Residents of North Bennington and Bennington, Vermont, have filed a class action lawsuit against Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp. (Saint-Gobain), accusing the company of releasing perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) into the atmosphere, from which point the chemical contaminated local soil and drinking water. As we have previously reported, PFOA is a synthetic chemical that has been linked to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, and ulcerative colitis, among other diseases.
According to the class action filings, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation has sampled drinking wells and found that nearly two thirds of the wells within a 1.5 mile radius of the company’s plant were contaminated with PFOA. The complaint has alleged claims of negligence, trespass, private nuisance, and battery against Saint-Gobain.
Saint-Gobain has filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that these claims should be thrown out in part because groundwater is state (not private) property under Vermont law, and therefore no individual Plaintiff can state a claim for physical injury to their property or person. However, the putative class claims that PFOA contamination has diminished their personal property values and has caused real damages actionable under Vermont law. The Plaintiffs argue that the Vermont Groundwater Protection Act not only creates a right of action for private Plaintiffs, but expressly reaffirms that private landowners can continue to bring common law tort claims.
Landowners in the Vermont cities claim a property interest in their drinking wells, and argue that the contamination of those wells constitutes an invasion of their property rights. The class further wants Saint-Gobain to pay for medical monitoring for city residents given the link between PFOA and multiple forms of cancer.
If you would like more information about these cases, you can contact Grant Cofer, a lawyer in Toxic Torts Section. He can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email at Grant.Cofer@beasleyallen.com.
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