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Jul 2, 2018

Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice Obtains Dismissal of State Environmental Claim Against Automaker

Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice, working with our client’s national counsel, Sullivan & Cromwell, obtained dismissal of a case filed by the State of Missouri, which sought more than $1 billion in damages. The Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis held that the state environmental claims were preempted by the “clear language” of the federal Clean Air Act.

The case was filed in May 2017, at the same time our client was defending similar claims in federal court, asserted under the federal Clean Air Act. Here, the Missouri Attorney General’s office was seeking civil penalties of $10,000 “per day for each day” the alleged violation occurred, and because thousands of vehicles were potentially involved, this meant success on the claims could have resulted in more than $1 billion in penalties against our client and its affiliates.

Our client argued that the State’s claims were preempted by the federal Clean Air Act and moved to dismiss them, but the State countered that they were not preempted because part of the objectionable conduct engaged in by our client occurred after the vehicle had been sold and was in service, and that Clean Air Act preemption did not apply beyond when the car was sold.

The Circuit Court disagreed, finding that the claims related to our client’s conduct at the time the vehicles were manufactured, and were thus preempted.