ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Sept. 3 overturned a federal judge in Alaska's summary judgment award to the owner and operator of a coal loading facility after finding that the defendants' general National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit does not shield it from liability over discharges of coal into Resurrection Bay (Alaska Community Action on Toxics, et al. v. Aurora Energy Services LLC, et al., No. 13-35709, 9th Cir.).
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 New York justice affirmed most aspects of a $6 million asbestos verdict in an opinion filed Sept. 2, ordering a new trial on the loss-of-consortium claim only if the plaintiff refused to stipulate to a reduction to $340,000 of the $2 million award (Mary Anne McCloskey, et al. v. A.O. Smith Water Products, et al., No. 190441-12, N.Y. Sup., New York Co.).
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.).
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Manufacturers present at a man's deposition did not share the required similar motives or predecessor-in-interest status with an employer embroiled in a workers' compensation case involving asbestos exposure, a divided Ohio Supreme Court held Sept. 3 in excluding the testimony (Mary Lou Burkhart v. H.J. Heinz Co., et al., No. 2013-0580, Ohio Sup.).
NEWARK, N.J. - Plaintiffs adequately allege that talc companies and their attorneys concealed, lied about and destroyed evidence of asbestos contamination and may pursue fraud and fraudulent concealment claims, a Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel held Sept. 3 in partially reversing dismissal of the action (Kimberlee Williams, et al. v. BASF Catalysts LLC, et al., No. 13-1089, 3rd Cir.).
WHEELING, W.Va. - A federal judge in West Virginia on Sept. 2 dismissed a couple's lawsuit against energy companies they had contended contaminated their drinking well as a result of hydraulic fracturing operations, concluding that the couple did not meet their burden of proof of showing that there were material issues in dispute (Jeremiah N. Magers, et al. v. Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, et al., No. 12-49, N.D. W.Va.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121838).
CLEVELAND - An Ohio federal judge on Sept. 2 denied a motion filed by Whirlpool Corp. to decertify a class of purchasers of certain front-loading washing machines that allegedly develop mold and granted a motion by the claimants to modify the class (In re: Whirlpool Corp. Front-Loading Washer Products Liability Litigation, No. 1:08-WP-65000, N.D. Ohio).
WACO, Texas - A federal judge in Texas on Aug. 29 ordered Sierra Club to pay $6.4 million in attorney fees and expert costs to two companies it accused of violating the Clean Air Act (CAA), ruling that the group's suit was frivolous (Sierra Club v. Energy Future Holdings Corp., et al., No. 12-cv-00108, W.D. Texas).
INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana Supreme Court on Sept. 2 deferred to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management's (IDEM) interpretation of the phrase "chemical process plant" when deciding that ethanol processing plants are not "major emitting facilities" that are subject to a stricter level of emissions controls, explaining that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Ethanol Rule gave the state agency the latitude to make that decision (Natural Resources Defense Council v. POET Biorefining - North Manchester LLC, et al., No. 49S02-1405-MI-313, Ind. Sup.; 2014 Ind. LEXIS 659).
CLEVELAND - Ohio's "competent medical authority" regulations require testimony from a doctor who actually treated a Veterans Affairs patient, and whether such requirements violate an asbestos plaintiff's rights will be ripe for review only after an attempt to secure an opinion from Veterans Affairs, the Ohio Supreme Court held Sept. 3 (Cleo J. Renfrow v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co., No. 13-0761, Ohio Sup.).
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.).
NEW ORLEANS - Halliburton Energy Services Inc. (HESI), the company that was responsible for cement work for the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, on Sept. 2 filed an agreement in Louisiana federal court under which it will pay approximately $1.1 billion to resolve claims for individuals who are part of a business and economic loss (BEL) class that suffered damages as a result of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April 2010 and ensuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater Horizon" in the Gulf of Mexico, April 20, 2010, MDL No. 2179, E.D. La.).
SYDNEY, Nova Scotia - The Provincial Government of Nova Scotia on Aug. 28 released an independent report on hydraulic fracturing that concludes that fracking should not proceed at the current time in Nova Scotia because "a significant period of learning and dialogue" is required at the provincial and community levels as the debate over fracking is currently characterized by "mistrust and conflicting information."
HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Aug. 28 issued a report indicating 243 properties in the state that have had water supplies contaminated as a result of hydraulic fracturing operations used in oil and gas exploration.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - A federal judge in Ohio on Aug. 27 ruled that a landowner was partially released from a hydraulic fracturing lease and was permitted to enter a different contract with a separate fracking company because the initial drilling company had not drilled on the land as per the terms of the contract (Jeffrey Curtis v. Hess Ohio Resources LLC, No. 13-0453, S.D. Ohio; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 119584).
CHICAGO - A widow chose not to amend an action alleging asbestosis to include a subsequent mesothelioma diagnosis, and her dismissal of that case precludes her from now bringing a claim for mesothelioma, a Wisconsin federal judge held Aug. 29 (Beverly Ahnert, et al. v. Brand Insulation Inc., et al., No. 13-1456, E.D. Wis.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121072).
FRESNO, Calif. - A federal magistrate judge in California on Aug. 29 recommending approval of a $3.1 million settlement to resolve claims stemming from contamination at a site, after concluding that the agreement was fair and reasonable (Enns Pontiac, Buick & GMC Truck, et al. v. Orella Flores, et al., No. 07-cv-1043-LJO-BAM, E.D. Calif.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121344).
CHICAGO - A Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Aug. 29 denied an environmental group's challenge to the State of Wisconsin's decision in 2011 to reissue a permit to Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products LP under Title V of the Clean Air Act (CAA), finding that modifications to the facility completed in 2004 did not affect the amount of emissions allowable under the state's regulations (Clean Water Action Council of Northeastern Wisconsin v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 12-3388, 7th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 16870).
COLUMBUS, Ohio - A federal judge in Ohio on Aug. 27 ruled that a group of landowners who had entered into leases that allowed hydraulic fracturing on their land were released from those contracts because partial lease forfeiture or cancellation is an appropriate equitable remedy for undrilled or unexploited acreage (Michael DeRosa, et al. v. Hess Ohio Resources LLC, No. 13-0472, S.D. Ohio; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 119587).
NEW ORLEANS - A federal judge in Louisiana on Aug. 26 remanded a case to state court, concluding that federal jurisdiction did not apply to a man's soil contamination lawsuit against a group of hydraulic fracturing companies (Henry J. Ellender Heirs v. ExxonMobil Corporation, No. 14-711, E.D. La.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 119055).
PHOENIX - A federal judge in Arizona on Aug. 26 denied a motion to dismiss a cost-recovery case related to soil contamination from underground storage tanks on grounds that the plaintiff had pleaded sufficient facts to show that it was entitled to indemnification for remediation expenses (Greyhound Lines Inc. v. Viad Corporation, No. 13-2305, D. Ariz.).
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The California General Assembly on Aug. 27 passed a bill that would establish procedures to reduce gas pipeline leaks throughout the state.
PHILADELPHIA - Pennsylvania would not burden employers with a duty to protect against take-home asbestos exposures given the weight the state gives public policy considerations, the judge overseeing the federal asbestos multidistrict litigation held Aug. 27 (Marilyn Gillen v. The Boeing Co., et al., No. MDL 875, 13-3118, E.D. Pa.).
PHILADELPHIA - A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Aug. 27 officially sentenced an explosives manufacturer to serve five years of probation and pay $1.2 million in fines for illegally storing hazardous waste (United States of America v. Action Manufacturing Company, No. 14-00224, E.D. Pa.).