A trio of litigants from Philadelphia have filed a class action lawsuit that is reaching when it comes to defining personal harm or damages experienced. The case centers around an equipment failure at the Altuglas chemical plant in Bristol, Pennsylvania that resulted in a chemical spill into Otter Creek – a tributary of the Delaware River. According to the suit, the spill took place eight miles upstream from the Baxter Drinking Water Treatment Plant. This plant uses water from the Delaware River to supply drinking water to the City of Philadelphia.
It’s important to note – and the suit acknowledges – that a mobile public safety alert was issued following the spill. The alert initially advised residents to use bottled water as a precaution. However, in subsequent updates, residents were told the water was safe to drink as the city continued to test for contamination. Further testing did not find evidence that the drinking water had been contaminated and Philadelphia residents were continually updated on the situation. After a few days, residents were advised that the scare was over and the water was safe to drink. There have not been any reported health incidents related to the spill.
In their suit, the litigants are seeking monetary damages for having to purchase bottled water, gas for cars and other “inconvenience” costs.
This case appears to be a prime example of a frivolous class action lawsuit that will ultimately only benefit the plaintiffs’ attorneys filing the suit. As often happens with these types of class action suits, the plaintiffs’ attorneys receive the bulk of any cash settlement or award with the actual litigants receiving a miniscule amount. It is hard to believe that many residents will opt to become part of the class as no contaminants entered their water supply and therefore no real harm occurred. This will leave the bulk of any settlement or judgment to be paid out to the charity of the plaintiff attorney’s choice!
More information on the case can be found in this Pennsylvania Record article