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Class Certification in Illinois Refinery Spill Case

Resident plaintiffs claimed Wood River Refinery, formerly owned by Shell Oil Co., let hazardous benzene contaminate their nearby properties and water supplies. Resident plaintiffs alleged 18 spills occurred in nearly 25 years at the refinery. The plaintiffs asserted claims for medical monitoring, trespass, public and private nuisance, and unjust enrichment. Defendants argued that the district court wrongfully and improperly certified a class of hundreds of property owners whose only common trait is that their property appears on a list drafted by plaintiff's counsel.

Approximately 1,500 people live in Roxana. Allegedly, half a million gallons of benzenes discharged into the air and water around Roxana over two decades. Also, allegedly, the benzene levels measured to be as high as 26,000 times the legal limit.

Shell's own specialists quibbled with the findings of plaintiff's expert but nevertheless found that, even if plaintiff's expert used bad science the evidence merits class certification.

The Illinois federal court granted class certification.

ConocoPhillips Company, et al., Jeana Parko, et al., No. 13-8023, Shell Oil Company, et. al. v. Jeana Parko, et. al., No. 13-8024, 7th Cir.

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