Hagens Berman and Berman Law Group: Court upholds Florida residents’ claims in sugarcane pollution lawsuit against Big Sugar

MIAMI – (COMMERCIAL THREAD) – Federal judge upheld allegations of negligence, strict liability and medical oversight brought by Florida residents in lawsuit against cane-producing conglomerates who practice widespread burning of sugarcane crops, causing pollution, property damage and unsafe air quality, according to Hagens Berman and Berman Law Group of Florida.

In its July 2, 2021 orderJudge Rodney Smith of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed a motion to dismiss the proposed class action lawsuit against Florida sugar cane growers, finding that the plaintiffs – residents of central Florida Florida who allege that their health and property are damaged by the burning of the sugar cane – sufficiently raise the claims for negligence, strict liability and medical supervision. The defendants in this case are Florida Crystals Corporation, Sugar Cane Growers Cooperation of Florida, United States Sugar Corporation, Okeelanta Corporation, Osceola Farms Co., Sugarland Harvesting Co., Trucane Sugar Corporation, Independent Harvesting Inc. and J&J AH Products Inc.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs seek to represent a class of Florida residents from the communities of Belle Glade, South Bay, Pahokee, Clewiston, Moore Haven, Canal Point and Indiantown, all of which are found in and among the cane fields at defendants’ sugar. If you live in an area of ​​Florida affected by toxic smoke and ash created by the burning of sugar cane by the sugar industry, find out about your rights ”

“Today’s victory is a show of strength in numbers: these Florida residents are successfully taking on some of the world’s largest food companies on behalf of their communities,” said Steve Berman, Co-Founder and Partner director of Hagens Berman. . “We look forward to continuing this fight in court for the rights of Floridians to clean air, free from pollution, ash and black snow.”

In his order, Smith J. found that the complainants adequately alleged, based in part on air modeling performed using publicly available data, that particulates and pollutants generated by the air burning of the sugar cane could be plausibly attributed to each defendant: “… when considered with the other allegations … including the proximity of the fire to the properties of the plaintiffs and the modeling of the air. Based on publicly available data, the plaintiffs have sufficiently argued for the damage caused by particulates and other pollutants. ”

“The Florida legislature recently passed sweeping changes to Florida’s Right to Farm Act that are aimed directly at ending lawsuits like this, so we’re delighted that Justice Smith noted in his opinion. that the newly enacted law will not apply retroactively, ”said Matthew Moore, senior counsel for the Berman Law Group of Florida. “One can only guess which industry was pushing for these changes, but today this lawsuit is moving forward and these communities can finally seek justice.”

The judge also upheld the defendants ‘claims regarding the effects of the defendants’ fires on property and the health of residents, finding that the plaintiffs adequately alleged exposure to above normal background levels of proven dangerous substances – thereby dramatically increasing their risk of developing lung cancer.

The lawsuit calls for repayment of actions by the Florida sugar industry, which damaged the health and property of local residents. It also asks the defendants to fund a court-supervised medical surveillance program, including annual screening and testing, to aid in the early diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer.

“Our law firm got its start in the ’90s with a court victory over Big Tobacco in the biggest settlement in world history,” said Berman. “Once again, we plan to tackle the nuisance of smoke, this time against Big Sugar. ”

About the Florida sugarcane burn and the residents who are affected by it

Each year, between October and March, the Florida sugar industry burns hundreds of thousands of acres of sugarcane as part of the harvesting process. This burn, 284,615 acres in 2019 alone, emits large volumes of dangerous ash, particulates and pollutants – often referred to as ‘black snow’ – that blanket the property of Glades residents, seep into their homes and have been linked. to serious health problems, especially respiratory problems such as asthma and lung cancer.

This black snow is known to travel for miles from the burn area and discolor cars, homes, and office buildings. Many local homes have to be pressure washed every year, and the quality of life for residents is drastically diminished for more than half of each year. Among the pollutants released by the combustion of the accused are dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, elemental carbon and organic carbon – many of which are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possible carcinogens to humans.

Alternative and environmentally friendly harvesting methods (often referred to as ‘green harvesting’) not only exist, but have been in use for more than three decades in many parts of the world – resulting in even higher yields in cane fields. sugar in Brazil, where the green harvest has been mandated for over ten years. While defendants claim preharvest burning saves them more money, studies have shown that green harvesting not only improves profits and yields after a brief period of adjustment, but also preserves the soil better for future cultures.

Learn more about the Florida sugar industry class action lawsuit.

About Hagens Berman

Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer rights class action law firm operating in 10 cities around the world. The firm’s tenacious commitment to defending plaintiff rights has earned it numerous accolades, awards and national titles as “Most Feared Complainant Firm”, MVP and Class Action Law Pioneer. You can find more information about the law firm and its successes at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the company for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.

About Berman Law Group

Founded in 2008, Berman Law Group has expanded to numerous offices in Florida and the United States, having quickly gained a well-deserved reputation as a tireless and fearless advocate for the rights of its clients. The company is headquartered in Boca Raton and has four other offices in Florida, as well as offices in Atlanta, New Orleans, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. For more information, visit www.bermanlawgroup.com, or follow the firm on social media: @bermanlawgroup.

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