California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Third Division
from a judgment of the Superior Court of Orange County, No.
30-2011-00519887 Thierry Patrick Colaw, Judge. Affirmed.
Callahan, Thompson, Sherman & Caudill; Robert W.
Thompson, Brett E. Bitzer; Lee A. Sherman and Erin M. Mallon
for Plaintiffs and Appellants.
Skully, Heather C. Beatty, Jill C. Teraoka, Heriberto F.
Diaz; Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland and Timothy T.
Coates for Defendant and Respondent Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California.
Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith; Charles L. Harris, Stephen L.
Culp and Gary M. Lape for Defendant and Respondent Irvine
Ranch Water District.
Offices of Robert J. Gokoo and Robert J. Gokoo for Defendant
and Respondent Moulton Niguel Water District.
Best & Krieger and Jeffrey V. Dunn for Amicus Curiae
Association of California Water Agencies, League of
California Cities, San Diego County Water Authority, Las
Virgenes Municipal Water District, Upper San Gabriel Valley
Municipal Water District, Municipal Water District of Orange
County, Foothill Municipal Water District, and West Basin
Municipal Water District.
homeowners allege the copper piping in their homes was
damaged by a chemical the defendant water districts added to
tap water. Adding the chemical was authorized by regulation,
however, and it is undisputed that the water districts
complied with all statutory and regulatory standards. After a
bifurcated bench trial on certain legal issues, the trial
court entered judgment for the water districts, finding
plaintiffs' causes of action for nuisance and inverse
condemnation were preempted by federal and state laws, and
otherwise insufficient on the merits. The plaintiff
homeowners appealed. For reasons we explain below, we
conclude the plaintiffs' causes of action fail on the
merits, and thus affirm.
Lisa Williams and Shawn Williams filed a putative class
action complaint against defendants Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California (Metropolitan) and Irvine
Ranch Water District (Irvine Ranch). Plaintiffs Steven Eckert
and Joseph Repetti filed a putative class action complaint
against Metropolitan and Moulton Niguel Water District
(Moulton Niguel). Plaintiffs Anthony Caito and Enrique
Ceniceros filed a putative class action complaint against
Metropolitan and Moulton Niguel. The three complaints were
consolidated. Collectively, we refer to defendants as the
three complaints asserted causes of action for public and
private nuisance, and inverse condemnation, seeking damages,
injunctive relief, attorney fees, and costs. Each complaint
alleges that chloramine in the water caused pinhole leaks in
the copper piping of plaintiffs' homes.
parties stipulated to sever five threshold legal issues for
trial on the merits, four of which are at issue here. Those
Are the Plaintiffs' causes of action preempted by federal
Safe Drinking Water Act?
Are the Plaintiffs' causes of action preempted by the
California Safe Drinking Water Act; and/or application of
Hartwell Corp. v. Superior Court [(2002) 27 Cal.4th
256], and In re Groundwater Cases [(2007) 154
As a matter of law, can the occurrence of pinhole leaks in
residential copper plumbing give rise to inverse condemnation
liability allegedly caused by the treatment and delivery of
As a matter of law, does the Defendants' compliance with
statutory and regulatory mandates bar plaintiffs' ...