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Lawsuit accusing Murray Hill factory of causing bad smell will continue

Residents in the Murray Hill neighborhood say the IFF factory emits a horrible odor that affects their everyday life.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It's a biting smell that some people say causes them to gag and they want the odor to stop. Residents in Murray Hill say that the factory for International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF), is the cause of that bad smell, and they want the company to fix it.

Smoke billows from the smokestacks at the IFF factory. But is that the reason for the smell?

That was the conversation Wednesday morning in Duval County Circuit Court. Judge Robert Dees dismissed a nuisance lawsuit filed by the plaintiffs but did not dismiss a negligence complaint. However, Judge Dees did not dismiss the nuisance complaint with prejudice, so attorneys will be allowed to refile that case in 21 days.

"Today was a big step for us going forward and getting the answers that this community is looking for to finally get legal remedy for the damages that they're claiming," said Laura Sheets, attorney for the plaintiffs. 

Sheets says that she will amend the nuisance complaint because the smell is affecting the way of life for many residents.

"When you come home from working all day to your house the last thing you want to do is not be able to sit outside and play with your kids, take your dog for a walk or go for a jog," Sheets said. "What we know from people is that when they go inside the smell often follows them in and permeates their home."

Lawyers for the plaintiffs hope to establish a class action lawsuit for potentially up to 10,000 households that covers more than 20 square miles of Jacksonville that includes areas like Murray Hill. While that is a large area, they are confident that the IFF factory is the cause of the smell.

"Just because there may be other facilities in the area that may be also producing something or an odor here or there doesn't mean that this company, that IFF gets a blank check to continue to do it," Sheets said.

There are other companies in the area and IFF says that they are not the source of the smell in question. Below is a statement provided to First Coast News by IFF regarding Wednesday's hearing:

"Regarding today’s hearing, the judge dismissed the plaintiffs’ nuisance claims against IFF. We appreciate the opportunity to present our position and the supporting case law. We will submit a proposed order to the judge as requested.

Today’s hearing did not address the question of the source of objectionable odors in Murray Hill.

The City of Jacksonville-commissioned Envirosuite odor study is a yearlong study. At this time, no conclusions, recommendations, or action items have been shared by the City or Envirosuite.

Preliminary data from the City of Jacksonville-commissioned Envirosuite study suggests that other facilities, which are closer to Murray Hill, are more likely to be contributing to objectionable odors there.

We take very seriously our commitment to ensure that our environmental, health and safety practices are best-in-class, that we comply with all laws, and that we operate with integrity as an employer, community member and a good neighbor.

Throughout more than 20 years of operation at our Jacksonville plant, we have utilized robust monitoring processes to ensure that we are preventing odor and complying with all our permits and applicable laws.

We are fully cooperating with the City of Jacksonville and remain in communication with the City regarding complaints of objectionable odors."

Currently there is a year-long study to determine the cause of the smell, which should be completed in March. If there is not another motion to dismiss the case after the nuisance complaint is refiled in 21 days then lawyers for the residents could move to the discovery phase. Right now no trial date has been set.

RELATED: Murray Hill homeowners, chemical plant heading to court over 'unbearable' odor allegations

RELATED: Jacksonville fragrance factory issued cease-and-desist order a second time in 10 months

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