Georgia Court Of Appeals Upholds Class Certification In Air Pollution Case

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The Georgia Court of Appeals,  on July 16, issued its opinion affirming the Effingham County Superior Court’s decision to certify a class consisting of the owners of properties neighboring Georgia-Pacific’s Savannah River Mill in Rincon. Plaintiffs, owners of four of the neighboring properties, argued that the mill releases hydrogen sulfide gas onto their properties and sought class certification to include properties located within a mile of the mill. Plaintiffs brought claims for nuisance, trespass, and negligence in connection with fumes created in connection with the mill’s wastewater treatment process.

In so holding, the Court of Appeals majority found that the proposed class is too large to handle by joinder, that the common questions of law or fact prevail over individualized questions relative to individual properties, and that the claims raised by the proposed class would be common.

A three-judge dissent questioned whether plaintiffs had established that the mill’s hydrogen sulfide releases actually affected each property included in the class and concluded that fact-intensive inquiries related to the scope of injuries at each property would render the case too unwieldy to manage as a class action.

Georgia-Pacific has indicated that it will seek a review by the Georgia Supreme Court.

The case is Georgia-Pacific v. Ratner, No. A13A0455.