of its spread, was a nuisance.  The Eighth Circuit held that the plaintiffs did not provide evidence that their own properties were contaminated and thus denied class certification based on the plaintiffs’ failure to demonstrate a common injury. Read More »

This summer, we reported on the Third Circuit’s decision in the Bell v. Cheswick Generating Station case, which held that the federal Clean Air Act (“CAA”) does not preempt state common law tort claims in a putative class action filed by over 1,500 residents complaining that the operations of GenOn Power Midwest, L.P.’s (“GenOn’s) coal-fired electric generation station constituted a nuisance under Pennsylvania common law.  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 »