September 29, 2020

Volume X, Number 273

September 29, 2020

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September 28, 2020

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Iowa Supreme Court Upholds Class Certification in Corn Mill Nuisance Suit

The Iowa Supreme Court permitted the certification of a two-tier class action in a nuisance suit filed against the owner of a corn milling plant by nearby residents.  See Freeman v. Grain Processing Corp., 895 N.W.2d 105 (Iowa, 2017). 

An Iowa district court first granted class certification in 2015, dividing the class into two subclasses: one for members living in close proximity to the corn milling plant and one for those in peripheral proximity to the plant.  On appeal, the plant owner argued that there was insufficient commonality between the plaintiffs’ claims, and that alleged common questions of law or fact did not “predominate” over individual issues that may have existed. 

The Iowa Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that “[t]he central factual basis for all of Plaintiff’s  claims… is [the defendant’s] course of conduct and knowledge of its potential hazards.”  The court also held that by dividing the class into two subclasses, the trial court resolved issues arising from potential disparities in the alleged harm suffered by the plaintiffs.

The court also held that these common issues predominated over any individual questions of law or fact.  Noting that the test for predominance is a pragmatic one, the court rejected the notion that the mere existence of any individual issues is fatal to class certification.  Accordingly, the court held that  individual issues, such  as potential contamination from other sources or the precise extent of contamination on plaintiffs’ property, were nevertheless outweighed by common questions regarding the defendant’s course of conduct, its knowledge of emissions, and the level at which emissions would interfere with a normal person’s enjoyment of his or her property.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume VII, Number 254

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About this Author

Graham C. Zorn Environmental, Toxic Tort, Products Liability Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC
Principal

Graham Zorn focuses his practice on environmental, toxic tort, and products liability litigation.

His representative experience includes extensive work on a series of complex products liability and toxic tort cases related to alleged groundwater, and litigation over lead in drinking water. He has represented individual businesses, trade associations, and municipalities in litigation, as well as in compliance, enforcement, and counseling matters involving the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, CERCLA and other state and federal environmental statutes. He also counsels domestic and...

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Eric L. Klein Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Boston, MA
Principal

Eric makes complex subjects simpler.

He is an environmental litigator in the Boston office of Beveridge & Diamond, with a national practice representing major companies and municipalities in a wide variety of matters including environmental and mass torts, class actions, and federal citizen suits under environmental statutes including the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Clean Air Act. He has handled cases in state and federal courts throughout the United States, litigating complex civil and commercial matters before juries, trial and appellate courts, arbitrators and administrative tribunals. He specializes in challenging and defending technical experts in complex environmental litigation.

Eric’s litigation practice encompasses a broad range of environmental matters, including the prosecution and defense of groundwater and site contamination cases, PCB cost allocations, environmental white-collar defense and internal investigations, and data compensation under FIFRA, the federal pesticide statute. In particular, Eric has defended some of the most significant environmental citizen suits filed in recent times, including the successful resolution of a $4 trillion Clean Water Act citizen suit filed against a major U.S. transportation company.

As a second-year law student, Eric argued before U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who recognized Eric with "Best Oralist" and "Best Brief" awards. Following law school, Eric clerked for the Honorable Robert I. Richter at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. He also serves as co-chair of B&D’s Pro Bono Committee and maintains an active pro bono practice, specializing in defending tenants in eviction actions. 

Eric’s core professional belief spans his careers in education and law: success lies in making complex subjects simpler.

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