Court takes dioxin suit

Saturday, June 05, 2004


The state Supreme Court will decide whether Dow Chemical Co. must pay for ongoing medical care of residents along the embattled Tittabawassee River.

Residents claim the chemical giant polluted their properties with dioxin, putting them at a higher risk for various health conditions.

The high court's decision to hear the case comes less than a week before Saginaw County Chief Circuit Judge Leopold P. Borrello was to decide whether the lawsuit gains class-action status.

That hearing will have to wait. The Supreme Court has delayed all proceedings until it decides whether the medical monitoring claim is appropriate.

Dow spokesman Scot Wheeler said the decision reflects the significance of the issue to present litigation and to state law.

"This tells us that they believe this is an issue of critical importance that ought to be heard now," he said.

Dow has argued repeatedly that medical monitoring claims, which seek relief for damages that have not yet occurred, are not recognized by state law.

Borrello rejected that argument last year, ruling that residents could include medical monitoring in the suit. Dow appealed to the state Court of Appeals, but it refused to hear the case.

The chemical giant then appealed to the Supreme Court on Oct. 29, but received no response until this week.

Teresa Woody, an attorney representing Tittabawassee River residents, said she has no problem with the issue going before the high court.

"Better decided sooner than later," she said.

However, Woody objected to the court's delay of the class certification hearing. While the court must resolve the medical monitoring issue, she said it makes no sense to stall the property damage claims as well.

"These are two separate issues," she said. "There is no reason to stay the ruling on the property claim."

Woody plans to petition the high court to let the property damage claim move forward.

Bad idea, Wheeler said. He said separating the property from the health issues will encumber the process and perhaps lead to a duplication of time and effort.

"It makes more sense to resolve the medical monitoring issue and then let the parties focus on the remaining issues in this case," he said.

The Supreme Court will give Dow until late July to submit its brief on medical monitoring. Oral arguments aren't expected until this fall. 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 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.