Articles Posted in Toxic Torts

In 2002, a mother and her teenage daughter were living in a rented home. One night, the high school junior returned home at 10:30 pm and noticed a faint order when she walked into the residence, but she didn’t identify it as natural gas because she didn’t know what natural gas smelled like.

On the following morning, the mother woke up about 6:30 am and smelled what she thought was natural gas. Her daughter recognized the odor as the same she had detected the night before but the smell had grown much stronger. The mother called 911, but the gas explosion occurred immediately after that call was made. The mother and daughter were severely injured.

The plaintiffs sued the owner and general manager of the duplex where they lived as well as the plumbing company that had installed the gas piping. It was alleged by the plaintiffs that the interior gas piping had been installed negligently and caused the explosion.

After the lawsuit had been filed, the plaintiffs added gas utility, Northern Illinois Gas as a defendant. The plaintiff settled with the building owner and general manager as well as the plumbing company. They proceeded against Northern Illinois Gas who they alleged was negligent in that the company failed to inspect its work and warn the plaintiffs.

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Blue Island, Illinois residents rejoiced on word that the 1st District Appellate Court reinstated a $120 million class action verdict. The Illinois class action lawsuit was prompted when Blue Island residents complained that the refinery was responsible for years of air pollution and other forms of contamination.

The refinery in question changed hands several times over the course of the years in question. It was first operated by Clark Oil & Refining Corporation, which became Clark Refining & Marketing, Inc. who then became Premcor and then finally Valero Energy Corporation. Valero is the present owner and maintains that it did not own the plant at the time the refinery was held responsible for the damages to the residents.

In November, 2005, a Cook County jury awarded the class of plaintiffs $80 million in compensatory damages and $40 million additional in punitive damages. But about a year after the entry of the verdict, the trial judge, Cheryl A. Starks, entertained the defendant’s post-trial motion to decertify the class and vacate the damage awards. The Appellate Court considered only the issue of whether or not Judge Starks had the authority to decertify the class- they ruled that she did not.
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