Processing Magazine

Court OKs Class-Action in Dow Case

January 28, 2008
The Associated Press has reported that the Michigan Court of Appeals has signed off on giving residents class-action status in their lawsuit against Dow Chemical Co. over dioxin contamination.

About 2,000 property owners in the Tittabawassee River basin say dioxin releases from Dow''s Midland plant reduced the value of property along the river.

Dioxin is a chemical byproduct that may cause cancer and damage reproductive and immune systems.

A Saginaw County judge gave the suit class-action status. Dow wanted cases to continue individually.

The appeals court released a divided ruling Friday in favor of the property owners. But the two judges in the majority -- Karen Fort Hood and Patrick Meter -- split over how damages should be assessed if Dow is found liable at trial.

Judge Kirsten Frank Kelly dissented from the ruling, saying the plaintiffs failed to show commonality to be certified as a class. Some properties have elevated dioxin levels while others have none, Kelly said.

Dow may appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, which in 2005 threw out a separate part of the suit concerning whether Dow should pay the cost of testing homeowners for future dioxin-related health problems.

The dioxin issue has dragged on for years. The suit was filed in March 2003 but hasn''t yet gone to trial.

Also, the federal government said earlier this month that it had failed to reach a deal with Dow over the study and interim cleanup of the dioxin contamination. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it ended talks with Dow and was reviewing its options for ensuring that dioxin contamination in the river system and the Midland area is fully addressed.