NEW ORLEANS – Thirteen residents who claim a nearby LaPlace chemical plant is threatening their health can move forward with their lawsuit following a recent U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana decision not throw their case out.
The third amended complaint filed by the residents, led by Concerned Citizens of St. John leader Robert Taylor Jr., "contains sufficient factual allegations to state a nuisance claim and avoid dismissal," U.S. District Judge Martin L. C. Feldman said in his order issued Nov. 5.
Martin denied a motion for summary judgment by Denka Performance Elastomer which argued the plaintiffs' allegations had been inadequate under state law.
Feldman denied class status in the case in February.
The LaPlace plant is the lone U.S.-producer of neoprene, a rubber-like sheeting used to make wet suits, landfill linings and medical devices. The Pontchartrain Works Facility in St. John the Baptist Parish emits the chemical chloroprene as part of the neoprene production process. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said chloroprene is a likely carcinogen in humans and the LaPlace-area plaintiffs claim their resulting cancer risk is more than 800 times the national average.
Some of the plaintiffs allege urinalysis tests that turned up chloroprene metabolites in their bodies, according to Feldman's 14-page order.
"Accepting the plaintiffs' allegations as true, these alleged injuries and fear of chloroprene exposure rise above the speculative level," the order said. "Each plaintiff further submits that these physical manifestations of their alleged chloroprene exposure abate when inside their homes or away from their properties."
Denka disputes those allegations, saying "any number of sources" could have caused the urinalysis test results.
"Maybe so," Feldman's order said. "But at this procedural stage, it is not the appropriate setting for dismissal."
DuPont sold the Pontchartrain Works Facility in November 2015 but still owns the land on which the plant is located, according to Feldman's order.
The case it not the only litigation that Denka is fighting over chloroprene emissions. St. John Parish Councilman Larry Sorapuru Jr. is the lead plaintiff in a class action against Denka that was remanded back to state court in October. Sorapuru is a named plaintiff in the Taylor-led litigation.