Defense Verdict in Toxic Tort
Charles M. McDaniel, Jr. and Broderick Harrell recently obtained a defense verdict in a toxic tort chemical exposure nuisance cause of action. Twenty-nine residents within three neighborhoods in East Point, Georgia, sued W.C. Meredith Co., Inc. in nuisance and trespass arising out of alleged emissions of toxic chemicals emanating from its telephone pole manufacturing operation. A total of 165 Plaintiffs disbursed among three separately filed lawsuits claimed that the alleged toxic emissions from Meredith’s operation constituted a nuisance and trespass because odors and exposure to the chemicals from the operation allegedly interfered with their use and enjoyment of their property, including fear from exposure to pentachlorophenol (“penta”), a highly regulated chemical used to treat the wooden poles. In addition to monetary damages and injunctive relief, Plaintiffs sought recovery of their attorney’s fees that they claimed to have exceeded $2 million and punitive damages.After 10 days of trial, with over 40 witnesses, including four expert witnesses, the jury deliberated for only three and one-half hours before finding that the plant operation did not constitute a nuisance, nor did it constitute a trespass. Plaintiffs argued that their fear of exposure to a probable human carcinogen was reasonable because air testing demonstrated penta traveled into the neighborhood. However, expert testimony revealed that penta emissions were not detected in the most recent testing and several agencies investigated the complaints and no health risks were found. Moreover, cross examination of Plaintiffs revealed that some of the Plaintiffs were using the litigation to force the company out of business and not merely seeking implementation of air pollution controls as initially suggested.