"Two years later, dioxin suit in limbo." No surprises there then.

Homeowners in Freeland, Michigan, are chafing at the delay in their case against Dow Chemical which has now been held up two years and is shelved until Michigan’s Supreme Court decides an issue that some say could have disastrous effects on the state and national economy.
Writes the Midland Daily News’s Kathie Marchlewski, “Gary and Kathy Henry, a Freeland couple, along with about 160 others, are suing for the value of their homes, which they say have been made worthless by dioxin contamination. They also are asking that Dow fund a trust to monitor their health, which they say has been jeopardized by exposure to the historical manufacturing byproduct.

Idyllic Tittabawassee scene, but property prices are being hit. Dow’s own property is worth less due to dioxin contamination!
“The health monitoring facet of the suit is what is keeping it from proceeding. Dow argues that plaintiffs haven’t claimed actual injuries, and there is no proof that injury ever will occur. Company attorneys say if courts allow people to sue for potential, future injury, then every industry and manufacturer will be at risk of such lawsuits.”
The people of Bhopal know very well about the futility of trying to Dow to accept its responsibilities on the issue of health-monitoring, and Bhopal is a city where there can be no doubt that massive harm has occurred and is continuing to occur. Just today, by chance, I’ve put on bhopal.net a chronicle of the medical catastrophe in Bhopal, culled from twenty years of press clippings. Read it here.
Cast your eye also over this long list of 20 years of medical-related headlines to get a sense of how a corporation that is determined to evade its liabilities can manipulate politicians and drag out lawsuits almost indefinitely.
No surprise then that Dow officials say the stretch of time that has passed since the Freeland dioxin suit was filed is not unusual. Says Dow spokesman Scot Wheeler, “The Michigan Supreme Court is deciding an issue — the medical monitoring claim — that is an important issue not only for this case, but is also important for the state of Michigan.”
To the residents of Freeland and all others whose health might be impacted by the pollution of the Tittabawassee basin I say this, read the documents I have indicated and beware. This is your fate too, unless you can find support and strength that even Dow and its pals in government and the judiciary cannot ignore.
We who know the horrors of Bhopal would not wish anyone else anywhere in the world to suffer as the people in Bhopal have. We will support you. Let’s work together. Let’s talk.
(Click extended entry link to read the Midland Daily News article)


TWO YEARS LATER, DIOXIN SUIT IN LIMBO
Kathie Marchlewski, Midland Daily News 03/25/2005
It’s been two years today since residents of the Tittabawassee River flood plain reacted to knowledge of their dioxin-contaminated properties with a lawsuit. The now thick court file titled Gary & Kathy Henry et al. v. The Dow Chemical Co. is shelved, on hold in Saginaw County Circuit Court. It’s on hold until Michigan’s Supreme Court decides an issue that some say could have disastrous effects on the state and national economy.
The Henrys, a Freeland couple, along with about 160 others, are suing for the value of their homes, which they say have been made worthless by dioxin contamination. They also are asking that Dow fund a trust to monitor their health, which they say has been jeopardized by exposure to the historical manufacturing byproduct.
The health monitoring facet of the suit is what is keeping it from proceeding. Dow argues that plaintiffs haven’t claimed actual injuries, and there is no proof that injury ever will occur. Company attorneys say if courts allow people to sue for potential, future injury, then every industry and manufacturer will be at risk of such lawsuits.
The high court has until July to decide the issue.
Dow officials say the stretch of time that has passed since the suit was filed is not unusual, especially for a case of this complexity. “The Michigan Supreme Court is deciding an issue — the medical monitoring claim — that is an important issue not only for this case, but is also important for the state of Michigan,” said Dow spokesman Scot Wheeler.
Meanwhile, the wait for plaintiffs is long, especially for those wanting Dow to pay for their homes so that they can move out of the contaminated flood plain. “Everyone knew when we filed the lawsuit that it would take a long time,” Kathy Henry said. “Just how long, no one can predict. A lot of patience has been required, and more will be required in the future. In the end, the truth is on our side, and we can only hope that justice will be served.”
DIOXIN SUIT TIMELINE
March 2003
* Kathy and Gary Henry of Freeland, along with 24 other residents of the Tittabawassee River flood plain, file suit against The Dow Chemical Co. seeking the value of their homes, which they believe have been made worthless by dioxin contamination. They also seek the funding of a trust that would monitor their health now and in the future, for dioxin-related health effects.
June 2003
* Saginaw County Circuit Court Judge Leopold Borrello hears Dow and plaintiffs’ arguments for the first time. By this time, the number of plaintiffs in the suit has grown to more than 140.
August 2003
* Judge Borrello streamlines the suit by removing claims for trespass, strict liability and punitive damages. He allows plaintiffs to proceed with claims for medical monitoring, nuisance and public nuisance and negligence.
September 2003
* Dow asks Borrello to reconsider his decision to keep the medical monitoring potion of the lawsuit intact.
October 2003
* Dow files a request with the Michigan Court of Appeals, requesting a review of Borrello’s decision to allow the medical monitoring claim to remain a claim in the suit. The court decides it will not hear the argument.
November 2003
* A hearing to decide whether the suit should be granted class action certification is moved to December.
December 2003
* Dow files with the Supreme Court, requesting a review of Borrello’s decision to allow the medical monitoring claim to remain a claim in the suit.
* A hearing to decide whether the suit should be granted class action certification is moved to January.
January 2004
* A hearing to decide whether the suit should be granted class action certification is moved to February, then to April.
March 2004
* A hearing to decide whether the suit should be granted class action certification is moved to June.
June 2004
* Less than a week before the Saginaw Circuit Court is scheduled to conduct a hearing on the class action status of the case, The Supreme Court agrees to hear Dow’s appeal of the medical monitoring facet of the suit. It also ordered circuit court proceedings to stop while the matter is under consideration.
The stay order by the court marks the sixth delay of a class hearing.
* Plaintiffs’ lead attorney Jan Helder leaves the law firm handling the case to start his own practice. Teresa Woody of Kansas City-based Stueve Siegel Hanson Woody takes over.
September 2004
* The American Public Health Association, American Lung Association, Science and Environmental Health Network, and Physicians for Social Responsibility, along with local environmental groups including the Lone Tree Council, file a “friend of the court” brief supporting medical monitoring as an actionable claim.
* The National Chamber Litigation Center, American Tort Reform Association, National Association of Manufacturers, American Chemistry Council, Coalition for Litigation Justice Inc. and Property Casualty Insurers Association of America file a “friend of the court” brief supporting Dow’s defense regarding the medical monitoring claim.
October 2004
* The Michigan Supreme Court hears plaintiffs argue that medical monitoring should be able to be pursued in court and hears Dow’s defense. It has until July 2005 to make a ruling.
©Midland Daily News 2005

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