Judge Kurt Engelhardt of the Eastern District of Louisiana, who held in October that the Federal Emergency Management Agency does not enjoy immunity from suit by plaintiffs seeking to recover from exposure to formaldehyde in trailers, yesterday dealt plaintiffs a setback by holding that they are not entitled to present their claims against various trailer manufacturers through a class action.
I have not read the opinion, but one can find a good summary of the issues presented in this story from the Times Picayune, which emphasizes the court’s concern over impossibility of determining liability, proximate causation of injury, and damages for a “class” of people of varying health, age, demographics, and lengths of exposure. Each plaintiff will have to try his or her case separately.
All of the above are individual issues that render analysis on a class-wide basis utterly impossible, ” Engelhardt ruled in a 50-page decision. “Each plaintiff’s claims and alleged injuries will require an examination of individual evidence.
This makes sense because, from a practical standpoint, it would be impossible to present over 100 chemical injury claims to one jury, a problem that isn’t present in class settlements such as Vioxx. (The Vioxx case still had problems aplenty.) The opinion also emphasizes that each of the trailer manufacturer defendants may have separate defenses, including different manufacturing techniques and levels of formaldehyde within its trailers.
If anyone knows of a publicly available link to the opinion (I’m not writing this from a computer where a PACER download would be practical), it would be greatly appreciated.