The Plaintiff, a resident of Bridgeville Borough, filed suit against a neighboring builder supply company alleging that its concrete batch plant constituted a nuisance by allowing fugitive dust emissions, excessive noise and diesel truck emissions from delivery vehicles servicing the plant. Plaintiff also included claims of negligence and trespass.
Starting in 2007, Plaintiff commenced a letter writing campaign against this Company with the Allegheny County Health Department Air Quality Program and numerous other governmental agencies. Plaintiff’s campaign was widely reported in the local media.
Plaintiff alleged that the fugitive dust emissions caused him to develop chronic bronchitis that made him permanently disabled and unable to work. He also claimed that the diesel fumes caused migraine headaches.
The evidence at trial established that the operation of the Company had remained constant since 1999 and that the allegations that the business changed in 2006 as alleged by Plaintiff were unfounded.
Plaintiff presented expert testimony in an effort to support the theory that dust from the plant was found in the Plaintiff’s residence. Upon Motion of the defendant, the Court limited the testimony of this expert to the analysis of the samples taken from the Company and Plaintiff’s residence finding that the expert was unqualified to opine on wind patterns or wind modeling to establish that the dust originated from the plant. Plaintiff’s expert concluded that the samples appeared similar but made no effort to quantify the amount of materials in the residence that may have originated from the plant.
The Company’s expert, a scientist with thirty years of experience in environmental sampling and particulate identification, noted the sampling and methodology errors of Plaintiff’s expert’s failure to prevent contamination of the sample taken from Plaintiff’s residence. Plaintiff’s expert tracked dust from the plant into Plaintiff’s residence before taking a sample from the residence. The defense utilized videos taken during the Plaintiff’s expert’s sampling to demonstrate to the jury the source of the contamination. The contamination of the residence by Plaintiff’s expert explained the trace amounts of similar materials found at the plant site. Additionally, the Company’s expert testified as to the absence of particulate matter in the sample taken from Plaintiff’s residence that would have been present if the diesel fumes were infiltrating the residence as alleged.
Plaintiff presented numerous medical experts in an effort to relate his alleged medical problems to the fugitive dust emissions and the diesel fumes. However, none of those physicians were able to credibly explain away the abundance of negative test results, most of which the doctors admitted they had not reviewed. The defense medical expert, a pulmonologist, was the only physician to conduct a complete and thorough review of all medical records and testing. This thorough review gave the defense doctor additional credibility with the jury. The Company also retained a pathologist to examine biopsy samples taken during a bronchoscopy. The pathologist testified as to the absence of an increase in the number of goblet cells (mucus producing cells), which would be present if the Plaintiff was suffering from chronic bronchitis.
Following a two week trial that included testimony from nine experts, the jury returned a defense verdict.