Attorney shuffle in dioxin lawsuit

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


Residents suing Dow Chemical Co. over dioxin contamination will see a new face on the front line.

Jan P. Helder, lead attorney for the litigants, has left the Kansas City, Mo.-based law firm Stueve Helder Siegel to pursue a private law practice.

He said his departure has nothing to do with the lawsuit that accuses Dow of devaluing Tittabawassee River properties and putting residents' health at risk.

"I decided to leave for personal and professional reasons," he said. "This has nothing to do with the case or its merits."

Helder said he remains convinced that residents have a legitimate claim that the court ultimately will recognize.

Chief litigant Gary Henry said the move will not jeopardize the case.

"If we went through one attorney, then it would have," he said. "But we didn't."

Three law firms are steering the legal fight against Dow: Stueve Siegel Hanson Woody, formerly Stueve Helder Siegel; Spencer, Fane, Britt & Browne of Kansas City, Mo.; and Trogan & Trogan of Saginaw. Because of that diversity, Henry believes the case will move forward without a hiccup.

Attorney Teresa Woody, who already has met with litigants, will take Helder's place.

Dow has taken no position on the change.

"We will continue to move forward the way we always have and focus on the issues," said spokesman Scot Wheeler.

The state Supreme Court has postponed all local hearings in the suit until it decides whether ongoing medical care for riverside residents is an acceptable claim under state law.

Dow will submit its brief in late July. A response from residents' attorneys will follow in August.t

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

© 2004 Saginaw News.


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