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Litigation

Coca-Cola Company Sued On Behalf Of Michigan Village Residents

NEW YORK — Weitz & Luxenberg announced April 27 that the firm has filed a property damage lawsuit against the Coca-Cola Company, and certain of its affiliates, on behalf of 80 residents and former residents of Paw Paw, Mich., whose homes have allegedly been damaged by years of soil contamination.

 “The affected residents are struggling without drinkable town water, which is made even worse by the impact that Coca-Cola’s contamination has on residents’ daily use of their homes, diminished property values and health concerns,” said Robin Greenwald, head of the Environmental and Toxic Torts Unit at Weitz & Luxenberg. “Coca-Cola has known about the problems it has been causing residents for at least 10 years, having been fined by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for its pollution practices.”

The lawsuit (No. 10-59-614-NO), filed in the Circuit Court for the County of Van Buren, charges Coca-Cola with contaminating the town’s drinking water with chemical pollutants that have migrated onto plaintiffs’ home properties from Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid brand beverage production facility in Paw Paw. The Paw Paw Township Assessor has already notified certain residents that their homes’ “state equalized values” have been reduced due to groundwater contamination from the Coca-Cola plant.

According to the seven-count complaint, Coca-Cola sprayed waste water onto the soil for more than 30 years. Today, nearby groundwater shows signs of significant contamination with detectable levels of heavy metals including arsenic, lead, iron and manganese, it says.

Paw Paw, a village with a population of approximately 3,400, is in the southwestern part of Michigan on Interstate 94, approximately 20 miles west of Kalamazoo. Weitz & Luxenberg said at least two dozen home owners there have been affected as their property is situated near the alleged source of the contamination — Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid plant on Red Arrow Highway.

According to state records, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality fined Coca-Cola $50,000 when it violated its waste discharge permit by oversaturating its Paw Paw spray fields 10 years ago. In 2001, Coca-Cola built a $7-million wastewater treatment plant to correct the problem. Based on the continuing contamination problem, however, this remedy has not resulted in the groundwater being cleaned up.

Paw Paw homeowners named in the lawsuit are seeking restitution for the contamination, which has impacted real estate values. Community members have also reported health issues, including gastrointestinal, kidney and central nervous system disorders, according to the law firm.

Weitz & Luxenberg, founded in 1986, is one of the leading plaintiffs' litigation law firms in America. For more information, visit www.weitzlux.com.