Primary School Toxic Waste Plaintiffs Must Show Causation

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By Peter Hayes

June 30 — Plaintiffs alleging a plume of toxic waste migrated to an elementary school must make preliminary causation showings before their claims may proceed, the Southern District of California ruled June 28 ( Trujillo v. Ametek, Inc., 2016 BL 209718, S.D. Cal., No. 15-CV-1394, 6/28/16 ).

The court granted a motion by Ametek Inc.—the owner of the site from which the plume allegedly migrated—for a Lone Pine order, a case management tool requiring plaintiffs to make a prima facie showing of injury and causation ( Lore v. Lone Pine Corp., 1987 BL 20 (N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div. 1986).

Before proceeding to class certification, the named plaintiffs must make a showing of exposure, increased risk of specific injury and causation, the court said.

It was significant that the state Department of Toxic Substances Control had found the level of toxic vapors at the school don't pose a danger to students and teachers, the court said.

“Where external agency decisions suggest that plaintiffs’ claims as to injury and causation are suspect, courts have found Lone Pine orders to be appropriate,” the court said.

Teachers and students at Magnolia Elementary School filed the complaint, alleging that a prior owner of the Ametek site dumped toxins in an underground waste storage tank, which leaked, causing a plume containing trichloroethylene, benzene, toluene and other contaminants.

Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel issued the ruling.

Baron & Budd in Dallas and Gomez Trial Attorneys in San Diego represent the plaintiffs.

Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch, LLP in San Diego represents Ametek.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes at phayes@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bna.com and Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bna.com

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