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Showing 35 posts in Toxic Torts.

Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit resurrected two separate lawsuits filed by residents living near the Willow Grove Naval Air Reserve Station in Horsham Township, Pennsylvania and the Naval Air Development Center in Warminster Township, Pennsylvania, which both seek to have the Navy fund medical monitoring programs for exposure to drinking water impacted by two emerging contaminants – perfluorooctanoic acid (“PFOA”) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (“PFOS”) – attributable to operations at the two Naval facilities.  In two parallel cases that were joined for appeal – Giovanni et al. v. U.S. Dep’t of the Navy and Palmer et al. v. U.S. Dep’t of the Navy, 2018 WL 4702222 (3d Cir. Oct. 2, 2018) – the Third Circuit held that the residents’ claims for medical monitoring under the Pennsylvania Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (“HSCA”) were not barred by the Navy’s ongoing investigation and remediation at the sites under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), because a request for medical monitoring “does not interfere with or alter the ongoing cleanup efforts.”  In contrast, the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the residents’ separate claim that sought to have the Navy perform a government-led health assessment or health effects study, which was barred as a challenge to the Navy’s ongoing response actions at the sites. Read More »

In Rice v. First Energy Corporation, a putative class of plaintiffs living near a former landfill filed trespass, nuisance, negligence, and medical monitoring claims against First Energy Corporation and NRG Energy, Inc., alleging that each Defendant was liable for claims arising from their respective subsidiaries’ disposal of coal ash in the landfill. No. 2:17-cv-489-LPL, 2018 WL 4282850, at *1 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 7, 2018). Though it frequently noted Plaintiffs’ lackluster efforts to pursue discovery and their heavy reliance on conclusory, minimalistic arguments, U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan nevertheless dug deep into the parties' arguments to issue a thorough and strong opinion highlighting the difficulty of piercing a corporate veil in an environmental case and concluding that the Defendants were neither corporate successors nor alter egos of their respective subsidiaries. Id. at *13. 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 »

A putative class of plaintiffs who allege to have lived in a defined geographic area around a manufacturing plant in Merrimack, New Hampshire, or have been served by the town’s municipal water supply, sued the manufacturer in federal court, alleging property damage claims and exposure to perfluorooctanoate (AFPO) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that warrants medical monitoring.  Brown v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp. et al., No. 16-cv-242, 2017 WL 6043956 (D.N.H. Dec. 6, 2017).  The plaintiffs’ claims were styled as common law claims for negligence, trespass, nuisance, and negligent failure to warn, as well as an equitable claim for “negative unjust enrichment” on the theory that the manufacturer was unjustly enriched by avoiding costs associated with preventing the release of contaminants.  The Court dismissed the unjust enrichment count but allowed the remaining claims to proceed. Read More »

Love Canal – the infamous neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York where large quantities of chemical waste was dumped, and which became the catalyst for enactment of the federal Superfund program – is still generating legal opinions, nearly 40 years after President Jimmy Carter declared a federal health emergency and Love Canal became the first Superfund site.  Read More »

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 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 »

In a toxic tort class action involving a chemical spill that may have affected thousands of individuals in an immediate geographic area, the Eighth Circuit held that class action plaintiffs’ expert report definitively alleging damages greater than $5 million triggered defendant’s 30-day removal period under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”), but held that an earlier letter from plaintiffs’ counsel “recommending” a settlement over $5 million did not.  Gibson v. Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc., No. 16-8012, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 19073 (8th Cir. Oct. 24, 2016).  CAFA was enacted in 2005 and expanded federal diversity jurisdiction to include a greater number of class actions and other multi-plaintiff actions.  Among other things, CAFA provides that where a putative class includes greater than 100 members seeking greater than $5 million, the defendant may remove the action, regardless of traditional diversity requirements. Read More »

Earlier this month, a Michigan federal judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a coalition of plaintiffs seeking to force multiple city and state defendants to fix the city of Flint, Michigan’s water supply system.  The lawsuit arose from the crisis regarding lead contamination in Flint’s water supply, which has garnered national attention.  In the decision, Concerned Pastors for Soc. Action v. Khouri, No. 16-10277 (E.D. Mich. July 7, 2016), U.S. District Judge David M. Lawson rejected numerous attacks asserted by the defendants in a motion to dismiss.  Perhaps most notably, the judge rejected the argument that the federal court should defer to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) primary jurisdiction under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).    Read More »