(CN) – A California appeals court revived a lawsuit accusing ExxonMobil of deliberately allowing lead, benzene and tolulene to leak into drinking water sources. Consumer Advocacy Group (CAG) claimed ExxonMobil violated the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act by “knowingly and intentionally” ignoring the contamination.
The trial court granted summary judgment to ExxonMobil on the basis of res judicata, because the Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) had filed and settled a similar case.
However, Justice Epstein ruled that the cases were not so similar that CAG’s case should not proceed.
Epstein ruled that the two lawsuits covered the same sites and the same time periods, but not the same substances.
“(CAG’s) complaint alleged violations based on benzene, tolulene and lead, while CBE’s complaint and settlement concerned benzene and tolulene, but not lead,” Epstein wrote.
That difference is important, the justice noted, because “the settlement is specific in covering only benzene and tolulene; it does not contain language permitting a broader application.”