Environment
11:17 am
Wed July 20, 2011

Homeowners who claim land was polluted by Dow must go it alone

Back in 2003, more than 150 homeowners got together to file a class action lawsuit against Dow Chemical in Midland.

The homeowners claimed that their property values had dropped because of dioxin pollution released by Dow.

Now, a judge in Saginaw has ruled that the homeowners do not have class-action standing in the lawsuit. If they want to sue Dow for their loss, the homeowners will now have to file individual lawsuits.

Lindsay Knake has been covering the decision for the Saginaw News. Knake writes that the ruling from retired Saginaw County Judge Leopold Borrello said the plaintiffs failed to establish the "commonality prerequisite." (The plaintiffs had to show that they suffered the same injury.):

“The only common question in the present case is whether defendant released dioxin into the Tittabawassee River flood plain,” states the opinion document. “Even assuming that defendant negligently released dioxin and that it contaminated the soil in plaintiff’s properties, whether and how the individual plaintiffs were injured involves highly individualized factual inquiries regarding issues such as the level and type of dioxin contamination in the specific properties, the different remediation needs and different stages of remediation for different properties, and the fact that some of the properties have been sold.”

Bordello had ruled in 2005 that the residents did have class-action status, but in 2009 the Michigan Supreme Court asked him to clarify his ruling.

Dow was obviously pleased with Bordello's latest decision.

Knake writes in the Saginaw News that at least one of the 150 plaintiffs, Carol Chisholm, will talk with her lawyers about next steps:

The Thomas Township resident said retired Saginaw County Judge Leopold Borrello’s opinion, which removes class action status from Henry V. Dow, is a shame.

“It’s just too bad our government and court are not protecting the average homeowners, they are just taking care of big business,” she said.