What is the average value of a Chiquita Canyon toxic landfill odor lawsuit? This is a very important question. For some people with potential claims, the answer to this question may even be what determines whether they decide to go through with the legal process. If you have any questions about the possible value of your claim or even the average value of claims similar to yours, do not hesitate to contact the experts here at our law firm as soon as possible. Our lawyers are ready to answer all general questions that you may have as well as all specific questions relating to your claim. Here at the Downtown L.A. Law Group, our legal team has decades of experience and is ready to go above it all to fight for your rights.
A Summary of the Situation Surrounding the Chiquita Canyon Landfill
Back in September 2023, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) issued an abatement order to Waste Connections – the operators of the landfill – that required them to take action to reduce the odors coming from the landfill as they were impacting the community. The operators were ordered to maximize use of gas flares, submit monthly reports, bring in an expert committee to investigate and address the issue, and, overall, increase monitoring efforts. This abatement order was a result of countless complaints coming from residents in the surrounding community.
Residents complained of a smell so putrid that they must keep their windows closed all the time and must limit all outdoor activities. Some residents also complained of asthma attacks and nose bleeds because of the putrid smell.
According to both the landfill operators and the AQMD, the odor is caused by dimethyl sulfide (DMS) that comes from an older part of the landfill. DMS is a colorless, oily liquid with a smell similar to that of an onion – or worse. The odor from the landfill has been reported to affect the Castaic, Hasley Canyon, Live Oak, and Val Verde communities. Residents are in the works to file a class action lawsuit.
A Review of Victims’ Right to Sue
Can members of the community sue for the harm that they suffered because of exposure to toxic fumes/odors coming from landfills? Yes – victims can definitely have the right to sue. Exposure to DMS has been associated with the following harm:
- Dizziness, nausea, and vomiting
- Coughing, shortness of breath, and irritation of the respiratory tract
- Ulcers in the nose
- Ulcers in the throat
- Pulmonary edema
Waste Connections can be sued for any harm that residents suffer as a result of their negligence and failures in managing their landfill effectively. Landfills are known to release gases and toxins into the environment. Landfills must adhere to all regulations (which usually establish the maximum gases/toxins that can be released) and respond appropriately to complaints that they receive. Reportedly, there have been thousands of complaints made against Waste Connections, yet the landfill operator has failed to take any action to remedy the situation. Because the operators are aware of the issue but failed to address it, they can be found liable for the harm suffered by residents.
Although residents can sue individually, they can also participate in a class action lawsuit – as many residents have been affected in the same or in similar ways. The residents that suffered symptoms, health issues, or other damages could get together to file a class action lawsuit.
Can I File for Landfill Lawsuit Chiquita Canyon if I was Working Near the Area?
Of course, residents of the communities surrounding the landfill have grounds to file a lawsuit. However, residents are not the only ones affected by the toxic fumes coming from the landfill. Employees and workers employed in the area may also be affected. Can I participate in a lawsuit if I worked in the zone affected by the toxic fumes coming from the landfill? Yes, you could have grounds to file a lawsuit.
Whether you worked in a convenient store, a supermarket, a gas station, a school, a local office, or any other establishment within the communities surrounding the Chiquita Canyon Landfill, you may have the right to file a lawsuit. Just like residents, employees spend a lot of time in the area – this could be anywhere from four hours a day to twelve hours a day based on the job. Of course, if you work outdoors, the risk of exposure is greater. Still, even employees who work indoors may be at risk of exposure. Any employee who has been exposed to toxic fumes may potentially experience symptoms and may find their quality of life affected. For example, they find that they constantly feel dizzy at work, and this feeling might linger for a few hours after they leave work.
If you have experienced any of the symptoms mentioned above due to exposure to toxic fumes coming from the landfill, it is important that you find a lawyer as soon as possible who could help you explore the legal options available to you. You may still have the right to sue even if you are not a resident of the affected communities but have been working in the zones affected by the landfill owners.
What about landfill employees? As a landfill employee, your employer should have provided you with personal protective equipment to lessen your exposure. If you still suffered harm, you may actually have grounds to file a workers compensation claim. Based on the details surrounding the harm that you suffered and your employer’s cooperation, you might need a workers compensation lawyer.
Can I Be Awarded Compensation?
Yes – you could be awarded compensation if your lawsuit is successful. Although every claim is different, some of the categories of compensation that could be available for recovery include the following:
- Medical costs
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage
- Punitive damages
- Relocation fees
- Legal fees
Understanding the Factors that Affect Case Value
To understand case value and what claimants can ultimately be awarded, we must first review the different factors that can affect case value.
Medical costs: if you and your family suffered injuries, then you could recover compensation for all medical costs. This includes any medical bills related to the harm suffered, including but not limited to doctor’s appointments, urgent care costs, emergency room costs, diagnostic testing (blood work, imaging, etc.), prescription medication, in-home care, follow-up care, physical therapy, etc. In general, the more severe the injuries, the higher the costs of medical care. In most claims, the value associated with medical costs is the most significant portion of the total claim value.
Lost income: if you sustained injuries and were unable to work and earn income, then the income that you lost is an important factor to determine case value. The total value associated with lost income is based on your wage history and the total length of time that you were unable to work. In other words, this value is calculated based on your wage and the time that you were not working. In cases where the claimant will no longer be able to work in the future, projected lost income may also be taken into consideration.
Property damage: in cases where there was property damage, claimants can recover compensation for the value associated with the damaged property. Depending on the specific details, claimants may be able to recover the full or partial price that they paid for the damaged property.
Relocations costs: if you and your family had to temporarily or permanently move away, you could be compensated for all associated costs. This may include motel costs, hotel costs, rental costs, moving truck costs, and more.
Pain and suffering: if the incident has caused your family mental and emotional anguish, you could be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering. In contrast to the factors already listed above, we cannot place a quick value on pain and suffering. Rather, claimants will need to be evaluated by professionals to determine the extent of the mental and emotional suffering. Mental and emotional suffering includes post-traumatic stress, panic, anxiety, fear, depression, and more. Although it an be difficult, it is possible to place a value on the mental and emotional suffering resulting from incidents.
Punitive damages: if there was any gross negligence, punitive damages are likely to be awarded. Punitive damages are a form of punishment towards the defendant.
Legal fees: cases that are resolved out of court (i.e., a settlement is negotiated) usually have lower legal fees than cases that go to trial.
These are all the factors that must be considered when determining the possible value of a claim. It is also important to note the difference between economic damages and non-economic damages. Medical costs, lost income, property damage, and relocation costs are considered economic damages, as there are specific values associated with each of these (which claimants can prove with receipts and bills, for example); these are concrete. Non-economic damages, on the other hand, do not already have a monetary value, although compensation can still be awarded; an example of non-economic damages is compensation for pain and suffering.
What is the Average Case Value of Landfill Odor Cases?
Every case is different, so it can be difficult – and sometimes even misleading – to place a value on these types of cases. Let’s consider a few examples:
- In 2016, a landfill operator agreed to a $2 million settlement for odors at one of their landfills in Pennsylvania. Residents claimed that the odors coming from the landfill affected their quality of life and lowered their home values.
- In 2018, a Southern California class action lawsuit settled for $3.5 million. Members of the class action qualified for settlements ranging from approximately $700 to $15,0000.
- In 2020, a landfill operator was ordered to pay $950,000 to residents affected by landfill odors; the operator was also ordered to invest $1.2 million in equipment and technology aimed at reducing odors.
- In 2023, a lawsuit against the operators of an Ogle County (Illinois) landfill resulted in a $100,000 settlement. The operators were sued for air pollution and the failure to collect/control landfill odors.
These are just a few examples of past landfill odor lawsuit settlements. It is important to note that class action lawsuits often reach multi-million-dollar settlements, which are then distributed to class members. The value of your Chiquita Canyon toxic landfill odor lawsuit could range anywhere from $1 million to $50 million. For more information about how much your case could be worth and what you could be awarded if your lawsuit is successful, contact the experts here at our law firm today.
Our legal team is committed to getting our clients the maximum compensation available for their claims.