Judge Gives Class Action Status to Lawsuit against Shell for Contaminating Illinois Village

Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Wood River Refinery (photo Art Chimes)

Residents living near a Shell Oil refinery in Illinois have been granted class action status by a federal judge overseeing a lawsuit that accuses the company of contaminating the local environment.


Plaintiff Jeana Parko was able to combine her case with those of Delbert and Janice Cobine, all of whom accuse Shell of contaminating their property in the village of Roxana (population: 1,550).


Parko says the Wood River Refinery has released benzene and other carcinogenic chemicals that have polluted the groundwater, land and air.


“If you own property in Roxana, this is obviously a big issue,” Derek Brandt, a shareholder of Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd, the firm representing the class, told Courthouse News. “Everybody is concerned if they will be able to sell their house in the future.”


Shell’s lawyers had argued that the plaintiffs should be forced to litigate individually. But Judge G. Patrick Murphy disagreed.


“The questions of whether hazardous petroleum byproduct pervades village property and of whether defendants are complicit in any resultant damage are best suited to class-wide resolution,” Murphy wrote in his ruling. “Answering these questions across multiple fact-finders would do nothing to increase the ‘accuracy of the resolution’ and would, indeed, be redundant and an unnecessary strain on the dockets of multiple judges.”


In a previous lawsuit brought by the town of Roxana against Shell, the refinery was said to have allowed 18 spills over a 25-year period.


The new civil case claims more than 200,000 pounds of pure benzene have been released from Wood River since Shell owned the refinery.


The company also stands accused of polluting the area around Roxana with other chemicals, including ethylbenzene, toluene and n-hexane.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Judge Certifies Class Action Against Shell Oil (by Joe Harris, Courthouse News Service)

Village Claims Shell Oil Ruined Its Water (by Joe Harris, Courthouse News Service)

Jeana Parko et al. v. Shell Oil (U.S. District Court, Southern Illinois) (pdf)

City Sues Shell Oil for Letting Developers Build on Top of Carcinogenic Tanks (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)



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