Judge calls plaintiffs' claims "legally baseless" and says they must pay studios' legal fees
A federal judge has dismissed a massive $1 billion environmental lawsuit against Walt Disney that accused the studio of dumping cancer-causing toxins at its 50-acre Burbank film and TV production facility, TheWrap has learned.
Not only did the judge toss the action that accused Disney of dumping poison via a "secret pipe" into the L.A. River for years, but it imposed sanctions on the groups that leveled the suit and ruled that plaintiffs must pay Disney's legal fees.
In her ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee called the suit "legally baseless" and noted that even if realtor RBC Four Co. had sufficiently made their case about alleged false statements made by Disney to federal officials, it did not necessarily show the company was harmed by those purported statements.
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The suit is the latest in a series against Disney in the last six years involving plaintiffs William Dunlap, Doris Nichols and their related companies RBC and Environmental World Watch Inc.
The plaintiffs alleged Disney provided false statements to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding alleged pollution of groundwater with toxic chemicals, including potentially cancer-causing chromium-6 in order to avoid cleanup liability.
Disney has denied discharging any toxic chemicals and concealing any information that could lead to liability.
In her ruling, the judge noted that 12 similar cases had been filed in connection with Disney's groundwater pollution, and that since several others had been dismissed, this one should never have been filed.
"The long history of Plaintiffs’ litigation efforts against Disney is strong evidence that counsel knew that the claims asserted in the Complaint had already been dismissed by other courts and were not likely to succeed," she said.
The plaintiffs are represented by Ron S. Bamieh and David R. Ring of Bamieh & Erickson PLC and Arthur R. Angel.
Disney is represented by Kirk A. Wilkinson, Charity M. Gilbreth and Garrett L. Jansma of Latham & Watkins.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.