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Boomer v. Atlantic Cement Company Court Case

Instructor: Rachelle Fobbs

Rachelle has a MS in Forensic Science. She has extensive crime lab experience which includes training and testimony as an expert witness.

In this lesson, you will learn about the Boomer v. Atlantic Cement Company court case. The background of the case, the basis of the lawsuit, trial and rulings will be discussed.

Case Background

The Atlantic Cement Company began operating a cement plant in Albany, NY in 1962. The plant was on the outskirts of a small industrial neighborhood named Ravena, which consisted of a few houses and businesses. At the time of construction and operation in the early 1960s, the plant had installed state-of-the-art pollution controls to minimize the hazardous impact on the community. However, residents who lived near the plant were seriously affected by the plant's operations. Quarrying, which involves blasting land to remove layers of rock, caused significant vibrations and noise that frightened children and even damaged nearby homes. The cement production at the plant also caused smoke and dust to pollute the air, which covered homes and cars in the surrounding area.

In 1964, a group of landowners who lived near the plant filed a common law nuisance suit against Atlantic Cement Company for damages and injuries to their health and property from the noise, vibrations and pollution generated by the plant. The plaintiffs sought damages to their property for the past actions of the plant and an injunction to prevent any future nuisances from occurring.

Basis of the Lawsuit

Oscar and June Boomer operated an automobile junkyard and body shop in Ravena. Oscar Boomer claims he attempted to resolve the issue and reach an agreement prior to filing a lawsuit but he was unsuccessful. Mr. Boomer claims Atlantic Cement Company offered him a job at their company as a machinist but he declined their offer, which would also involve shutting down his current business.

Floyd and Barbara Millious lived less than a mile from the quarry at the cement plant, and their home suffered extensive damage due to the quarry and cement production. The blasting caused cracks in the exterior and interior of their house, including the walls and ceilings. The Millioius family also claimed the cement production caused a layer of dust to coat the interior of their home and their gutters were so full of dust that they fell off their house. Floyd Millious recalls scraping dust off his car windshield with a razor blade because it was so thick, comparing it to plastic. Floyd also claimed the company denied that their plant was the cause of the dust and blamed it on another source across the river.

Joseph and Carrie Ventura also lived less than a mile from the plant and reported similar damages as the Millious family. Other neighboring landowners were part of the lawsuit as well.

Cement Plant

The Trial and Ruling

The trial spanned several months in 1967 and the testimony was in front of a judge (there was no jury). The ruling was issued on June 1, 1967, and found the Atlantic Cement Company was indeed a nuisance to the families who lived near the plant, stating the large quantities of dust and excessive vibration from the plant deprived the plaintiffs' reasonable use of their property and prevented them from enjoying their life and liberty. Temporary damages were awarded, which equaled $535 per month for past and current damages but made no mention of compensation for future damages incurred.

The judge denied the plaintiffs' request for an injunction that would stop operations of the cement plant, citing the massive investment and economic contribution to the community as reasons for the decision. The court also stated that the large amounts of school and property taxes paid by Atlantic Cement had a positive impact on the education of children in the area and that the nuisances caused by the plant were small in comparison to the value of the plant and the consequences of closing the plant. Approximately $45 million was invested in the cement plant and it employed over 300 workers.

The Appeal and Ruling

The plaintiffs appealed the court's decision of denying the injunction, stating they were deprived of their property rights. The appeal also addressed how their damages were measured and awarded. They stated the trial judge's temporary damages were inadequate and the market value of businesses and homes in the area were 'grossly inadequate.'

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