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3rd Circuit Vacates $6M Verdict Against Environmental Officials

By Tanya Roth, Esq. | Last updated on

On April 26, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to vacate a jury judgment awarding $6.5 million to workers at the Department of Environmental Protection.

The award had already been vacated by the district court before the case to went to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

The DEP workers were found personally liable for retaliation against a mineral wool maker by use of their enforcement powers.

Northeast Regional Director Michael Bedrin, former air quality program manager Thomas DiLazaro, current air quality program manager Mark Wejkszner and DEP attorney Sean Robbins were liable for a staggering $6.5 million under a 42 USC 1983 suit involving state claims of tortious interference with prospective contractual relations.

According to the wool maker, Mineral Fiber Services (MFS) Inc., the DEP officials retaliated against MFS after MFS contacted a state legislator to complain about a violation it received from the DEP for odors that were coming from the wool maker's facilities.

The DEP officials then began issuing violation notices and delaying air-quality permit applications for MFS.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania threw out the jury verdict last year. Judge Joel H. Slomsky found that it was unjust to impose personal liability on the DEP officials for the legal performance of their statutory and regulatory duties.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the U.S. District Court decision, noting that the district court's ruling was well reasoned and thorough.

The appeals court didn't address the issue of qualified immunity since the district court determined no constitutional violation had occurred.

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