Chemical Plant Can’t Dodge Claims Over Odors

     PENSACOLA, Fla. (CN) — A chemical company with a history of being accused of failing to control its emissions was unsuccessful in its attempt to shut down a noxious-odors class action brought by its neighbors.
     Taminco US Inc., a subsidiary of global firm Eastman Chemical Company, has a chemical plant in Pace, Fla., where three of its neighbors claim the company is emitting pernicious odors.
     In November 2015, plaintiffs Danny Lombardozzi, Michael Dabney and Patricia Dabney sued Taminco for public nuisance, private nuisance, negligence and gross negligence, claiming it emits ammonia and ammonia derivatives into the atmosphere.
     Lombardozzi and the Dabneys live in residential homes within two miles of the chemical plant. They claim “noxious and offensive odors emanating from the facility ‘physically invade’ their ‘homes, land, and property,’ thereby diminishing their full use and enjoyment of the properties and decreasing the properties’ value,” court records show.
     The plaintiffs seek class certification, punitive damages and declaratory and injunctive relief.
     Taminco argued that a federal judge in Northern Florida should dismiss the case because it involves “‘technical matters related to air quality and air emissions’ that are not within the conventional knowledge of judges or jurors and require the specialized expertise of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to resolve.”
     The company also argued that because the FDEP has been trying to control the Pace facility’s emissions in the past, the court should not be able to try the case.
     Taminco claims its permit given by the FEDP “insulates it from public nuisance liability.”
     But U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers ruled Aug. 24 that the FDEP has no authority over the case and “the plaintiffs’ claims are uniquely within the court’s purview.”
     “Defendant has not persuaded the court that the FDEP’s expertise and specialized knowledge is essential in adjudicating the common law tort claims in this case,” Rodgers wrote in a 13-page opinion.
     The judge denied Taminco’s motion to dismiss the claims for private nuisance, negligence, and gross negligence. He gave the Lombardozzi and the Dabneys 14 days to file an amended complaint that more specifically alleges the nature of the injuries suffered by the general public and the injunctive relief sought.
     Taminco has an alleged history of failing to control its noxious odors, and the plaintiffs’ complaint lists 10 instances.
     For example, “On June 8, 2011, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection fined defendant $24,000 for an Aug. 30, 2010, release of ammonia above the allowed reportable quantities and for violating notification requirements by failing to immediately notify the National Response Center as soon as the plant knew the release exceeded the allowed quantities.”
     Eastman Chemical Company’s corporate communications team did not return an emailed request for comment by Thursday.
     Christopher Bailey of Florida-based Aronfeld Trial Lawyers represents the class and did not return a phone call seeking comment.

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