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Ruling in Denial of Class Certification for Property Owners in Oil Spill Case

By FindLaw Staff on February 24, 2010 9:39 AM

In Gintis v. Bouchard Transp. Co., Inc., No. 09-1717, the First Circuit faced a challenge to the district court's denial of class certification in an action by plaintiffs against a fuel barge owner and operator for substantial amount of oil discharged into a Massachusetts bay.

In its decision, the district court relied heavily on the denial of class certification in Church v. General Electric Co., 138 F.Supp. 2d 169 (D. Mass. 2001).  However, the court stated: "To begin with, Church does not support a general rule that pollution torts charged against a single defendant escpate class treatment on the ground that the requirements to show injury, cause and compensatory amount must be sustainable as to specific plaintiffs.  If that were the law, the point of the Rule 23(b)(3) provisions for class treatment would be blunted beyond utility..." 

Other than its reliance on Church, the court concluded that district court's fact finding was too sparse to determine whether class should have been certified, and as such, the decision of the district court is vacated and remanded. 

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