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O'Neal v. Department of the Army

Citation: 24 ELR 21424
No. No. 1:CV-90-1073, 852 F. Supp. 327/(M.D. Pa., 05/16/1994)

The court holds that landowners whose wells were contaminated by toxic chemicals migrating from a U.S. Army aircraft maintenance facility failed to prove that the Army was negligent, and that they were entitled to medical monitoring costs, and damages for emotional distress and diminution of value of their property. The court first holds that landowners failed to prove by a preponderance of evidence that the Army's conduct at the facility fell below an appropriate standard of care and, therefore, that they failed to prove that the Army was directly negligent. The court next holds that the landowners failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the Army's conduct amounted to negligence per se, because the owners did not point to alleged statutory violations that involved either the activities that allegedly caused the well contamination or the primary chemicals found in the wells. The court also holds that the landowners failed to prove by means of res ipsa loquitur that any of the personnel at the facility were negligent, because their activity did not fall below an appropriate standard of care. The court holds that the landowners may not prevail on their medical monitoring claims because they failed to prove that the contamination resulted from negligence and that they face a significantly increased risk of contracting a serious latent disease. The court next holds that the landowners failed to prove their claim for diminution of property value because their only evidence regarding property value diminution referred to "stigma" damage. The court also holds that the landowners failed to make out a case for negligent infliction of emotional distress because they did not prove that the Army was negligent. Finally, the court holds that the landowners failed to sustain their burdens of proof with regard to their claims of trespass and private nuisance because they failed to prove by a preponderance of evidence that the Army was negligent, reckless, or that it was engaged in an ultrahazardous course of conduct.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Marvin Beshore, Laurence W. Dague
Shumaker & Williams
3425 Simpson Ferry Rd., P.O. Box 88, Harrisburg PA 17108
(717) 763-1121

Counsel for Defendants
Wagner Jackson
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000