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Friday, September 20, 2019

Judge denies remand in Saint-Gobain class action

By Kristin Regula | Dec 20, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. (Legal Newsline) -- U.S. District Court Judge Joseph LaPlante won't send a class action lawsuit against Saint-Gobain back to state court, despite the plaintiffs' request.

The plaintiffs sought remand under Local Controversy Exception in the Class Action Fairness Act because although there are plaintiffs in Vermont and New York, most of the plaintiffs reside in New Hampshire. 

Specifically, the suit alleges that toxic chemicals from a Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant leaked into groundwater supplies for both public and private properties, which would have affected those using wells to obtain drinking water. 

The goal for all the plaintiffs, especially those in New Hampshire, is to recover enough money to offset medical costs for future illnesses allegedly caused by the chemicals spilled into the water supply.

The case is being watched by New England-area attorneys like Donald R. Frederico, of the firm Pierce Atwood LLP in Boston. 

“This statute [Local Controversy Exception] only applies to class actions,” Frederico said. “It doesn’t come up often.”

A second lawsuit was brought against Saint-Gobain by residents of New Hampshire, but it was only filed to seek damages for alleged contaminated groundwater. 

Unlike the plaintiffs seeking compensation for illnesses allegedly caused by contaminated water, this second suit only specifies environmental damage caused by the alleged contamination itself.

Although the reasoning for Saint-Gobain arguing for the case to remain in federal court is unclear, it is possible this was due to the differences in the federal court system versus those in the New Hampshire state court system. 

"I think defendants have cases moved to federal court because they’re more comfortable with federal procedure,” Frederico said.

The three towns in New Hampshire allegedly affected by contamination due to the Saint-Gobain plant are Litchfield, Manchester and Merrimack. However, moving the case might not do anything to help or hurt either side involved.

“At the end of the day, there could be no difference with the case,” Frederico said.

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U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire