Pacific Steel Casting’s appeal of a small claims court decision which went against the company in November began last week and is expected to go on for the next two months, a spokesperson for the steel foundry told the Planet Friday.
On Monday Berkeley attorney Timothy Rumberger announced plans to file a class action lawsuit against the company.
The west Berkeley-based steel foundry filed an appeal on Dec. 6 in Alameda County Superior Court against a judgment which awarded $35,000 in damages to a group of West Berkeley neighbors who sued Pacific Steel Casting for loss of use and enjoyment of their property and mental distress.
“The company disagreed with the decisions made by the judge,” said Elisabeth Jewel of Aroner, Jewel and Ellis, the public relations firm representing Pacific Steel. “They will be appealing all of the judgments in each of the small claims cases.”
Judge Dawn Girard ruled at the November hearing that nine of the 19 plaintiffs who filed the small claims case in August 2006 would each get between $2,100 and $5,100 because of the “private nuisance created by Pacific Steel,” and “a real and appreciable invasion of the plaintiffs’ interests.”
A majority of the plaintiffs had complained of a burnt copper-like smell which they believed could be toxic.
Lead plaintiff Tom McGuire had called the judgment “a victory for the small guys” after the November hearing.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Tabor heard only McGuire’s case Wednesday, to determine how the remaining eight cases would proceed.
“I think PSC is grasping at straws, sucker punching, anything to put up the facade of a case to wipe the toxic egg off their face,” McGuire told the Planet.
“There is so much evidence that foul odors and noxious emissions are and have been emanating from their smokestacks that to deny it or try to defend it is folly.”
Since the defendants’ expert witness in small claims would not be available for the trial, McGuire said the group had brought in local activist LA Wood.
“We’re going to have to win this case based on our own strong and compelling testimony,” he said.
Judge Tabor is retired and is returning to court only for this particular case. The hearing will take longer than usual since she will be working on the case only on Wednesdays, Jewel said.
Berkeley-based attorney Tim Rumberger intends to file a class action lawsuit against Pacific Steel today (Tuesday) on behalf of “thousands of neighbors,” according to a press release his office faxed to the Planet late Monday afternoon.
The lawsuit will seek an injunction to require the foundry to “reduce its off-site toxic emissions impact to safe levels or relocate from this neighborhood,” and demands a “compensation to the thousands of neighbors affected daily by the noxious odors and toxins.”
Calls to the Aroner, Jewel and Ellis firm for comment on Monday were not returned by press time.
Pacific Steel settled a lawsuit with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and installed a $2 million carbon absorption unit on Plant 3 to reduce emissions and odor last year.
It also settled a lawsuit with Communities for a Better Environment which required it to install an air filtration system.