A federal court in Pennsylvania has refused to certify a putative class consisting of property owners within a 2,500-foot radius of a gas station that allegedly contaminated groundwater with methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE ). Kemblesville HHMO Center, LLC v. Landhope Realty Co. No. 08-2405 (E.D. Pa. 7/28/11). The site has been used as a convenience store and service station by multiple owners since 1978. Groundwater containing MTBE was first discovered at the site in 1998. Plaintiffs sued former and current owners of the site in 2008, under the Pennsylvania Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act and common law, alleging that (i) the station is the source of the MTBE , (ii) a plume of MTBE will continue to spread to other properties, and (iii) their properties have diminished in value as a result. Plaintiffs sought certification, and defendants countered that the proposed class was overly broad and ill-defined.
The court examined the proposed class to determine whether plaintiffs’ proposed geographical boundary was reasonably related to defendant’s alleged activities. The court found that only 17 properties out of the proposed class of 179 had any detections of MTBE in groundwater and only three exceeded the aesthetic concentration level set by the state. The court also found that the 2,500-foot radius was not related to the actual extent of contamination; rather, plaintiffs’ expert testified that the radius was determined by plaintiffs’ attorneys. Accordingly, the court determined that plaintiffs’ class definition was too broad and that plaintiffs failed to meet all Rule 23(a) requirements.