EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSMONSANTO SETTLEMENT
from Eyewitness News Online
Objections Raised About Monsanto Settlement; Awaiting Judge's Approval
Reported by: Kallie Cart
Videographer: Troy Morgan
Web Producer: Kallie Cart
Reported: Jun. 18, 2012 6:57 PM EDT
Winfield , Putnam County , West Virginia
What was thought to be a done deal, may be far from it. Objections were raised Monday in the settlement against chemical giant, Monsanto.
The fight has been going on for nearly a decade but on the eve of what was expected to be a lengthy trial, Monsanto and the attorney representing the class of plaintiffs agreed to a $93 million settlement in February. But now, that settlement is being challenged.
Monsanto maintains they did nothing wrong. But people living in the Nitro area claimed the chemical company improperly disposed of dioxins, a bi-product of agent orange, polluting the air and sickening people.
As part of the settlement, Monsanto will clean the inside of 4,500 homes possibly contaminated with the dioxins. The company will also pay for the medical monitoring of about 5,000 people for 30 years. If those medical tests prove illnesses caused by the plant, plaintiffs can sue Monsanto for additional damages. The original estimate of potential plaintiffs was anywhere from 5,000 to 80,000.
"I think both sides recognize that after eight years, that setting aside some of our differences allowed us to deliver a settlement that has I think tangible and important benefits," class appointed attorney Stuart Calwell says.
But not everyone is happy with the settlement, some have come forward asking Putnam County Circuit Judge Derek Swope to turn down the deal.
"There's a very good chance that this case could be won, so I believe the $9 million settlement for property remediation is laughable, it's a shame and the folks of Nitro should be up set about it," attorney Tom Urban says.
But Calwell says Urban and two other attorneys who showed up at the hearing on Monday who aren't even registered to practice law in West Virginia, they told the judge they mailed their paperwork last Thursday, are fighting the settlement for money.
"Show up at the eleventh hour and want to be a problem so that somebody may pay them to go away," Calwell says.
But Urban says he's been involved from the beginning and says he's fighting now, because the settlement falls short. Urban says the remediation doesn't clean attics and soil and there's no follow up testing to ensure the dioxins are gone. And he says the settlement is limited to a small group.
"I didn't object before because we weren't talking about only 4,500 houses getting cleaned up, we weren't talking about only $9 million for property remediation, we were talking about three, four, $500-million for property remediation. So, he (Calwell) changed the terms of the deal and the only other thing that changed, no one talked about giving him $22.5 million in attorney fees until this settlement," Urban says.
Attorney Tom Flaherty has been tapped to oversee the terms of the settlement. He also testified at Monday's hearing about how the settlement will be implemented. Medical monitoring will take place at Thomas Memorial Health Systems in Ashton Place, along Route 119. Six teams of four will be in charge of cleaning all the homes, which he says can be completed in about three years. He also told the judge community meetings will be held to ensure everyone who is eligible for the settlement takes part.
It's expected Judge Swope will issue his ruling on the settlement in the next couple of months. If it is approved, Urban vows to take his fight to the State Supreme Court and even the US Supreme Court if he has to.
If you lived, worked or went to school in the Nitro area any time from 1949 on, you may qualify for the settlement. You can call the lead attorney, Calwell, at 304-343-4323 for more information.
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