Justia Products Liability Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Environmental Law
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Defendants’ businesses focused on large diesel trucks and related parts, merchandise, and media. In 2017 Defendants were sued by Plaintiff Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE), a nonprofit organization that alleged, among other things, that Defendants were tampering with required emission-control devices and installing so-called “defeat devices” in violation of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and Utah’s State Implementation Plan. After a bench trial the court entered judgment in favor of UPHE, finding Defendants collectively liable for hundreds of violations of the CAA and Utah’s plan and assessing over $760,000 in civil penalties. On appeal Defendants challenged UPHE’s Article III and statutory standing, the district court’s inclusion of certain kinds of transactions in its tabulation of violations, and the court’s penalty analysis. Although the Tenth Circuit rejected most of Defendants’ arguments, it felt compelled to remand this case back to the district court for additional proceedings because: (1) UPHE lacked Article III standing to complain of conduct by Defendants that had not contributed to air pollution in Utah’s Wasatch Front; and (2) the district court needed to reevaluate the seriousness of Defendants’ violations of the Utah plan’s anti-tampering provision. View "Utah Physic. for Healthy Env't v. Diesel Power Gear, et al." on Justia Law

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The State appealed a circuit court order that, among other things, dismissed its claims against Volkswagen AG ("VWAG"). The State had filed a complaint claiming VWAG and other defendants, violated the Alabama Environmental Management Act ("the AEMA"), and the Alabama Air Pollution Control Act of 1971 ("the AAPCA") when cars VWAG produced had "defeat devices" installed, designed to alter emissions readings on cars with diesel engines. In other words, the complaint alleged defendants had tampered with the emission-control systems or ordered third parties to tamper with the emission-control systems of vehicles that were licensed and registered in the State of Alabama. Giving its reasons for dismissal, the Supreme Court determined that given the unique factual situation involved in this case, and based on reasoning set by the multi-district litigation court, allowing the State to proceed would "stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress." Therefore, the trial court properly granted VWAG's motion to dismiss. View "Alabama v. Volkswagen AG" on Justia Law

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The State of California prevailed in a representative public nuisance action against ConAgra, NL, and Sherwin-Williams. The trial court ordered the defendants to pay $1.15 billion into a fund to be used to abate the public nuisance created by interior residential lead paint in the ten counties represented by the state. The court of appeal affirmed in part, noting that the absence of a regulation or statute declaring interior residential lead paint to be unlawful does not bar a court from declaring it to be a public nuisance. The court reversed in part, holding that substantial evidence did not support causation as to residences built after 1950, and remanded to the trial court with directions to recalculate the amount of the abatement fund to limit it to the amount necessary to cover the cost of remediating pre-1951 homes, and hold an evidentiary hearing regarding the appointment of a suitable receiver. View "People v. ConAgra Grocery Products Co." on Justia Law

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This case involved long-running multidistrict litigation concerning contamination of groundwater by the organic compound MTBE, which was used as a gasoline additive by Exxon and others. The court concluded that the state law tort verdict against Exxon was not preempted by the federal Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7401; the jury's finding that the MTBE levels in Station Six Wells will peak at 10ppb in 2033 was not inconsistent with a conclusion that the City had been injured; the City's suit was ripe because the City demonstrated a present injury and the suit was not barred by the statute of limitations; the jury's verdict finding Exxon liable under state tort law theories was not precluded by the jury's concurrent conclusion that the City had not carried its burden, in the design-defect context, of demonstrating a feasible, cost-reasonable alternative to MTBE available to satisfy the standards of the now-repealed Reformulated Gasoline Program; Exxon's demand for a retrial because of an incident of juror misconduct was unavailing; the jury properly offset the gross damages award by amounts it reasonably attributed to cleanup of contaminants other than MTBE; and the City was not entitled to a jury determination of Exxon's liability for punitive damages. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in its entirety.View "In re: MTBE Products Liability Litig." on Justia Law