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Iowa Trial Court Certifies Class of 4,000 Residents in Corn Mill Nuisance Suit

In a victory for toxic tort class action plaintiffs, an Iowa trial court certified a class covering approximately 4,000 residents who alleged property damages due to air emissions from a nearby corn milling plant.  See Freeman v. Grain Processing Corporation, No. LACV021232 (Muscatine Cty. Dist.. Ct. Oct. 28, 2015).

Following a 2014 decision in which the Iowa Supreme Court found the federal Clean Air Act does not preempt state common law claims, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Class Certification, seeking to certify a class of residents who lived within 1.5 miles of Defendant’s facility and who alleged lost-use-and-enjoyment damages attributable to emissions from Defendant’s operations. The Court granted Plaintiffs' motion finding that they had met the requirements necessary to certify a class in Iowa. 

Specifically, the Court found the class to be sufficiently numerous, with approximately 4,000 members. It found that Defendant’s conduct raised common issues of fact and law, such as whether Defendant employed antiquated pollution control technology and whether Defendant knew that it was creating a nuisance to the community. 

The Court also found that Plaintiffs had proposed a manageable and efficient plan for adjudicating their claims by outlining various stages of litigation that would resolve specific questions of fact. The court found that, while the damages inquiry would be particularized, there were a number of issues that were common to all of the claims such as the application of Iowa’s objective nuisance standard of liability and causation. 

Finally, the Court found that the class representative “fairly and adequately” protected the interests of the class. The court found that the class representative retained experienced class counsel and that any concern over waiver of issues or conflicts among class participants based on the adequacy of the class representative could be resolved by limiting the scope of the judgment or by allowing putative class members to out of the class.

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About this Author

Anthony G. Papetti, Environmental Lawyer, Beveridge & Diamond Law Firm

Anthony Papetti maintains a general environmental litigation and regulatory practice, which has included  remediation matters under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (Superfund) and data compensation arbitration matters under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

Prior to law school, Anthony worked as a chemical analyst in the elemental analysis section of a global company that provides testing and inspection services for the petroleum, refining, and petrochemical industries....

Daniel M. Krainin, Environmental Attorney, Beveridge Diamond Law Firm

Daniel M. Krainin is a Principal in the New York office of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.  He was named to the 2011 and 2012 Super Lawyers list for the New York Metropolitan area, holds an AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, and serves as a Vice Chair of the ABA Environment Section's Environmental Litigation and Toxic Torts Committee.

212-702 5417
Graham C. Zorn, Environmental Law Attorney, Beveridge Diamond Law Firm

Graham C. Zorn is an Associate in the Washington, D.C. office of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., with a general litigation, regulatory, and environmental practice.  Graham has represented individual businesses, trade associations, and municipalities in compliance, enforcement, and counseling matters involving the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, CERCLA and other state and federal statutes.  He has worked extensively on a series of complex products liability and toxic tort cases related to alleged groundwater contamination involving a gasoline additive.  Graham has also counseled domestic...