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Showing 11 posts in Preemption.

The drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan has led to a series of lawsuits brought on behalf of Flint residents. In two similar circumstances, and most recently on February 2 of this year in the case of Mays v. Snyder, No. 15-14002 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 2, 2017), the United States District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan granted motions to dismiss complaints that alleged that state officials had violated residents’ constitutional rights by exposing them to contaminated water.  In both instances, the court held that the residents’ constitutional claims were precluded by the Safe Drinking Water Act (“SDWA”).   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 2014, we covered the United States Supreme Court’s decision in CTS Corp. v. Waldburger et al., 134 S. Ct. 2175 (June 9, 2014).  In Waldburger, the Court overturned a decision by the Fourth Circuit, and held that while CERCLA preempts state statutes of limitations in toxic tort personal injury and property damage actions, it does not preempt state statutes of repose, like the North Carolina statute of repose at issue, from barring similar actions.    Last week, in Stahle v. CTS Corp., No. 15-1001 (March 2, 2016), the Fourth Circuit addressed an even more basic question, whether the statute of repose at issue in Waldburger is even applicable in such cases.  Read More »

In an unpublished opinion issued last week, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court found that a local ordinance that declares as a nuisance “the escape into the open air . . . of smoke, fly ash, dust, fumes, vapors, mists, or gases as to cause injury, detriment or annoyance . . .” is neither preempted by the New Jersey Solid Waste Management Act (“SWMA”) nor unconstitutionally broad or vague.  The case, New Jersey v. Strategic Environmental Partners, LLC, No. A-4968-13T4, was decided on November 19, 2015 by Judges Messano and Simonelli. 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 »

Last summer we reported on Bell v. Cheswick Generating Station, 903 F. Supp. 2d 314 (3rd Cir. 2013), a Third Circuit decision which held that the Clean Air Act does not preempt state law claims for personal and property damage caused by air pollutants.  And in March, we noted, not unsurprisingly, that defendant GenOn Power had filed a Petition for Cert to the U.S. Supreme Court.  On June 2, that Petition was denied, which may have been the impetus for the Supreme Court of Iowa to release its decison in Freeman v. Grain Processing Corp., No. 13-0723 (June 13, 2014), holding that neither the Clean Air Act nor Iowa's analogous state act pre-empted similar state law claims.  The decision is a hefty one, providing a historical overview of the Clean Air Act and preemption law and an in-depth discussion leading to the Court's final determination.  Put this one aside for one evening when you're sitting in the recliner with a glass of wine at your side.   

In a 7-2 opinion issued today, the United States Supreme Court held that CERCLA does not preempt state law statutes of repose that foreclose causes of action for personal injury and property damage claims asserted after a statutorily-prescribed time period has elapsed, effectively absolving potential defendants from liability.

The case – CTS Corp. v. Waldburger et al, 573 U.S. ___ (2014) (slip op) – involves a 2011 state-law nuisance action against the former property owner, CTS Corp., which in 1987 sold property contaminated with TCE and DCE, which it had characterized as “environmentally sound.”  More than 20 years after CTS Corp. sold the property, EPA informed subsequent property owners and adjacent landowners that their groundwater was contaminated and that the source of the contamination was the former electronics manufacturing facility operated by CTS Corp. on the property. Read More »

Landowners who find themselves in the path of an oil or gas pipeline quickly learn that their rights are limited, and that a pipeline company granted a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity hold most of the cards.  Thus, the recent decision in Alliance Pipeline, L.P. v. 4,360 Acres of Land, No. 13-1003 (8th Cir. Mar. 24, 2014), which in a mere 10 pages washed aside the landowners challenges Alliance Pipeline’s condemnation action, comes as no surprise.    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 »