Judge dismisses nine

Thursday, March 18, 2004


They're out ... at least for now, a Saginaw County judge has ruled.

Chief Circuit Judge Leopold P. Borrello has dismissed nine members of a dioxin-related lawsuit who did not hand over court-ordered documents.

However, he left the door open for them to join a potentially larger class-action suit later.

Borrello's decision eliminates nine people from the lawsuit -- four who wanted out of the case, four who produced no documents and one who died.

Jan P. Helder, lead attorney for the residents, spoke out in favor of the decision. Despite the dismissals, the judge preserved the residents' rights to sue Dow Chemical Co. in the future, he said.

"We are pleased that the judge recognized Dow's lack of compassion for individuals in the floodplain who, because of circumstances in their own lives, are unable to provide Dow exactly what they want when they want it," Helder said. "This is a fair result that preserves the rights of these individuals."

Dow originally asked the judge to dismiss 18 residents who had not produced documents or given depositions in the lawsuit.

Kathleen A. Lang, an attorney representing the chemical company, said the residents had not fulfilled their obligation as litigants and did not deserve to participate. She urged the judge to dismiss them with prejudice -- a legal distinction that would preclude them from joining the case again.

Judge Borrello dismissed half of those residents without prejudice, leaving the door ajar for future participation.

Dow spokesman Scot Wheeler said residents who ignored the court's order have not met their obligation as plaintiffs and deserve dismissal. The company hoped to make the decision more permanent.

If the residents rejoin the case later, Wheeler said, Dow could find itself again haggling over document-sharing issues.

"We are disappointed in that we may find ourselves in the same position later," he said.

As for the residents who weren't dismissed, Wheeler said, "It appears that the plaintiffs' attorneys have shown the court that some individuals have extenuating circumstances. The court felt it was appropriate to accommodate those situations."

Residents along the Tittabawassee River are accusing Dow of polluting their properties with dioxin, a toxic byproduct of some industrial processes. Borrello will decide in April whether their case will gain class-action status. t

Jeremiah Stettler is a staff writer for The Saginaw News. You may reach him at 776-9685.

© 2004 Saginaw News.

For additional articles like this one, go to the Tittabawasse River Watch web site www.trwnews.net for complete coverage of the Tittabawassee River Dow Chemical dioxin contamination saga. . The Newspaper / Media page of our site contains an extensive archive of media articles dating back to January 2002. The source organization's web site link is listed to the right of the article, visit often for other news in our area. The Newspaper / Media page may be accessed by scrolling down to the bottom of the CONTENTS section and clicking on the Newspaper/Media link.