NEW ORLEANS - A panel of the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sept. 26 reversed and remanded a decision by a district court that had remanded a class action case to Louisiana state court and said that the addition of a local defendant to the plaintiffs' amended complaint did not allow them to avoid federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) (Phillips C. Witter v. CSHV Fairway View LLC, No. 14-30735, 5th Cir; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 18487).
BOSTON - Claims in a Massachusetts town's lawsuit seeking to require W.R. Grace & Co. to continue operation of a groundwater treatment system on a nearby Superfund site are preempted by state and federal law, a federal judge in Massachusetts ruled Sept. 22, explaining that the requirements set forth in a 1997 bylaw are more stringent that those imposed by state and federal environmental agencies (Town of Acton v. W.R. Grace & Co., No. 13-12376-DPW, D. Mass.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132684).
HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Sept. 18 announced that it fined hydraulic fracturing operator Range Resources $4.15 million for violating environmental laws with regard to impoundments in Washington County.
SEATTLE - Ordering employees into an asbestos-contaminated workspace did not trigger the deliberate intent exception to workers' compensation laws because the employer could not be certain any individual employee would develop a disease, the Washington Supreme Court held Sept. 18 in a 5-4 opinion (Gary G. Walston and Donna Walston v. The Boeing Co., No. 885117, Wash. Sup.).
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - A federal judge in West Virginia on Sept. 17 agreed to amend rulings against Elk Run Coal Co. and Alex Energy Inc. in a Clean Water Act (CWA) lawsuit so the companies could appeal the decisions, explaining that the orders contained controlling issues of law (Ohio Valley Environmental coalition, et al. v. Elk Run Coal Company, No. 12-0785, S.D. W.Va.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130123).
GREENSBORO, N.C. - A federal judge in North Carolina on Sept. 17 denied Duke Energy Corp.'s motion to file a supplemental motion for summary judgment on a statute-of-limitations issue, finding that there is no new evidence or controlling case law to support the company's argument that the government's Clean Air Act (CAA) claim against it is untimely (United States of America, et al. v. Duke Energy Corporation, No. 00CV1262, M.D. N.C.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129805).
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A Missouri federal judge on Sept. 12 denied asbestos defendant Hennessey Industries Inc.'s motion for summary judgment, finding the "general citation to overarching principles" in choice-of-law briefing insufficient (John New and Beth New v. Borg-Warner Corp., et al., No. 13-675, W.D. Mo.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127861).
DALLAS - A Texas jury on Sept. 5 awarded $15 million in punitive damages and $3.6 million in other damages to the family of a tire builder who suffered exposure to asbestos during employment with a The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. subsidiary, sources told Mealey Publications (Vicki Lynn Rogers, et al. v. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., No. 10-03294-E, Texas Law, Dallas Co.).
NEW ORLEANS - The federal judge in Louisiana overseeing litigation stemming from the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April 2010 and ensuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico issued his findings of fact and conclusions of law with regard to Phase One of the trial on Sept. 4 and ruled that the discharge of oil from the Macondo well was the result of BP Exploration & Production Inc.'s gross negligence and willful misconduct (In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater Horizon" in the Gulf of Mexico, April 20, 2010, MDL No. 2179, E.D. La.).
NEW YORK - A premises owner's general inspections for safety and quality control do not evince the type of control required for liability under New York labor law, a New York justice held in wiping out a $3.5 million asbestos award in an opinion posted Sept. 2 (Phyllis Brown, et al. v. A.O. Smith Water Products, et al., No. 190415/12, N.Y. Sup., New York Co.).
NEW YORK - A federal judge in New York on Aug. 29 ruled that the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico could not retroactively apply a law recently passed by its Legislature to revive old claims for contamination of groundwater from gasoline containing methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) (In Re: Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether [MTBE] Products Liability Litigation [Commonwealth of Puerto Rico v. Shell Oil Co.], No. 07-10470, S.D. N.Y.).
PITTSBURGH - A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Aug. 22 ruled that a citizens group has standing to sue a contractor for violations of federal environmental laws related to its attempt to reclaim a coal refuse disposal site (Citizens Coal Council v. Matt Canestrale Contracting Inc., No. 13-96, W.D. Pa.).
MADISON, Wis. - The transfer of asbestos fibers from a workplace to a car or home does not negate the exclusivity provision of the Wisconsin Workers' Compensation Act, a federal judge held Aug. 22, granting dismissals in six cases (Milton Boyer and Kathy Boyer v. Weyerhaeuser Co., et al., No. 14-286, W.D. Wis.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117062).
HOUSTON - The Texas Supreme Court on Aug. 22 declined to rehear an asbestos case in which it found that a disabled man's inability to take a pulmonary function test did not exclude him from the requirements of the state's asbestos medical criteria law (Union Carbide Corp. v. Daisy E. Synatzske and Grace Annette Webb, et al., No. 12-0617, Texas Sup.).
HARTFORD, Conn. - Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Aug. 18 signed a bill that enacts a three-year moratorium on the handling of waste from hydraulic fracturing in Connecticut while its environmental impact is further researched.
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A Pennsylvania environmental group that opposes hydraulic fracturing on Aug. 18 filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) opposing the issuance of fracking permits to Anadarko E&P Onshore LLC, contending that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) "acted contrary to law and abused its discretion" in granting the permits (Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al., No. N/A, Pa. EHB).
PHILADELPHIA - No evidence exists of asbestos exposure preceding the 1975 inclusion of mesothelioma in the Louisiana's workers' compensation law and an estate's wrongful death claim against a second defendant is untimely, the Pennsylvania judge overseeing the federal asbestos multidistrict litigation held in a pair of rulings released Aug. 8 (Frank Williams Jr., et al. v. Lockheed Martin Corp., et al., No. MDL 875, 09-70101, E.D. Pa.).
CHICAGO - An asbestos defendant owed no duty under Illinois law to a woman who married a man after his alleged asbestos exposure, a federal judge held in dismissing her loss of consortium claim on July 14 (Kenneth D. Smith Jr. and Diane Smith v. Crane Co., et al., No. 13-7411, N.D. Ill.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95831).
SAN FRANCISCO - A federal magistrate judge in California on July 9 granted a motion to dismiss claims for violations of federal laws regarding environmental contamination against Fluor Corp. because the plaintiffs need to show more than the mere presence of toxins in soil at the company's property; however, the magistrate allowed a company that shares land with Fluor to intervene in the lawsuit (Northern California River Watch v. Fluor Corporation, No. 10-05105, N.D. Calif.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93420).
PHILADELPHIA - Punitive damages are available under maritime asbestos law to seaman alleging injury from a vessel's unseaworthiness but not for survival actions, the federal judge overseeing the maritime asbestos multidistrict litigation held July 9 (In re: Asbestos Products Liability Litigation (No. VI), Hector L. Sanchez, et al. v. Various Defendants, No. MDL 875, 02-875, E.D. Pa.).
NEW YORK - The attorney and the law firm representing Ecuadorian plaintiffs who sued Chevron Corp. alleging environmental contamination filed a brief in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on July 2, contending that the judgment of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that approved a settlement between some of the Ecuadorian plaintiffs' former attorneys and Chevron should be reversed and vacated because Chevron cannot show that misconduct occurred when an Ecuadorian court awarded the plaintiffs damages of $18.5 billion (Chevron Corporation v. Hugo Gerardo Camacho Naranjo, No. 14-832, 2nd Cir.).
ALBANY, N.Y. - A divided New York Court of Appeals on June 30 ruled that local municipalities may pass bans on the oil and gas extraction procedure that uses hydraulic fracturing because the supersession clause in the statewide Oil, Gas Solution Mining Law (OGSML) does not preempt the home rule authority vested in municipalities to regulate land use (Norse Energy Corp. USA v. Town of Dryden, et al., No. APL-2013-00245, N.Y. App.).
AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Supreme Court on June 23 accepted a certified question from the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, requiring the Texas high court to determine if, under Texas law, an administrative action initiated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency constitutes a lawsuit as that term is defined under the policies at issue (McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corp. v. The Phoenix Insurance Co. et al., No. 14-0465, Texas Sup.).
DALLAS - The Texas judge presiding over a case in which $2.9 million was awarded to a family for injuries related to hydraulic fracturing on June 19 denied the company's motion seeking judgment as a matter of law reversing the award (Lisa Parr, et al. v. Aruba Petroleum Inc., No. 11-1650, Texas Law No. 5, Dallas Co.).
SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on June 16 granted an environmental contractor's motion for judgment as a matter of law in a case where an insurer had alleged that the contractor was liable for negligence in its environmental assessment of a parcel of land because a company that the carrier insured bought the property and later paid $1,050,103 for soil remediation (Chartis Specialty Insurance Company v. Aqua Sciences Engineers Inc., No. 11-03669, N.D. Calif.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81645).