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Federal Court Certifies Class on Liability Claims Despite Differences Among Class Members on Exposure, Damages

In a limited but significant victory for class action plaintiffs, a federal court in Indiana granted class certification to 1,700 Indiana residents with respect to only the liability portion of their claims against the owners of a wood recycling facility based on alleged exposure to smoke, dust and “extreme noxious odors.” Greene v. Will, 3:09-cv-00510 (N.D. Ind. Jan. 29, 2013), available at www.bdlaw.com/assets/attachments/Greene.pdf. The district court held that the issues of which defendants caused the alleged harm, what chemicals were emitted, and when the chemicals were emitted, could and should be determined on a class-wide basis. Greene. slip. op at 7-9.  

Plaintiffs alleged past and continuing harm to their health and the environment due to the plant’s air emissions from waste processing and sought class certification only on the liability aspect of their claims. Id. at 2. Defendants Soil Solutions Co. and VIM Recycling Inc. argued that the plaintiffs should not be treated as a class because their claims were “intensely individual” based on differences among putative class members relating to their alleged exposures, causation for any injuries, and the extent of any alleged damages. Id. at 7.

The district court concluded that although causation and damages issues may differ by individual or by household, the question of liability could still be settled on a class-wide basis. Id. at 6-8. The court concluded that the defendants’ “overly narrow focus on questions pertaining to the proof of individual causation and damages” did not defeat class certification for other common threshold issues held across the class. Id. at 9.  

© 2022 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume III, Number 114
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About this Author

Daniel M. Krainin Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY
Principal

Dan deploys more than two decades of environmental litigation experience to resolve clients’ legal and business challenges.

Primarily focused on environmental and toxic tort litigation, Dan helps clients successfully resolve groundwater contamination, hazardous waste site remediation, natural resource damages, permit defense and product-related matters. He enjoys using his skills as a litigator to help clients solve environmental problems.

Among his many wins, Dan successfully led a team that defeated an emergency challenge to a permit that Dan’s client needed to continue its...

212-702 5417
Megan R. Brillault Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY
Associate

Megan Brillault represents individuals, trade associations and businesses, including Fortune 500 companies, in complex civil and criminal environmental and toxic tort litigation, including class and mass actions.

Versed in the complexities of e-discovery, Megan helps clients implement cost-effective and fast-paced litigation solutions for all phases of discovery through post-trial proceedings. She also promotes diversity and inclusion within the firm and the legal community, working with the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity and various women's organizations.

A...

212-702-5414
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