Class action litigation is not an uncommon topic of conversation among those in legal circles, and although much of attention regarding class actions and other forms of aggregate litigation is focused on federal courts, state courts can and do also serve as forums for these types of actions. However, state courts, like their federal counterparts, have in recent years become increasingly antagonistic toward class adjudication. For instance, in a recent case, Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products, LP v. Ratner, the Supreme Court of Georgia reversed class certification in a toxic tort suit brought against Georgia-Pacific on behalf of a collective of property owners for damage allegedly caused by hydrogen sulfide emissions from a sludge field operated by the company.
The plaintiffs in this case are owners of property in Mallard Pointe, a residential enclave in Effingham County, Georgia. Since 1986, Georgia-Pacific has operated the Savannah River Mill on property that contains more than 100 acres of sludge fields, into which Georgia-Pacific regularly deposits solid waste from the Mill. In their complaint, the named plaintiffs allege that decomposition of the solid waste leads to emission of hydrogen sulfide gas that, they argue, has contaminated their properties. The named plaintiffs claim that the emissions result in noxious odors that impair the use and enjoyment of their properties and diminish the value of their properties. Accordingly, the named plaintiffs brought an action against Georgia-Pacific for nuisance, trespass, and negligence on behalf of themselves and other property owners in Mallard Pointe. The trial court certified the class action, and Georgia-Pacific appealed the class certification. The Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed, with dissents from three judges, the trial court’s grant of class certification. The Supreme Court of Georgia then issued a writ of certiorari to review the class certification decision.