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Merrick v. Diageo Americas Supply, Inc.

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20209
Nos. 14-6198, (6th Cir., 11/02/2015)

The Sixth Circuit held that the CAA does not preempt property owners' state common-law tort claims against a whiskey distillery for excess ethanol emissions that allegedly caused "whiskey fungus" to grow on their properties. Below, the district court rejected the distillery's argument that the CAA preempted the tort claims. The court then went on to hold on motions for summary judgment that the owners could continue with their nuisance and trespass claims, but not their negligence claims. The distillery then filed the instant interlocutory appeal on the preemption issue. It argued that the property owners' state common-law claims conflict with the CAA's methods for regulating emissions and that allowing such claims to proceed would frustrate the purposes and objectives of the Act. The court disagreed. The states' rights savings clause of the CAA makes clear that states retain the right to "adopt or enforce" common-law standards that apply to emissions. Other parts of the text of the CAA are fully consistent with this conclusion, and the legislative history also indicates that it was not Congress' intent to preempt state common-law claims like those of the plaintiffs. The court, therefore, affirmed the district court.