Judge orders Dow, residents to share

Tuesday, October 14, 2003


A judge has ordered attorneys representing Dow Chemical Co. and residents fighting over dioxin contamination to settle issues of sharing documents before he determines whether to certify a class-action lawsuit.

Saginaw County Chief Circuit Judge Leopold P. Borrello concluded a proceeding Monday by telling attorneys he doesn't want to delay a hearing on whether to give class-action status to nearly 300 property owners along the Tittabawassee River between Dow's Midland complex and Saginaw.

Borrello has ordered the attorneys to return Monday, Oct. 28, to discuss the sharing of documents.

"Only issues that you can't agree on will be heard," he said.

Borrello plans to conduct a certification hearing Thursday, Dec. 18.

Last week, Dow filed a motion arguing the plaintiffs have not turned over pertinent documents relating to their claims, particularly allegations that the residents may have suffered medical problems, said Dow attorney Doug Kurtenbach, who is based in Chicago.

Dow has given the residents all the materials they asked for going back to 1975, he said.

If the residents won't supply Dow with documents such as employment files, Kurtenbach said, he should have the opportunity to subpoena the records.

Jan P. Helder, the Kansas City-based attorney who represents the residents, said he and his associates are in the process of gathering the information for Dow.

"We will give it to them on a weekly basis," he said. "We're willing to work to expedite it."

Helder said Dow should not have access to the medical histories of the plaintiffs, their social security numbers and car insurance documents, which Dow has sought.

Last week, Dow filed a motion contending that homeowners do not face significant health risks from dioxin-contaminated soil.

The document contradicts the company's public support for a large-scale health study, paid for by Dow, as the only way to answer residents' concerns about dioxin exposure and illness, Helder said.

Dow attorneys contend that "dioxin found in soils and sediments generally is not available for significant exposure to people and, therefore, presents no significant health risk," and that residents do not need medical testing.

Dow is concluding that there's no risk already, Helder said. t

2003 Saginaw News.

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