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Emotional-Distress Suit Against GE Over Toxic Building

A N.J., judge has blocked an attempt to dismiss a toxic-tort suit over a mercury-contaminated building, rejecting defense arguments that the plaintiff’s expert proofs of emotional distress were inadmissible net opinions.

In Schley v. General Electric Co., L-251-07, former owners and residents of 722 Grand St. in Hoboken, N.J., seek damages from GE, a previous owner. The plaintiffs claim physical injury and emotional distress allegedly caused by contamination so severe that authorities ordered them to evacuate the building.


GE moved for summary judgment, alleging the plaintiffs had insufficient expert proofs. But the judge allowed claims to go forward for most of the 19 plaintiffs, finding that expert reports supporting claims by 16 of them were not net opinions and were thus valid.

From 1910 to 1965, GE and Cooper-Hewitt Electric Co. manufactured mercury vapor lamps at 722 Grand St. The plaintiffs were among a group of artists who pooled their resources to buy the five-story building in 1993 and during the next 18 months, converted it into 16 lofts.

During renovations in January 1995, puddles of mercury were found under the floor. After air monitoring revealed unsafe levels of mercury vapor and urine tests detected elevated mercury in some residents, authorities had the building evacuated in January 1996. The property was named a Superfund site in 1997 and underwent a 10-year cleanup, during which the building was demolished.

In the meantime, the plaintiffs sued GE in federal court for property damage and personal injury. In addition to GE, the defendants included a law firm, Chasan Leyner Tarrant & Lamparello, environmental consultants and other individuals and entities involved in the purchase of 722 Grand St.

Their claims were consolidated with claims brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the State of New Jersey under the caption Parker v. General Electric, 96-Civ. -3774.

The plaintiffs eventually withdrew their property-damage claims because the EPA had paid for temporary housing after they were evacuated and compensated them for the loss of their property. Eventually, all the defendants, except GE, settled.

Court records show that the settling defendants paid a combined $5,216,563; Chasan Leyner’s share was $754,201.

About 70 percent of the settlement funds ($3.67 million) went to the U.S. government, 25 percent ($1.29 million) to the individual plaintiffs and 5 percent ($255,115) to the state.

With the U.S. out of the case, the claims against GE were dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The plaintiffs then filed the state court action in early 2007 under the theory of strict liability based on the abnormally dangerous activity doctrine.

Expert reports obtained by the plaintiffs concluded that most of them had signs of significant psychological distress, with three showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

If you or a family member has been injured because of the fault of someone else; by negligence, personal injury, slip and fall, car accident, medical malpractice, trucking accident, drunk driving, bad product, toxic injury etc then please contact the Fort Worth Texas Personal Injury Attorney Dr. Shezad Malik. For a no obligation, free case analysis, please call 817-255-4001 or Contact Me Online.

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