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Pollution case decision may eliminate liability for food company

One of the reasons it's important that victims choose a skilled, experienced advocate to help them recover from harm on someone's premises is that it can become complex. Many defendants and legal issues to be resolved in court may surface. When the harm comes from toxic exposure, more often than not, this is a likely scenario.

Reports are that a judge has tentatively ruled that a parent company isn't liable for a developer's actions. Counsel for the victims, residents of a neighborhood built by that developer, disagrees with the ruling for summary judgment. Their facts, he maintains, prove the well-known food company knew of the contamination when its subsidiary, the residential developer, built the homes.

According to court documents, defendants include the oil company responsible for the petroleum waste contained in three underground tanks that remained buried when the oil company sold the land to the co-defendant real estate developer almost 50 years ago. Six years ago, residents learned that oil and other carcinogens had been leaking into the soil in the residential area housing about 1,500. They included ultra-hazardous chemicals, among which were methane and benzene. Melanoma and lymphoma are allegedly caused by exposure to these toxins.

After the lawsuit was filed in 2009, plaintiffs reached a $90 million settlement agreement with the oil company. The corporation also agreed to a $146 million cleanup. In the lawsuit against the developer, their argument is that there wouldn't be sufficient assets to award them a judgment if the developer were the only business liable for the pollution. The judge tentatively found, according to records, that because a corporation winds down or has money-losing years diminishing its ability to pay tort damages, doesn't mean shareholders are liable for the difference.

Counsel for plaintiffs and defendants have an opportunity to argue their positions before the judge decides whether or not to make his ruling on summary judgment for the food corporation final. This opportunity, if well-utilized with a solid premises liability strategy, may prove to be beneficial to the plaintiffs. Regardless of how complex a case becomes, victims are entitled to seek accountability when dangerous property conditions cause harm.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Dole Food May Skate in SoCal Pollution Case," Matt Reynolds, June 11, 2015

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