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Renaud v. Martin Marietta Corp.

ELR Citation: 25 ELR 20936
Nos. No. 91-1007, 972 F.2d 304/35 ERC 1900/(10th Cir., 08/04/1992) Aff'd

The court holds that local residents who developed severe health problems failed to present sufficient evidence that their exposure to surface water and groundwater that a missile manufacturer allegedly contaminated and that a municipal water supplier allegedly provided them for drinking and other purposes caused their illnesses. The residents' direct evidence that the contaminated water caused their illnesses consisted of expert postulation that the manufacturer had discharged wastewater containing a constant concentration of hydrazines and other contaminants on a regular basis over an 11-year period, and that the supplier delivered these contaminants in measurable quantities to the residents. The residents' experts extrapolated this conclusion from a single water sample taken from the manufacturer's wastewater pond two years after the residents had received their last water from the supplier. The court first holds that the residents did not supply the district court with satisfactory circumstantial evidence on causation, because the etiological evidence they proffered was drawn from tests on nonhuman subjects without confirmatory epidemiological data. This evidence, at best, supports only the conclusion that hydrazine causation was not inconsistent with the residents' injuries. The court next holds that the district court's observation that no one has any idea whether the single water sample taken is representative of the wastewater pond's normal contaminant concentration is little more than common sense. The court thus holds that the district court properly excluded as unsound the residents' experts' conclusions on causation based on the single data point. Accordingly, on the best record on causation that the residents could present, no reasonable juror could find that it was probable that the residents were exposed to the manufacturer's contaminants. The court thus affirms the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing the action against both defendants.

[The district court opinion is published at 21 ELR 20605.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Michael Hausfeld
Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll
West Tower
1100 New York Ave. NW, Ste. 500, Washington DC 20005
(202) 408-4600

Counsel for Defendants
Daniel S. Hoffman
Holme, Roberts & Owen
1700 Lincoln St., Ste. 400, Denver CO 80203
(303) 861-7000

Before: SEYMOUR and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges, and OWEN, District Judge.*