National Class-Action Law Firm Hagens Berman Joins The Berman Law Group In The Sugarcane Burning “Black Snow” Lawsuit on Behalf of Florida Communities

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Award-winning law firm with track record of major court victories joins The Berman Law Group in the fight against Florida’s big sugar over toxic air pollution and ash.

National heavyweight law firm Hagens Berman has joined a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of Florida residents subjected to toxic ash and air pollution – often referred to as “black snow” – produced by outdated and environmentally unsound methods of harvesting sugarcane implemented by Florida’s multibillion dollar sugar industry.

The law firm has a long history of opposing major corporations and well-established industries for acts of fraud, negligence and other wrongdoing, returning record-breaking settlements to the public.

“For half of the year, Florida’s sugar industry is subjecting the people of Florida to toxic air and black snow ash solely for the sake of higher profits,” said Steve Berman, co-founder and managing partner of Hagens Berman. “These major food corporations are fully willing to degrade the environment and the health and wellbeing of these communities to sweeten their own pot, and we are fully willing to hold them accountable for their actions, which we believe violate federal and state laws.”

Alternative, environmentally friendly harvesting methods (green harvesting) not only exist, but have been in use for more than three decades in many parts of the world – even resulting in greater yields from sugarcane fields in Brazil, where green harvesting has been mandated for over ten years. Still, defendants claim pre-harvest burning allows them to make more money, despite studies demonstrating green harvesting's ability to actually improve profits and yields after a brief adjustment period, and better preserve soil for future crops.

“Hagens Berman began 25 years ago taking on Big Tobacco for the public nuisance it created, and we intend to hold Big Sugar accountable for the public nuisance of black snow,” he added.

The suit claims that hazardous “black snow” produced by the Florida sugar industry covers and discolors residents’ property, infiltrates their homes and has lasting health effects, including respiratory conditions such as asthma.

The lawsuit seeks reimbursement for the Florida sugar industry's actions, which have damaged the health and property of local residents, as well as repayment for other economic losses and nuisance. The lawsuit also seeks an injunction banning the archaic practice of pre-harvest burning, as well as a medical monitoring program financed by the suit’s defendants.

“The sugar companies have turned a blind eye to this problem for decades. Generations of families in these areas are now suffering from chronic illnesses because of their exposure to this toxic black snow,” Matthew Moore Attorney at The Berman Law Group said. “If nothing else, the companies need to promote awareness of the dangers they are causing.”

“Sugar cane burning has also depressed property values and damaged property in these communities, and we're seeking full reimbursement. The costs of making these communities whole again will be enormous,” said Matthew Moore.


Attorneys say the black snow is known to travel for miles from the area of the burn, and discolors cars, homes, and office buildings. Many local homes must be pressure washed annually, and residents’ quality of life is greatly diminished.

It affects the communities south and east of Lake Okeechobee and the towns of Belle Glade, South Bay, Pahokee, Clewiston, Moore Haven and others for six months out of the year, according to the complaint. Florida is home to roughly 400,000 acres of sugarcane fields, about 90 percent of which are located in western Palm Beach County. A review of the annual burn maps demonstrates the burns disproportionately affect poorer communities, unable to confront the corporations responsible, the suit states.

Defendants’ pre-harvest burning causes pollutants, including smoke, particulate matter, dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, elemental carbon and organic carbon, to migrate onto and contaminate residents’ property, and exposes residents to these pollutants for extended periods of time, attorneys say.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, many of these pollutants are possible human carcinogens.


About The Berman Law Group
Established in 2008, the Florida personal injury attorneys the Law Offices have quickly garnered a well deserved reputation as indefatigable and fearless defenders of the rights of their clients. With offices in Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach, Orlando, Gainesville and Stuart, a driving desire to be among the top attorneys in Florida, and serving clients throughout Florida, we strive to treat you like our friends and neighbors, working diligently to identify and understand your personal and specific wants and needs. The Florida lawyers at The Berman Law Group believe that developing this bond with you enables us to maximize your recovery and bring your personal injury case to a satisfactory close. We understand the stress and uncertainty facing those who have been injured through the negligence of others, and have great compassion for the physical, emotional and financial problems that often follow an accident, causing families to suffer, and work diligently to provide you with the legal strategy and tools you need for success.

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Russell Berman
The Berman Law Group
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