New opinion: Third Circuit revives nuisance & negligence claims against Bethlehem landfill

Baptiste v. Bethlehem Landfill Co.—civil / environmental—reversal—Restrepo

The Third Circuit today ruled in favor of a group of residents of Bethlehem, Pa., who sued their municipal landfill due to its overpowering smell and air pollution. The introduction:

Robin and Dexter Baptiste brought an action against the Bethlehem Landfill Company on behalf of a class of homeowner-occupants and renters claiming interference with the use and enjoyment of their homes and loss in property value caused by noxious odors and other air contaminants emanating from the Bethlehem landfill. They brought these claims under three state-law tort theories: public nuisance, private nuisance, and negligence.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted the company’s motion to dismiss the complaint. The District Court held that too many residents were similarly affected to sustain a private claim for public nuisance, that the odors affected too many people and the landfill was too far away from them to constitute a private nuisance, and that the plaintiffs had failed to identify a duty of care to maintain a negligence claim. We disagree, and therefore, we will reverse and remand.

Joining Restrepo were Roth and Fisher. Arguing counsel were Nicholas Coulson of Detroit for the residents, Matthew Owens of Chicago for amici supporting the residents, and Eric Klein of Florio Perrucci for the landfill.