Private and Governmental Plaintiffs File Toxic Tort Suits Over L.A. Gas Leak
In perhaps the most well-publicized environmental release incident since Deepwater Horizon, Southern California Gas Co. faces a number of toxic tort-based lawsuits stemming from a natural gas leak at one of its storage wells in an affluent Los Angeles neighborhood. See Gandsey v. Southern California Gas Co., BC601844 (L.A. Cty. Superior Ct.).The leak was discovered October 23, 2015. The utility announced on February 12, 2016 that it temporarily controlled the leak. Some of the approximately 25,000 residents have sought temporary housing elsewhere, while some who have stayed have complained of a range of health effects.
Approximately 25 civil actions have been consolidated in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The lead suit is a putative class action filed by nearby residents of the Porter Ranch neighborhood seeking damages and injunctive relief based upon negligence and nuisance. Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief and monetary damages from the gas company for alleged health effects including nausea, dizziness, vomiting, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, and headaches.
The City of Los Angeles also filed suit, alleging public nuisance and unfair business practices that have long-term climate implications and caused injuries to residents. The California Attorney General intervened in the suit in February 2016, and filed papers amending the City’s suit to include allegations on behalf of the City and County of Los Angeles, the California Air Resources Board, and the People of California. These public plaintiffs seek civil penalties and injunctive relief to permanently stop the leak, prevent future leaks, and mitigate alleged climate change effects.