On October 5, 2021, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois denied the plaintiffs’ petition for group certification in Morr v. Plains All American Pipeline, LLC 2021 WL 4478660 (SD Illinois, September 30, 2021). The plaintiffs’ claims stem from a 2015 spill of approximately 100 barrels of crude oil at a pumping station near Pocahontas, Ill., Caused by a faulty tube fitting. The oil moved from the property of the pumping station to a ditch and then to Silver Creek. The oil did not extend beyond the shore of Silver Creek.
The plaintiffs’ claims included violation of the Oil Pollution Act, trespassing, negligence, per se negligence, public nuisance and continuing public nuisance. The proposed category included those who owned or rented properties in three communities from July 10, 2015 (date of the spill) to present. The three communities were more than 2.5 miles from any area with high levels of petroleum components.
The Court dismissed the plaintiffs’ motion for several reasons. First, the court ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate that the group was verifiable. The Court considered that the definition of the category was too broad, as it was based on living in the geographical area for a given period and not on “objectively verifiable factors” such as specific harm suffered. The Court noted that this could lead to people not having standing to bring an action to be included in the class. This is because the majority of people who would be included in the proposed class could not have suffered any injury or harm, as they did not have property on the shore of the spill path.
Second, the Court found that the plaintiffs did not meet the number requirement, as the evidence showed that there were unresolved claims for only 11 properties located along the route of the spill. The applicants have not provided evidence that joining the anonymous applicants would be impracticable.
With regard to the other factors of rule 23, the Court found that the plaintiffs had satisfied the community requirement because the root cause of the release, the defendants’ liability and the nature and extent of the harm were all common issues to be addressed. The Court also found that the plaintiffs met the typicality requirement because all of the potential class members’ claims were based on the same event; factual inconsistencies, such as the lack of a waterfront facade for most of the proposed class, were not sufficient to overcome typicality. The Court also found that the adequacy requirement was met because the named claimants had vigorously pursued the action and had a sufficient interest in the case.
Copyright © 2021 Robinson & Cole LLP. All rights reserved.Revue nationale de droit, volume XI, number 299