A federal judge in Pennsylvania has refused to certify a class in a lawsuit against Rohm and Haas Co. alleging that vinyl chloride contamination in McCollum Lake Village, Illinois, caused an increase in brain cancer rates among local residents. Gates v. Rohm and Haas Co., No. 06-1743 (E.D. Pa. 3/5/10).
The complaint alleged that vinyl chloride released from defendant’s specialty chemicals manufacturing facility contaminated the village’s groundwater and air. Specifically, plaintiffs claimed that vinyl chloride levels in village air were higher than the background level of 0.042 micrograms per cubic meter and created a significantly increased risk for residents to develop brain cancer. They sought class certification for the following claims: (i) medical monitoring, (ii) public and private nuisance, (iii) negligent and intentional trespass, (iv) strict liability, (v) negligence and negligence per se, and (vi) conspiracy.
The court ruled that plaintiffs had failed to establish that all of the proposed class members had the same vinyl chloride exposure levels and therefore denied the medical monitoring claim, saying, “plaintiffs must demonstrate that they can use common proof to demonstrate that each individual was exposed to a level above background levels.” The court also denied certification of a separate class of property owners who claimed that vinyl chloride leached out of a facility owned by defendant, lowering the values of village homes and requiring significant cleanup costs. The court held that common issues do not predominate as to plaintiffs’ property damage claims. According to the court, class certification was not warranted “on the record presented to the court.”