A federal lawsuit blaming Orlando’s electric utility and home builders for coal-related contamination of east Orange County neighborhoods is a major step closer to trial with a judge’s order.
The home-building giants U.S. Home Corp. and Lennar Corp. have contended in Orlando federal court that east Orange County residents were too late in filing their lawsuit in late 2018.
Those residents allege Lennar and U.S. Home Corp. homes built from 1997 to 2001 have materials and soil with radioactive and chemical contamination from a nearby pair of Orlando Utilities Commission coal-burning power plants.
OUC continues to run those plants even as utilities across the nation, including in coal-producing states, are closing them due in part to their environmental harm.
The home builders asserted that Florida law for construction defects limits the window for a lawsuit to 10 years after the homes were built and nullifies the suit filed by the east Orange County residents.
But the lawyers for those residents countered that state environmental law, the Florida Water Quality Assurance Act, applies to their allegation that OUC’s coal plants are contaminating thousands of east Orange homes.
Federal Judge Judge Roy B. Dalton in Orlando agreed with the residents after listening to lawyers’ arguments in January.
In a ruling Friday, Dalton stated that under Florida law “it’s undisputed that the limitations period for pollution does not run until the harm is abated.”
“Plaintiffs allege ongoing pollution, so the state of limitations…has not run,” Dalton said.
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Cohen Milstein’s Environmental Toxic Tort team is representing Orlando residents in this litigation, styled: Irizarry, et al. v. Orlando Utilities Commission, et al., Case No.6:19-cv-00268, United States District Court, Middle District of Florida.