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Cook v. Rockwell Int'l Corp., No. 08-1224

By FindLaw Staff on September 06, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Cook v. Rockwell Int'l Corp., No. 08-1224, involved property owners' class action suit against the facility operators of a former nuclear weapons plant under the Price-Anderson Act (PAA), alleging trespass claims arising from the release of plutonium particles onto their properties.  The court reversed judgment for plaintiffs where 1) district court clearly had subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. section 1331; 2) because the jury was not properly instructed on an essential element of plaintiffs' PAA claims, the verdict must be set aside and the case remanded; 3) the issue of whether federal nuclear safety standards preempt state tort standards of care under the PAA is remanded; 4) the Colorado Supreme Court would not permit recovery premised on a finding that an interference, in the form of anxiety or fear of health risks, is "substantial" and "unreasonable" unless that anxiety is supported by some scientific evidence, and the district court erred in concluding otherwise; 5) defendants failed to establish that any of the state or federal standards referenced in their proposed jury instructions overcome the general rule that the jury must determine whether a given interference is "unreasonable" by weighing the harm against the utility of the interference; 6) on remand, plaintiffs are required to prove the plutonium contamination caused "physical damage to the property" in order to prevail on their trespass claims; and 7) district court did not err in instructing the jury that it could award punitive damages in the case.

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