October 01, 2013

Toxic Tort and Property Damage Litigation

Meyer, G.A., “The Emergence of Multi-Party Toxic Tort and Property Damage Litigation,” Vol. 22, No. 1 Environmental Law News (Summer 2013), a publication of the Environmental Law Section of the State Bar of California, notes that “[w]ith the recent decline of large CERCLA actions, California has seen the emergence of complex multi-party toxic and property damage cases filed in its state courts.” The article explores

[T]he distinct procedural, substantive, community outreach and environmental justice issues and challenges involved in litigating, defending, and presiding over such matters, as well as the courts’ implementation of creative, non-traditional procedures to better manage these cases [and] whether and to what extent these cases constitute a sustainable new practice area, or whether they are simply part of a legal fad that will fade once these cases prove easy to plead, but difficult to win.

According to the author, the “[p]laintiffs in these cases are usually current or former residents, i.e. tenants or residential property owners (and/or their decedents) in the subject neighborhood who have been allegedly impacted by legacy contamination from existing or past industrial or manufacturing operations.” Numerous plaintiffs may be involved, “often numbers in the hundreds, sometimes more.” On the other hand, “[d]efendants usually include those existing and/or former companies who operated in the impacted area and who are alleged to have legal responsibility for the contamination and/or the resulting physical harm or property damage.” Meyer also notes, “numerous other stakeholders [may] play a pivotal role in this type of litigation,” including “community/environmental groups and activists; local politicians whose constituents are impacted; and the governmental agencies who are involved in the contamination’s assessment and/or remediation and public outreach.”

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