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Showing 6 posts in Sixth Circuit.

Last week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held in two separate cases that the Clean Water Act does not extend liability to pollution that reaches navigable waters via groundwater. Kentucky Waterways All. v. Kentucky Utilities Co., No. 18-5115, 2018 WL 4559315, (6th Cir. Sept. 24, 2018); Tennessee Clean Water Network v. Tennessee Valley Auth., No. 17-6155, 2018 WL 4559103 (6th Cir. Sept. 24, 2018). Instead, the court adopted the bright line rule that for a point source discharge to be actionable under the CWA, it must “dump directly into” navigable waters. The decisions departed from the Fourth and Ninth Circuits’ rulings earlier this year, which held that a “direct hydrological connection” between a discharge and waterbody was sufficient for CWA liability. Our prior blog post on the Fourth Circuit’s decision, Upstate Forever et al. v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP et al., No. 17-1640, 2018 WL 1748154 (4th Cir. April 12, 2018) can be found here. Read More »

Rule 23(c)(4) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that, “[w]hen appropriate, an action may be brought or maintained as a class action with respect to particular issues.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(c)(4). Rule 23(b)(3), on the other hand, provides that a class action may be maintained only where “the court finds that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy.” R. 23(b)(3). The Second, Fourth, Seventh, and Ninth Circuit have adopted a “broad view” of class certification, permitting a district court to certify a class on particular issues under Federal Rule 23(c)(4), even where the traditional predominance requirements of Rule 23(b)(3) have not been met for the case as a whole. Only two circuits, the Fifth and Eleventh, ascribe to the more “narrow view” in which Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement is applied to prevent district courts from certifying particular issues under Rule 23(c)(4), without certifying an entire claim. In a recent case brought my homeowners alleging contamination to groundwater, Martin v. Behr Dayton Thermal Products LLC et al., No. 17-3663, --- F.3d ---, 2018 WL 3421711 (6th Cir. July 18, 2018), the Sixth Circuit has now joined the majority of circuits addressing this issue by endorsing the “broad view” of issue-based class certification. 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 »

Back in July of last year, in the case of Hobart Corp. v. Waste Management of Ohio, 758 F.3d 757 (6th Cir. 2014), held that the statute of limitations for a contribution action following the execution of an Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent (“AOC”) that settles an entity’s liability to the government begins to run as of the effective date of the AOC.  To the extent that anyone might have thought that the Sixth Circuit would reconsider this holding, those hopes have been dashed.  On January 24, 2015, in LWD PRP Group v. Alcan Corp., ___ F.3d ___ (6th Cir. 2015), the Sixth Circuit stood fast, finding that it lacked “power to reverse [Hobart,] reversing the district court’s denial of a motion to dismiss certain counterclaims. 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 »

On May 25, 2012, the Sixth Circuit rendered its decision in Sierra Club v. Korleski, No. 10-3269 (6th Cir. May 25, 2012), holding that there is no private right of action under Section 7604 of the  Clean Air Act (“CAA”), 42 U.S.C. § 7604, to compel a state to enforce its own State Implementation Plan (“SIP”) of the national air quality standards.  In doing so, it effectively overruled its own precedent, relying on an intervening Supreme Court decision which found no similar private right of action under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). Read More »