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Wehner v. Syntex Corp.

Citation: 17 ELR 20957
No. No. C-85-20383-WAI, 117 F.R.D. 64/25 ERC 2107/(N.D. Cal., 04/17/1987) Motion to certify plaintiff class granted

The court holds that residents and owners of property in Times Beach, Missouri, can maintain a class action for response costs pursuant to § 107 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act for damages related to dioxin contamination. The court holds that the plaintiffs meet the requirements for class certification set out in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. The court holds first that plaintiffs are so numerous that joinder is impracticable. Because the contaminated properties are specifically identified, the size of the plaintiff class is ascertainable. However, to the extent that any of the sites was not contaminated by the defendants, some members of the class may later be severed from the action. Second, the court holds that the nature of the dioxin constitutes a common issue of fact, and the scope of recoverable response costs is a common issue of law. Third, the court holds that the typicality requirement is satisfied, since the claims of the plaintiffs all relate to the same alleged negligence in the manufacture and disposal of dioxin by the defendants. Fourth, the court holds that the named plaintiffs will adequately represent the entire class. Plaintiffs' counsel is presumptively competent, and will fairly and adequately represent the class's interests. Although plaintiffs have suffered in different degrees from the dioxin contamination, the issues that unify plaintiffs outweigh any conflicts of interest among them. Finally, the court holds that the common question of defendants' negligence predominates over issues of individual damages, and that a class action is the superior method of adjudicating this case. A class action will permit all plaintiffs, including those who cannot afford to bring an independent action, an adjudication of their claims. If some plaintiffs were not injured by the alleged contamination, or if their injuries were not caused by the defendants' conduct, such plaintiffs may be severed from the class. The court orders plaintiffs to provide notice to each reasonably identifiable class member in accordance with due process requirements.

[Opinions in a related case are published at 14 ELR 20265; 15 ELR 20210, 20346, 21018. An earlier opinion in this case is published at 16 ELR 20406.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Alan Kanner
1718 Locust St., Philadelphia PA 19106
(215) 546-6661

Counsel for Defendants
Joseph M. Spivey III
Hunton & Williams
707 E. Main St., Richmond VA 23212
(804) 788-8200