Gates v. Rohm & Haas Co., No. 10-2108 (3d Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
Named plaintiffs are residents of a residential area of about 2000 people. Defendants, chemical companies, operated a facility one mile north of the area. Plaintiffs allege that defendants dumped wastewater into a lagoon that seeped into an aquifer where it degraded into vinyl chloride, a carcinogen. The district court denied certification of a class seeking medical monitoring for village residents exposed to airborne vinyl chloride between 1968 and 2002, and a liability-only issue class seeking compensation for property damage from the exposure. The Third Circuit affirmed. The district court acted within its discretion in finding plaintiffs would be unable to prove a concentration of vinyl chloride that would create a significant risk of contracting a serious latent disease for all class members. A single injunction or declaratory judgment could not provide relief to each member of the class, due to individual issues unrelated to the monetary nature of the claim. Each person's work, travel, and recreational habits may have affected their level of exposure. Certification of a liability-only issue class could unfairly impact defendants and absent class members.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on September 6, 2011.