LOS ANGELES, CA, May 1, 2023 – Last Friday, a federal court of appeals upheld a jury’s findings in favor of theCity of Pomona, California, against the North American subsidiary of a multinational mining company for contaminating the City’s drinking water. The jury had found that the defendant, SQM North America Corporation, had imported fertilizer fromChile containing a toxic chemical, perchlorate, which contaminated the City’s drinking water supplies when it was used on local citrus orchards in the first half of the 20th century.
At the September2021 trial, a jury in federal court in Los Angeles awarded Pomona $48 million to pay for the City’s costs of treating perchlorate, which included expenses the City had already incurred and the expenses of treating perchlorate into the future. SQM, a subsidiary of Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile, had requested a new trial, but that request was denied by the trial judge, who found that both the jury's liability finding and its damages award were supported by the evidence. SQM appealed this decision to the Court of Appeals for the NinthCircuit, in Pasadena, which ruled that the evidence supported the City’s claim that the fertilizer had been defectively designed to contain excess levels of perchlorate, and that the suit was not barred by the statute of limitations.The Circuit also ruled that, while the evidence clearly supported $30.2 million in damages, the trial judge had made mistakes in finding that the evidence supported $48.1 million in damages, and remanded the case to him to reconsider that ruling in light of other arguments the City had presented to defend the$48.1 million award.
Ken Sansone of SLEnvironmental Law Group, who represented the City of Pomona at trial, said, “We are gratified that the Ninth Circuit upheld the jury’s decision holding SQM responsible for tens of millions of dollars in cleanup costs from its defective fertilizer, and look forward to the opportunity to once again defend the jury’s full $48.1 million verdict in the district court. The City of Pomona has not given up, and is to be commended for its resilience in fighting this battle for over a decade. We continue to stand side-by-side with the City in its commitment to ensuring that the polluters, not the taxpayers of Pomona, pay to clean up its drinking water.”
About SLEnvironmental Law Group, P.C.: SL Environmental is a law firm that exclusivelyrepresents cities, states, and water utilities in cases involving watercontamination. Founded in 2003, the efforts of SL Environmental haveresulted in its clients receiving over $1.2 billion in settlements andjudgments from polluters who contaminated drinking water supplies.