Neighbors Win One, Lose One In Friday Legal Actions Against Pacific Steel Casting

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Sunday December 14, 2008 - 10:27:00 PM

Neighborhood opponents of West Berkeley's Pacific Steel Casting went one-for-two in Alameda County Superior Court legal decisions on Friday, with one judge overturning a previous Berkeley Small Claims Court ruling in favor of several PSC neighbors and, in a separate action, a second judge ruling that a class action lawsuit against the steel foundry can go forward. 

In the appeal from the Small Claims Court decision, Judge Jacqueline Tabor overruled a November 2007 ruling, which had awarded $35,000 in damages to a group of West Berkeley neighbors who sued Pacific Steel Casting last year. In a terse, one paragraph judgment that did not explain the reasons for her decision, Taber ordered plaintiff Thomas McGuire, a PSC neighbor, to pay Pacific Steel $85 in court costs. 

In the class action lawsuit filed in the name of Berkeley resident Rosie Lee Evans, Judge Bonnie Sabraw largely denied outright a motion by Pacific Steel Casting's attorneys to have the case either thrown out entirely or possible punishments weakened, giving Berkeley attorney Tim Rumberger until mid-January to amend the original complaint. The judge's ruling only allows the case to go forward, and is not an indication of whether the judge will ultimately rule in favor of the neighbors or Pacific Steel. 

According to Rumberger's office in a story reported last April in the Daily Planet, the class action lawsuit is seeking 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."  

Pacific Steel attorneys have not yet filed a formal answer to the original complaint, seeking instead to have the case thrown out of court.