Environmental Class Actions

Environmental class actions allege that a person, company, or governmental department or agency, harmed the environment.  Areas of pollution can include ground water, large bodies of water, soil, beaches, or the air.  Even if the area does not sustain permanent pollution, class members can still recover when the pollution results in a temporary nuisance.  Types of damage can range from toxic chemicals to odors emitted from a hog farm.  In other cases, the damage resulted from the noise associated with a new airport or factory.

Why File a Class Action?

Often the damage sustained by one landowner or resident is similar or identical to the damage sustained by other landowners and residents.  The class action allows those affected to pool their resources and share information.  However it is not necessary for a group of landowners or residents to agree to file the suit.  One individual may act on behalf over everyone without the consent or authorization from the group.  Depending on the nature of the suit, the plaintiff's attorneys may gain assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Missouri Department of Health, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, or other state and national offices and epidemiologists.

Types of Relief

If the damage is of the type that can be eliminated, courts will often grant an injunction to stop the harm.  For example, if a city counsel votes to create a landfill behind an elementary school, a resident or parent may sue to stop the landfill before the municipality breaks ground.  Sometimes, however, the damage is irreversible, or will take many years to rectify.  In these situations, the only recourse is a large monetary award.

Recent Examples

Residents of Cameron, Missouri, recently filed a class action lawsuit in Clinton County Circuit Court against a fertilizer manufacturer alleging that the fertilizer contained high levels of hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen.  The suit alleges that the chemical was delivered to farms in Buchanan, DeKalb, Andrew and Clinton counties, where it was spread and eventually caused a large number of brain tumors.

A recent class action filed on behalf of a group of Herculaneum children alleged that Fluor Corp.'s mining and smelter operations caused the children to be exposed to dangerously high levels of lead, arsenic and cadmium.  The suit sought the cost of medical monitoring and medical treatment.  See Lani Meyer vs. Fluor Corp. (Mo. SC87771)

A group of Florida beachfront property owners recently filed suit against the state seeking ownership of land the state added to combat erosion.  The property owners allege that the state unlawfully changed the status of their property from oceanfront to ocean-view without compensation.

More Information

If you have a question relating to a possible or pending environmental class action, please send a direct message or call our office at (314) 725-4400.