A West Virginia federal court certified a class for purposes of determining Defendants’ liability for a chemical spill that disrupted the water supply for approximately 300,000 residents in the Charleston area. Good v. Am. Water Works Co., No. CV 2:14-01374, 2015 WL 5898465 (S.D. W. Va. Oct. 8, 2015). The court also denied class certification with respect to damages, rejecting expert testimony proffered by plaintiffs in support of a proposed model for calculating damages.
In January 2014, a coal processing chemical mixture, known as Crude MCHM, was discharged into the Elk River and reached the West Virginia American’s water treatment plant. Charleston area residents were ordered not to drink the water until the contamination had been addressed. Plaintiffs assert claims of negligence, gross negligence, breach of warranties, strict products liability, and public nuisance, among others.
On Defendants’ motion, the Court excluded the testimony of Plaintiffs’ damages experts as based on hypothetical or speculative calculations, and held the damages issues in the case were too individualized and particular to be given class treatment. The Court held, however, that issues related to liability were well suited to class certification, finding “the proposed liability issue certifications provide an orderly means to resolve some of the central issues in the case.” Id. at 48.