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Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal when a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A complaint states a facially plausible claim for relief when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The complaint must establish more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Ultimately, this inquiry is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.
This action arose out of defendants', 3M Company, Dyneon LLC, and Daikin America Inc., discharge of wastewaters containing perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), and related chemicals into the Tennessee River near Alabama. Specifically, defendant and its wholly-owned subsidiary, owned and operated manufacturing and disposal facilities which have released, and continue to release, the chemicals into ground-and surface water, through which the chemicals were ultimately discharged into the river. Defendant Daikin America manufactured chemicals that produced PFOA as a byproduct, and discharged these chemicals into the Utilities Wastewater Treatment Plant. The Plant, in turn, discharged the wastewater into the river. Defendants discharged these chemicals thirteen miles upstream from the area where plaintiff, West Morgan-East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority, draws water that it supplied to local water utilities or directly to consumers. Although the plaintiff treated the water, unsafe levels of the chemicals remained in the drinking water. Studies showed that absorption of these chemicals may cause long-term physiologic changes and damage to the body organs, and an increased risk of developing diseases. Plaintiffs, the Authority, Tommy Lindsey and Lanette Lindsey et al., alleged that defendants continued to discharge these chemicals into the river despite knowing of the persistence and toxicity of said chemicals. Further, defendants were aware that tests of the plaintiff Authority's treated water have shown elevated levels of these chemicals. As a result of these levels, plaintiff Authority has incurred costs of testing its treated water, implementing pilot programs to develop more effective methods for the removal of the chemicals, and attempting to locate a new water source. Representative plaintiffs and the proposed class were owners or possessors of property who consume water supplied by the plaintiff Authority and other water utilities that received water from it. They alleged personal injuries from their exposure to unsafe levels of these chemicals in their domestic water supplies, including elevated levels of those chemicals in their blood serum. The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) analyzed the blood serum of the customers of the Authority and found an association between elevated levels of those chemicals and the use of drinking water supplied by the plaintiff. In addition to personal injuries, Representative Plaintiffs and the proposed class claim diminution in their real property values, and out-of-pocket costs for purchasing water filters and bottled water. Plaintiffs asserted common law claims of negligence, nuisance, abatement of nuisance, trespass, battery, and wantonness against defendants. Currently before the court was defendants’ motion to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
Should the defendants’ motion to dismiss be granted?
The court granted in part, and denied in part. The court granted the motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s trespass claim and denied as to the other claims. The court explained that the negligence claims were not time barred as the court found that on plaintiff note, defendants continue to discharge chemicals into the water supply and had taken no actions to remediate the contamination that has already occurred. The continuous and repeated dumping of chemicals into the river was the type of activity that the courts would recognize as a continuing tort. As regards the claim for personal injuries, the court granted the motion to dismiss this claim as the court found that while fear of injury was justified, under the law, they have not suffered a manifest, present injury, and their cause of action for negligence, at least with regard to personal injuries, has not yet accrued. Plaintiffs claim for personal injuries, thus, lack of ripeness. The court likewise granted defendants motion to dismiss the private nuisance claim as plaintiffs can hardly argue that the alleged nuisance was limited in its injurious effects to one or few individuals. Moreover, the court categorized the contamination of a public waterway as public nuisance, as such, the motion to dismiss with regard to public nuisance was denied. The court also denied the motion to dismiss as regards the abatement of nuisance claim since plaintiffs have stated their claim and pleaded sufficient facts to state a claim. On the other, the motion to dismiss the claim for indirect trespass was granted as the court found that plaintiff Authority failed to plead any facts that could support its claim of damage to its real property. However, the court denied the motion to dismiss the batter claim as the court found that the facts presented were sufficient to give rise to a reasonable inference that defendants conduct of discharging said chemicals to the river with substantial certainty that the water will be used for drinking and other household purposes. Lastly, the court denied the motion to dismiss the wantonness claim as the court found that the allegations, accepted as true for purposes of a motion, give rise to a reasonable inference that defendants have discharged, and continue to discharge toxic chemicals they know were not removed by conventional water treatment methods into a known source of drinking water.