Wajert Discusses Common Issues in Toxic Tort Litigation

Shook, Hardy & Bacon Philadelphia Managing Partner Sean Wajert authored a Law360 article, "Combating Commonalities in Toxic Tort Class Actions," exploring a decision in an Oklahoma federal court denying class certification to homeowners living near a research facility because individual issues outweighed any common issues in their groundwater contamination claims. Wajert summarizes the court's reasoning and its implications, noting, "The court concluded that 'the vast number of important individualized issues' relating to defendant's alleged ultimate liability as to all of plaintiffs’ causes of action overwhelmed any alleged common questions. The case thus offers a useful reminder of how an emphasis on the allegedly common issue of defendants’ asserted wrongful conduct cannot displace the recognition that each element of the plaintiffs’ causes of action is significant for the class analysis."

"The lesson here is for defendants to urge the court to look down the road with an eye toward the trial proceedings needed to bring the entire class proceeding to conclusion; the courts may not simply assume that the case will settle after certification, thereby, in essence, ignoring the superiority requirement," Wajert concludes.