Product Liability -- 2018

City of Modesto v. The Dow Chemical Company   (California Supreme Court)

Concerns of generalized causation over direct evidence

The NAM, along with the Chamber of Commerce and American Chemistry Council, filed an amicus brief urging the California Supreme Court to grant review in a case involving industry-wide liability for a dry-cleaning solvent. Various courts have shown a growing interest in nuisance cases, especially in California, and this case raises the question of whether a company can be held liable for nuisance even when there is no proof connecting culpable conduct to the particular harm. The City of Modesto sought damages for contamination of soil and groundwater by dry-cleaner releases of a perchloroethylene (PCE) dry-cleaning solvent. If handled properly, PCE solvents can be used safely and without environmental contamination, and no evidence existed that the PCE manufacturers, including Dow, were directly involved in the use of the solvents at the dry-cleaner sites. Allowing a generalized notion of causation to supplant proving direct evidence raises deep concerns for all manufacturers that lawfully manufacture, market and distribute beneficial, though potentially hazardous, products. On April 25, 2018, the court denied review.

Related Documents:
NAM amicus brief  (March 12, 2018)


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