In litigation arising out of a massive 2015 oil spill off the California coast, U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez has certified a class of property owners and real property lessees who are suing Plains All American for harm from additive-filled toxic oil that oozed into coastal beaches after an underground rupture spewed crude oil onto land and water near Refugio State Beach. At least 140,000 gallons of oil were released in the spill, leading to civil lawsuits as well as criminal charges against Plains.
Judge Gutierrez indicated that the property class plaintiffs, owners and lessees of beachfront land and residential properties with access to the beach where oil fouled the shore, had clearly met the certification requirements, favoring class treatment over a potential proliferation of individual lawsuits. The plaintiffs estimate that thousands of owners and lessees will be included in the suit as they face common questions of liability. The property owner and lessee class is the third to be certified in the case.
Lieff Cabraser partner Robert J. Nelson, representing the plaintiffs, explained to Law360 (subscription) that the impacted properties span more than 100 miles of California coastline and could number as high as 5,000. “It’s time to start preparing the case for trial, and we look forward to doing so,” stated Nelson.