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Shanley v. Chalmette Refining, LLC

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20264
Nos. 12-3045, (E.D. La., 12/03/2014) (Morgan, J.)

A district court dismissed four individuals' claims that the emission of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) from an oil refinery in Chalmette, Louisiana, caused them a variety of physical and mental damages. The toxic tort case involves 1,836 plaintiffs who allege exposure to H2S and SO2, but at the request of the parties the court agreed to a reverse-bifurcation of four bellwether plaintiffs. Those plaintiffs, however, failed to provide evidence sufficient to sustain their burden of proving causation. The plaintiffs' expert relied on the "SLAB" air modeling program, a high-density gas model freely available for public use. Yet the expert had never used SLAB before in his professional practice, and there were several apparent flaws in his methodology. Ultimately, the court determined that the expert's opinions carried no weight. And because the plaintiffs' toxicologist relied exclusively on the expert's opinions in testifying that the plaintiffs' symptoms were likely caused by exposure to H2S and SO2, the toxicologists' opinions also carried no weight. The plaintiffs' case, therefore, was dismissed.