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Carteret Smelter Litigation

September 26, 2023 Update:
The Lanier Law Firm is pleased to announce that about a thousand Carteret property owners are receiving up to $17,500 each from the $42 million settlement of a 2017 class-action contamination lawsuit. 

Environmental contamination has plagued the community of Carteret, New Jersey, for years. U.S. Metals Refining Company operated the largest smokestack east of the Mississippi River, which emitted toxic smelting byproducts, including lead, copper, arsenic, benzene, and other chemicals and heavy metals, into the surrounding neighborhoods for decades.

Plaintiffs in an action against U.S. Metals state in their complaint that “Defendants processed, created, refined, generated, emitted, released, discharged, handled, stored, transported, disposed and failed to properly test for, disclose the presence of, and/or remediate large quantities of toxic and hazardous materials including arsenic, benzene, cadmium, chromium, copper, dioxins, furans, iron, lead, nickel, selenium, tellurium, tin, zinc and other toxic metals, volatile organic compounds (“VOCs”) and materials.”

In 2016, residents of Carteret discovered that these materials were contaminating their property at dangerous levels and had been for some time.

This contamination directly results from the company’s negligent mishandling of smelting byproducts, which were transmitted by wind and other natural processes to residential areas of the borough of Carteret in Middlesex County, New Jersey.

Plaintiffs claim that the company also delayed testing to confirm the local presence of these harmful substances.

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Photo: Eileen Blass, USA Today

U.S. Metals’ Negligence

In 2009, one judge made a note of the company’s “inadequate, defective, and often non-functional” contamination controls. Still, it was not until seven years later that U.S. Metals began notifying Carteret residents that these substances may be polluting their air, soil, and property in concentrations that warranted excavation.

Records indicate that U.S. Metals knew, or reasonably should have known, that the chemicals emanated by their smelter threatened the neighborhood. Evidence even shows that the company attempted to conceal and distort information about the nature of contamination. Meanwhile, residents had no way of knowing that their homes and families were vulnerable.

Now, because of U.S. Metals’ negligence, Carteret community members are suffering. Contamination has reduced property values in the area and limited residents’ ability to enjoy their property freely.

U.S. Metals’ parent companies have acknowledged their role in the borough’s pollution to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and, subsequently, financed cleanup operations required by DEP. However, these operations should be expanded. The resources allotted for restoration only scratch the surface of the environmental impact this contamination has caused and have failed to address the public health crisis. Today, hundreds in the Carteret area remain exposed and at risk.

The Lanier Law Firm has joined the cause of the Carteret community. We are committed to holding U.S. Metals and its parent companies accountable for the damage they have caused to the environment and the injury they’ve inflicted on residents.

If you lived or have lived in Carteret, New Jersey, you may have a claim to compensation that The Lanier Law Firm can help you secure.

We have partnered with other reputable firms to organize action seeking damages against U.S. Metals Refining Company, Freeport-McMoRan Inc., and Amax Realty Development Inc.

This class action includes counts of:

1. Private nuisance.

U.S. Metals’ mishandling of toxic smelting byproducts and failure to notify affected residents has impacted their ability to make full use of their personal property, which they would otherwise enjoy without obstruction. The company’s irresponsible actions have also unreasonably burdened members of the community and interfered with their lives.

2. Strict liability.

U.S. Metals is liable for the negative impact of its careless conduct. The company’s irresponsible and unreasonable actions and inactions have directly resulted in significant risk to Carteret community members’ health and property.

3. Trespass.

Contamination represents a physical invasion of residents’ private property. U.S. Metals has made no attempts to seek permission to store their hazardous materials on residents’ property.

4. Negligence.

Even though U.S. Metals knew, or should have known, that their conduct could risk residents’ health, they failed to take appropriate precautions or countermeasures to prevent this. Such a failure resulted in health risks, inconvenience, and economic losses for residents.

The smelting company has shown that it prefers to pursue profits rather than to protect people, and its actions have taken a heavy toll on the community.

We at The Lanier Law Firm believe that no one should suffer the consequences of corporate negligence and have let this conviction lead our practice since our founding 30 years ago. If you own or owned a home in the Carteret area and you have suffered from U.S. Metals’ toxic pollutants, we want to help you secure compensation for your losses.

We want to make your claim our responsibility. Use the contact form above to connect with us today, and we’ll provide you with a free case consultation.

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