Chestnut v. AVX Corporation

Respondent AVX Corporation manufactured electronic parts at a plant in North Myrtle Beach. In 1980, respondent began using a chemical called trichloroethylene (TCE) as a degreaser to clean machine tools and parts. At some point, TCE escaped the plant and migrated beyond the boundaries of respondent's property, contaminating surrounding properties and groundwater. In December 1996, respondent entered into a consent order with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), in which respondent admitted that it had violated certain state environmental statutes and regulations. DHEC required respondent to implement a plan to clean up the TCE. In 2007, environmental testing performed in a ten block section north of respondent's plant showed levels of TCE greater than considered safe. On November 27, 2007, a group of residents who own real property near respondent's plant filed suit alleging causes of action for trespass, nuisance, negligence, and strict liability. The residents brought the suit both individually and as class representatives pursuant to Rule 23, SCRCP. The circuit court granted respondent's Rule 12(b)(6) motion and dismissed appellants' claims with prejudice. In dismissing appellants' trespass, negligence, and strict liability claims, the circuit court stated that such claims "cannot be maintained when there is no evidence that alleged contamination has physically impacted [appellants'] properties." Further, with respect to appellants' nuisance claim, the circuit court noted that a claimant must plead an unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of his or her property in order to state a claim for nuisance. Therefore, the circuit court found that because their properties are not contaminated, appellants' allegations did not state a claim for nuisance. Appellants appealed. We affirm the circuit court's dismissal of both appellants' nuisance and strict liability claims because the complaint alleges actual contamination of the property in pleading both of these causes of action. Since each of these claims was pled only on behalf of the Subclass A plaintiffs and not on behalf of appellants, we uphold the circuit court's dismissal of these two causes of action pursuant to Rule 220(c), SCACR. As explained below, however, we find the complaint sufficiently pleads a negligence cause of action on behalf of appellants, and therefore reverse the dismissal of this claim. View "Chestnut v. AVX Corporation" on Justia Law