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In re Groundwater Cases

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20224
Nos. No. A112964, (Cal. App. 1st Dist., 08/24/2007)

A California appellate court affirmed the dismissal of residents' claims against two groups of water purveyors—one regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC), and the other a group of public entity water suppliers—seeking damages for alleged contamination to their drinking water. The appeal follows a remand from the California Supreme Court's decision in Hartwell Corp. v. Superior Court, 27 Cal. 4th 256 (Cal. 2002), in which the court held that California Public Utilities Code §1759 barred actions for damages against water purveyor defendants regulated by the PUC and arising out of exposure to contaminated drinking water where such actions challenged the adequacy of drinking water standards or sought damages for exposure to water that met applicable regulatory standards. However, the court held that §1759 did not bar damages for exposure to water that violated federal and state drinking water standards. On remand, the trial court dismissed the residents' claims. In so doing, it properly applied the court's holding in Hartwell. The lower court did not adopt overly narrow definitions of the terms "federal and state drinking water standards" and "violations" as those terms were used in Hartwell. Nor did it err in concluding that the residents failed to identify any enactment imposing a "mandatory duty" on the public entity defendants within the meaning of California Government Code §815.6. And the trial court did not improperly limit the residents' discovery.