SALT LAKE CITY — A federal appeals court has upheld some of the case against the reality TV stars known as the "Diesel Brothers," but slashed the amount of damages they have to pay in a case brought by a Utah environmental group.
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment sued the Diesel Brothers in 2016, accusing David Sparks and Joshua Stuart of illegally removing pollution control equipment from their diesel trucks and installing defective emission control parts. A federal judge in Salt Lake City sided with the environmental group and awarded more than $1 million in damages.
In a ruling handed down on Tuesday, the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Utah Physicians for a Health Environment's ability to sue the Diesel Brothers in the first place, but greatly limited their reach.
"We therefore hold that UPHE has standing to challenge Defendants’ violations that contributed to the unhealthy air in the Wasatch Front. The EPA has determined that the Salt Lake City area, which includes where Defendants conduct business, is a nonattainment area for 24-hour levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5)," Judge Harris Hartz wrote in the ruling.
The three-judge panel said UPHE did not have the ability to sue for pollution that may be outside of the Wasatch Front. The court also ordered the lower court to re-evaluate how much in attorney's fees and damages can be awarded.
Cole Cannon, an attorney for the Diesel Brothers, called the ruling a win for his clients. He said the original lawsuit would have greatly expanded the reach of who can sue for claims of pollution violations.
"It has not been fun for the Diesel Brothers to be the guinea pigs used to test the Constitutional bounds of the Clean Air Act. However, this ruling should heavily de-clutter our judicial system by putting rational boundaries on who can sue who and where. We expect the ruling of the 10th Circuit will reduce the damages award against the Diesel Brothers in excess of 90% and look forward to Judge Shelby’s wisdom in making that final calculation," Cannon said in an email to FOX 13.
"I lament that parties involved were unable to achieve a more useful resolution that would have actually benefitted the environment such as the Diesel Brothers’ offer to repair low income folks’ emissions issues for free. However, these cases end up being more about attorneys’ fees than the environment it seems."
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment also declared victory.
"Specifically, the court upheld Judge Shelby's previous decision that private citizens can use the provisions of the Clean Air Act to hold the Diesel Brothers accountable for adding to our community's pollution burden by deliberately tampering with pollution control devices on cars and trucks," said Dr. Brian Moench, UPHE's president.
"But the appeals court's ruling today has broad implications. It is a victory for public health protection, for preserving the rule of law, and for the right of citizens to pursue punishment of any company that might have a similar business practice that disregards the rights of citizens to breathe clean air."
Read the ruling here: