HP Forces City of Modesto to Give Up on Final Phase of Groundwater Trial

Posted on Thursday, 01 October 2009

Facing a Motion for Summary Judgment and a Motion for Sanctions, the City of Modesto dismissed its final pending cause of action against HP client, Goss-Jewett of Northern California, Inc. ("GJNC")--bringing the trial of a 10-year-long lawsuit to an end.

In May of 2009, Hugo Parker lawyers obtained a complete defense verdict from the jury in the second phase of the trial.

However, in addition to that jury phase, plaintiff City of Modesto also alleged statutory liability in a separate cause of action under the Polanco Act--which establishes liability for entities who pollute groundwater within the boundaries of a municipality's re-development area.
Specifically, the City of Modesto alleged that GJNC--a former distributor of dry cleaning products--caused perchloroethylene to be discharged into the City's groundwater supply through its delivery practices and instructions contained in product literature it provided to its customers.
In addition to its claims against GJNC, the City also sued The Dow Chemical Corporation, PPG (both manufacturers of percloroethylene) and another distributer, R.R. Street Company, alleging similar liability.
If successful with its claims, the City could obtain injuctive relief against GJNC and/or other defendants--which would require them to clean up the groundwater at a potential cost of tens of millions of dollars.

To resolve that cause of action, a Court Trial is set to commence on October 5, 2009 in Department 613 of the San Francisco Superior Court before the Honorable Ernest Goldsmith.
However, based upon its success in the previous phases of trial and the mountain of evidence which established that GJNC bore no liability for the groundwater contamination, HP Litigation Associate Josette Johnson prepared a Motion for Summary Judgment, asking the court to dismiss that final claim as a matter of law and based on a lack of evidence.

Additionally, GJNC filed a Motion for Sanctions under the provisions of California Code of Civil Procedure 128.7--which sought to recover all attorney's fees that would be incurred by GJNC to defend plaintiff's meritless claims against it under the Polanco Act.

With those motions looming--and faced with the prospect of: a) Having the last bit of their case thrown out by the Court; and b) Being forced to pay GJNC's attorney fees--the City's attorneys opted to flee rather than fight and agreed to dismiss all the City's claims under the Polanco Act with prejudice--bringing the last remaining phase of trial (as against GJNC) to a close.
The Court Trial will proceed as scheduled against the other defendants.

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