Dow files motion fighting suit changes

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

JEREMIAH STETTLER
THE SAGINAW NEWS

Dow Chemical Co. claims residents' attorneys are trying to "bury bad facts" in a lawsuit involving dioxin contamination along the Tittabawassee River.

Dow attorneys filed a motion Tuesday urging Saginaw County Chief Circuit Judge Leopold P. Borrello to reject several changes to the suit.

Jan P. Helder, lead attorney for residents suing Dow, asked the judge last week to bump the number of litigants to more than 300 and to designate the 26 original complainants as group representatives.

Dow attorneys did not object to increasing the number of litigants. However, they fiercely opposed Helder's request to reduce the number of "class representatives," a measure the court would use to determine if residents are similar enough to gain "class" status.

They said residents' attorneys are trying to cover up information that could undermine the case, such as an individual whose property sits on a former chemical plant and waste lagoon in Saginaw and residents who admit no dioxin-related damage.

"(The) plaintiffs' ploy to cut back to 26 class representatives is plainly an attempt to bury these and other bad facts from the class certification determination," the motion states.

Helder defended the move as making the court proceedings more manageable and giving Dow less opportunity to "delay" litigation.

"We have a significant portion of the community represented in this case," he said, "but it makes more sense to talk about 26 people than 300 and something."

The motion also urges the judge to strike "false allegations" from the suit. Attorneys claimed properties along the river are not "worthless," as stated by residents, but rather have sold above appraised value.

They also clarified that the state Department of Environmental Quality has declared only the "frequently flooded" parts of the Tittabawassee River as a hazardous waste "facility," rather than the entire 100-year floodplain.

A hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday in Borrello's courtroom. t

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

2003 Saginaw News.

 


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