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Lockheed Martin Corp. v. Superior Court of San Bernardino County

ELR Citation: 30 ELR 20529
Nos. Nos. E025064 et al., 94 Cal. Rptr. 652/(Cal. Ct. App., 04/11/2000)

The court holds that a trial court improperly certified as a class residents of a community that alleged that several manufacturers contaminated a portion of their city's groundwater. The residents sought a court-supervised medical monitoring program funded by the manufacturers and punitive damages in connection with their alleged exposure to chemicals in the groundwater. The court first holds that certification of the class was inappropriate because individual issues clearly predominate, thereby eliminating community of interest. Significant common issues of fact do exist, but these issues would be overwhelmed by the numerous inquiries necessary to establish each individual's claim to medical monitoring. It would be necessary to introduce evidence as to each class member's level of exposure to a range of chemicals, personal characteristics, and health history including alternative risk factors. In addition, the manufacturers have raised a statute-of-limitations defense so that evidence of a class member's knowledge of the contamination will be relevant. Further, being a member of the class in this situation requires a threshold level of exposure to contaminated water, but such exposure does not determine an individual's right to medical monitoring. The variety of chemicals and the range of possible diseases identified by the individuals are extensive, and the issue of whether medical monitoring would be appropriate for each individual's medical condition or disease must be considered. Moreover, the court is not bound by federal decisions that concern class certification under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 because the federal rule does not require a finding of predominance of common issues as is required under California civil procedure.

Counsel for Petitioners
Linnea Brown
Holme, Roberts & Owen
1700 Lincoln St., Ste. 4100, Denver CO 80203
(303) 861-7000

Counsel for Respondent
Walter J. Lack
Engstrom, Lipscomb & Lack
10100 Santa Monica Blvd., 16th Fl., Los Angeles CA 90067
(310) 552-3800