An Illinois appeals court has reinstated a $120 million verdict against the former Clark Oil refinery. Specifically, the appeals court reversed a Cook County judge’s atypical decision to dissolve the suit’s status as a class action after a jury awarded the Plaintiffs a multimillion dollar verdict. The appellate court stated that the Cook County Judge’s actions were unprecedented in Illinois.
Since 1993, residents surrounding the 170-acre oil refinery have been complaining of noxious fume emissions from the facility. Additionally, the refinery operations resulted in ash being deposited on Plaintiffs’ property and explosions causing cracked foundations. In 2000, the suit against the former Clark Oil was granted class action status. In 2005, a jury awarded the Plaintiffs $80 million in compensatory damages and $40 million in punitive damages. However, in an extraordinary turn of events, Cook County Circuit Judge Cheryl Starks decertified the class action status of the case. Judge Starks explained that she reversed her earlier decision to certify the class because all 6,000 members of the class did not suffer the same degree of nuisance.
In a 2-1 decision the appellate court ruled that it was improper for Judge Starks to decertify the suit after the jury had entered a verdict. No other circuit court in Illinois had ever decertified a class after the jury reached a verdict and the trial court formally entered judgment. Under the ruling, the Defendant must pay the original $120 million judgment as well as the estimated $25 million interest that has accrued since 2005.
Source: Chicago Tribune
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