Environmental Toxic Tort: Solano County, California Landfill

The Story:

We were retained by counsel for a real estate development firm that built hundreds of homes on top of a former landfill in Solano County. Lawsuits had been filed by several residents of the homes that sat on the site of the old dump. They alleged, among other things, that they were suffering from immune system damage, damage to their landscaping and vegetable/flower gardens, unusual or noxious odors and diminution of property values.

The Case:

What was unusual about this case was that only a relatively small number of the residents had filed suits. Working with counsel, we devised a map of the entire housing project and carefully noted the addresses of individuals who were plaintiffs in existing lawsuits. We then proceeded to contact all the non-plaintiff residents and questioned them extensively about any possible complaints they might have, such as exacerbation of existing illnesses, new illnesses, condition of their yards and landscaping and whether they had tried to sell their homes and, if so, did the location of their houses, on top of an old landfill affect the price?

As in all of these types of cases, we were forthright about whom we were working for and the purpose of our inquiries.

A picture began to emerge of the majority of non-plaintiff residents who were very happy with their homes, had no illnesses, no landscaping or garden problems and no diminution of value of their homes.

Additionally, several of these witnesses volunteered information about some of the plaintiffs that contradicted those plaintiffs' statements about how their "exposure to all these toxins" was affecting their health, such as inability to maintain balance, difficulty breathing, etc.

As in any toxic tort matter, there may be plaintiffs who have in fact suffered harm from exposure to toxins with which the defendants were involved. But, as can also happen, many plaintiffs catch "litigation fever" and jump on the bandwagon even though they haven't suffered harm. A prompt investigative response by the defendant can forestall lengthy and ruinous litigation and judgments.

In this case, after our investigation, counsel for the housing corporation made a motion for summary judgment for the defendant, that was granted. There were no other motions made by the plaintiffs such as reconsideration or appeals, and the case was closed.

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