Week Adjourned: 2.12.10

Top Class Actions The Acreage Florida

Community Fights Cancer Cluster. What would you do if your neighborhood got the tag line ‘cancer cluster’? Well, several families living in West Palm Beach have filed a potential class action lawsuit against Pratt & Whitney over that very issue. Unfortunately, as the term denotes, the ramifications are serious and affect more than just property values—which is what the class action is about. As many as 10,000 homeowners who live near the Pratt & Whitney plant in The Acreage, Florida could be affected.

According to the complaint, on  February 1, 2010 the Palm Beach County Health department confirmed that The Acreage has a cancer cluster—a higher than normal rate of brain tumors among children in The Acreage area, which is located very near the Pratt & Whitney plant.

The source of the illness and the resulting reduction in property values is—you guessed it—toxic chemicals—no surprise there. And it’s quite a list of poisons including oil, sodium cyanide, thorium dispersed nickel, construction debris, unknown solid waste (keyword: unknown), solvents, solvent sludges, asbestos, fuel, paints, pesticide and herbicide residue, benzontrite, mercury, and commercial laboratory chemicals. 

Oh—let’s not forget the 1,4-dioxane, also among the contaminants on site, which the US Department of Health and Human Services considers to be a human carcinogen. Who in their right mind would even want to work around those kinds of substances?

Apparently they were stored at the plant site—not necessarily above ground and not very well—there have been several toxic leaks and spills at the facility. I would like to know at what point storing these chemicals on site was ever considered a safe option? 

I’m thinking this reads like the sad sequel to  “Erin Brockovich”. 

Top Settlements

MRI with Blinders On. And speaking of sad…the family of a nine-year old boy has settled with a hospital and radiologist—both of whom apparently remain anonymous—over allegations that they were negligent in detecting a malformation in the boy’s spinal canal that, had it been detected could possibly have prevented the boy from becoming a paraplegic.

The boy’s family argued that the MRI he had gone into hospital to have for a birthmark—and it must have been some birth mark—indicated a malformation in his spinal cord, a malformation that eventually ruptured later and caused the paraplegia. Had they been informed, their child could have undergone an embolization procedure which would have prevented the paraplegia.

Not surprisingly, the hospital and radiologist denied these allegations and maintained that the malformation was outside the scope of the MRI, and that, therefore, they weren’t negligent. 

What’s notable is that at some point the argument over who was right and who was wrong stopped, and the hospital and radiologist settled with the family to the tune of $10.5 million. 

Certain You’ve Got A Roof Over Your Head? Ok—heads up those of you who purchased CertainTeed organic asphalt shingles manufactured from July 1, 1987 through 2005, and joined a class action against the company because those shingles are subject to “premature failure and otherwise do not perform in accordance with the reasonable expectations of users. ” (What does that mean?) 

There’s a settlement in the wind—it’s not court approved yet—but they’re working on it. 

The skinny on the terms as they exist so far is that the settlement relates to organic shingles under the brand names Hallmark Shangle, Independence Shangle, Horizon Shangle, Custom Sealdon, Custom Sealdon 30, Sealdon 20, Sealdon 25, Hearthstead, Solid Slab, Master Slab, Custom Saf-T-Lok/Saf-T-Lok and the Custom Lok 25. The Horizon, Independence, Hallmark, and Hearthstead brands were marketed in both organic and fiberglass formulations, but only organic shingles are included. 

Because this is a class action settlement, the agreement must be approved by a judge—so the hearing is set for June 8, 2010.

That’s it for this week—see you at the Bar!

2 thoughts on “Week Adjourned: 2.12.10”

  1. Just wondering what the out come of the June 8 hearing for Certainteed Organic Shingles was. We sent in our shingle and application but have not heard anything since.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Cathy, Yes, the final approval hearing on the Certainteed Organic Shingle settlement did indeed take place on June 8th; Here's the outcome:

      On June 8, 2010, the District Court held the Final Approval Hearing. During this hearing, Class Counsel and CertainTeed’s counsel both presented their arguments why the settlement should be approved as fair, reasonable and adequate. They also responded to the written objections to the Settlement previously submitted by Class Members. Both parties requested that the Court grant final approval of the Settlement. However, the Court did not yet decide whether to grant final approval, in part, because it gave one group of objectors additional time to decide whether to continue to object to the Settlement.

      At present, the parties expect that the Court will decide whether to approve the settlement in July 2010; if no appeal is taken, the settlement will be final in August 2010.

      There hasn't been any further word yet, but I imagine we'll all be hearing something soon given that we're at the end of July and heading into August…

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