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Dow Chemical Class Action Lawsuit Information

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bulletLawsuit overview
bulletCourt Activity New!
bulletLaw firm contact information
bulletLaw firm background
bulletLawsuit press release
bulletLawsuit Documents
bulletNewspaper/Media Coverage

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Lawsuit Overview

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Dow Chemical Class Action  3/23/03

On behalf of 26 residents of the Tittabawassee River flood plain, we have sued The Dow Chemical Company for contaminating the river with dangerous amounts of dioxin. The lawsuit seeks damages for lost property value and seeks establishment of a medical monitoring trust fund for residents.

Also, the lawsuit is a class action, which as a result seeks relief for all residents on the flood plain whether or not they participate directly in the suit.

Stueve  Siegel Hanson Woody

bulletClick here for a detailed chronological review of court activity related to this case.
bulletClass Action status granted by Saginaw County Circuit Court October 21, 2005 pending appeal by Dow.  Dow has 30 days to file the appeal.
bulletMichigan Supreme Court denies Medical Monitoring portion of lawsuit on July 13, 2005.
bulletLawsuit filed in Saginaw County Circuit Court March 25, 2003.
bulletHow many people have signed as plaintiff's  in the Lawsuit?

The following comments on number of signed plaintiffs are no longer relevant now that the case has been  certified as a Class Action (pending appeal) on October 21, 2005. The number of plaintiffs could now be as high as 2000.

Note:  The following are opinions and not legal advice, always contact your attorney if you have any questions.

The exact number is changing almost daily, TRW does not have access to the count and depends upon the Plaintiff's law firm to provide updates.  The initial lawsuit started with 26 plaintiff's.  That number quickly grew to over a hundred as the initial stages of court hearings began in the spring of 2003.   Each time the plaintiff's lawyers filed an amendment to the suit providing a revised plaintiff count, Dow protested.    Dow indicated they would delay the proceedings each time each time a plaintiff was added.

As stated in the original complaint, the plaintiff's are seeking Class Certification to protect ALL  flood plain residents. How many people will be in the Class when certified?  Estimates range from 1200 to over 3000.  The court will decide the final number.  When determining whether a suit can be certified as a class, higher numbers of signed plaintiffs are very useful in demonstrating to the Judge that the suit has merit as a Class Action.   However, they are not required to win class action certification.  The Judge uses the criteria of Michigan Law MCR 3.501 to determine if the class is to be certified..

Dow's threat of additional delays led to the decision by the plaintiff's attorneys to temporarily suspend amending the plaintiff count and leave it at 179.  179 concerned individuals sends a clear message to the Judge as to to seriousness of the charges being made against Dow.

On December 2, 2003, Plaintiff's decided to file a 3rd amended complaint to narrow the scope of discovery preceding the Courts class action certification by requisition the original 26 plaintiff's represent the class.  The amendment also added 135 new plaintiffs and dropped 4 for a new total of 310.  See Court Activity page for details.

For these reasons, you may see conflicting numbers in the press or mentioned by Dow & TRW.  As of December 2003,  the actual  number of concerned citizens who have taken the steps to sign on as plaintiffs is approximately 310. At any time, if the plaintiff's attorneys determine it is necessary, they will file a simple motion in court and add all of the remaining signed plaintiff's.   Dow likes to use the 179 number because they think it implies a "small"  number of people have signed up as plaintiff's. 

The Class Action status of the case will not be decided until February of 2004. During this transition period, all 310 signed plaintiff's are protected from Dow lawyers, those without signed agreements are not.   All 310 will automatically become part of the class action when it is certified.  And all 310 will have individual lawsuits filed on their behalf by the plaintiff's lawyers if the case is not certified. All 310 may obtain free legal advice about medical or real-estate situations that might arise concerning the case.  All 310 have an attorney/client agreement providing the client protection against  any court or lawyer costs associated with the suit, the plaintiff attorneys are responsible for all costs and will get nothing if the case is lost. The 310 plaintiff's will have to provide information to the court that is relevant to the case.  However the plaintiff's lawyers  challenge (and win) almost every Dow  request for non-relevant information. 

So why should you sign up now if you have not done so already? 

It is extremely important to continue sending the message to the Courts that this is a serious situation affecting an entire community.  You also gain the benefits provided to the current 310 plaintiff's mentioned above.   Dow intends to discover whatever they can about non-plaintiffs before the case is certified as a class action and will use this information against non-plaintiff's them when the trial starts.  Those that have signed on as plaintiff's cannot be contacted by Dow for anything unless their attorneys are monitoring the exchange.   Finally, anyone, including the current plaintiff's, can "opt out" (not participate) at anytime up to the final settlement.   Contact the plaintiff law-firm for a copy of the agreement and sign up today. 

03/18/04 The original 26 plaintiff's have grown to 370+

12/15/03  308 residents now have signed agreements with plaintiff's  law firm, 173 will represent case for Class Certification.   The 135 others will automatically be added as named plaintiff's after Class Certification in February 2004.

12/02/03  The original 26 plaintiff's have grown to 310

10/01/03  The original 26 plaintiff's have grown to 300

09/07/03  The original 26 plaintiff's have grown to 271

08/08/03  The original 26 plaintiff's have grown to 230+

05/30/03  The original 26 plaintiff's have grown to 142

03/25/03  26 plaintiff's file suit against Dow Chemical

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Law firm contact information

bulletFor more information or if you would like to participate as a client in the case, please contact:
bulletTeresa Woody, lead counsel, at (800) 714-0360  email woody@sshwlaw.com
bulletTrogan & Trogan, local counsel, at (989) 781-2060, email  troganpc@chartermi.net
bulletYou can also link to the Stueve Siegel Hanson Woody  web site and supply contact information, click here.  Once completed, they will contact you directly.

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Law firm background information

bulletVisit the web sites of the participating law firms by following the links below:

  Stueve Siegel Hanson Woody , LLP  (lead law firm in suit)   www.shslitigation.com

  Spencer Fane Britt & Brown, LLP   www.spencerfane.com

  Trogan & Trogan  (no web site, contact at 989-781-2060)

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Lawsuit Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ----March 25, 2003

26 RESIDENTS SUE THE DOW CHEMICAL COMPANY IN CLASS ACTION FOR DIOXIN POLLUTION IN SAGINAW COUNTY, MICHIGAN


CONTACT: Teresa Woody, (800) 714-0360

Stueve Helder Siegel LLP has filed an environmental class action lawsuit against Dow Chemical Company in Saginaw County, Michigan. The lawsuit alleges that Dow is responsible for highly toxic levels of dioxin in the Tittabawassee River and flood plain in Saginaw County. The named-plaintiffs are 25 residents of the Tittabawassee River flood plain in Saginaw County. By virtue of the class action, these residents are bringing the case on behalf of the nearly 2000 property-owners and residents of the Tittabawassee River flood plain. In addition to the lost value of their real estate, they seek to require Dow to fund a medical monitoring trust fund for the benefit of all who have resided along the Tittabawassee over the past two decades.
Quoting from the Introduction to the lawsuit filed today:

  1. The Tittabawassee River was once a desirable place to live in Saginaw County. Both modest and expensive homes line its banks, all set in a beautiful and wooded landscape. Residents live here to enjoy the recreation and leisure activities unique to the area. Imagine children playing in the mud; swimming in the river; fishing on its banks. Families garden together; tend to their yards; mow their grass; all in a wooded, riverside park-like setting.

  2. In early 2002, those families learned shocking news from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. They learned for the first time that all of these activities are dangerous, especially to their children. They learned that their homes and yards are polluted with Dioxin, the same toxin that has caused entire towns to disappear; a substance that has been described as "one of the deadliest toxins known to man." They learned that they are at risk to suffer from many deadly and life altering diseases: cancer, immune deficiencies, and birth defects, to name but a few. Worst of all, they learned that their children suffer the greatest risk.

  3. Life for the residents along the Tittabawassee has changed forever. They now know that as much as 7,300 parts per trillion of Dioxin has been detected in and near their backyards, an amount that exceeds the residential clean up standard of 90 parts per trillion 81 times over. Like Love Canal and Times Beach, the Tittabawassee neighborhood will be gone one day. But for now, the residents remain trapped in homes made worthless by the Dioxin there. Dioxin that the Dow Chemical Company put there. While Dow lobbies the government so that Dow may do little or nothing; while the government contemplates, considers and studies Dow's requests, nothing is done. But as each day passes, the people along the Tittabawassee are exposed to more Dioxin.

  4. The time has come to free these residents from the poisonous traps that were once their homes. The time has come to provide the medical monitoring necessary to determine whether the residents have been afflicted by Dioxin's diseases, and if so, to treat those conditions. The time has come to hold Dow responsible for what it has done to the residents of the Tittabawassee.

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Lawsuit Document

bulletThe following documents   can be viewed if you have Adobe software to read pdf files.  These are   large files, be patient as it takes a while to load depending upon the speed of your internet connection
bulletLawsuit: Plaintiff initial  complaint filed in Saginaw County Circuit Court 3/25/03
bulletLawsuit: Plaintiff 3rd amended complaint 12/2/03
bulletLawsuit: Plaintiff's Emergency Motion for Protective Order 12/18/03
bulletLawsuit: Dow emergency applicaton for leave to appeal (pdf) 12/10/03
bulletLawsuit: Dow motion for immediate consideration of it's emergency application (pdf) 12/10/03
bulletLawsuit: Plaintiff answer to emergency application for leave 102203
bulletLawsuit: Plaintiff answer to motion for peremptory reversal 102303
bulletLawsuit: Plaintiff answer to motion for stay 102303
bulletLawsuit: Plaintiff press release & Dow brief declaring dioxin is not a health hazard 100103
bulletLawsuit: Plaintiff document request responses 100803
bulletLawsuit: Plaintiff interrogatory responses 100803
bulletLawsuit: Dow discovery response 100803
bulletLawsuit: Dow motion to waive filling of transcript 100803
bulletLawsuit: Dow motion to stay 100803
bulletLawsuit: Dow motion for peremptory reversal 100803
bulletLawsuit: Dow motion for immediate consideration 100803
bulletLawsuit: Dow emergency application for leave to appeal 100803
bulletLawsuit: Plaintiff Brief in support of Class Action Certification (Excerpts) 3/19/04
bulletLawsuit: Michigan Supreme Court Order to Stay 06/03/04
bulletLawsuit: Plaintiff motion for reconsideration of order staying all further proceedings in circuit court 6/8/04
bulletLawsuit: Attorney shuffle in dioxin lawsuit, 06/16/04
bulletLawsuit: Plaintiffs brief to Michigan Supreme Court in support of Medical Monitoring 9/1/04
bullet Lawsuit: Plaintiff motion for partial relieve from stay field by plaintiffs in Supreme Court, 06/16/05
bullet Lawsuit: Michigan Supreme Court Final Opinion on Medical Monitoring 7/13/05
bullet Lawsuit: Michigan Supreme Court Dissenting Opinion on Medical Monitoring 7/13/05
bullet Lawsuit: Opinion and Order Granting Class Certification 10/21/05
bullet Lawsuit: Plaintiffs Memorandum in opposition to defendants motion to stay proceedings pending 11/04/05
bulletThese  documents can also be found on this sites Document page

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Newspaper/Media Coverage

 Local TV station coverage of the Tittabawassee River floodplain dioxin contamination  lawsuit against Dow Chemical now viewable on line at the Stueve Siegel Hanson Woody law firm's website.
Click here and scroll down to either the Channel 5 or Channel 12 video.   The articles below where published at the time of the initial filing, click here for the most recent newspaper/media reporting.

Class Action Certification granted 10/21/05, Midland Daily News

Attorney shuffle in dioxin lawsuit, 06/16/04 , Saginaw News

Dow sued over dioxin in land near river, Midland Daily News

Families believe homes have no value due to dioxin, Midland Daily News

Saginaw County residents sue Dow for dioxin contamination, Associated Press

Dow facing dioxin suit,  Saginaw News

Dow Chemical sued,  Chicago Tribune

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Dow sued over dioxin in land near river
Kathie Marchlewski , The Midland Daily News

03/26/2003

Residents of the dioxin-polluted Tittabawassee flood plain are weary of waiting for state agencies or The Dow Chemical Co. to do something about the contamination. Twenty-six filed a class-action complaint against Dow Tuesday in Saginaw County Circuit Court.
The suit seeks to represent about 2,000 people who have lived in the flood plain since January 1984.
Plaintiffs believe that their property has been devalued and their health put at risk by historic dioxin deposited by Dow into the river.
They hope a jury will decide that Dow should pay the pre-dioxin-discovery value of the property, pay punitive damages and set up a medical monitoring trust to cover future diagnosis of dioxin poisoning and treatments for residents exposed to the dioxin.
"We really think Dow should step up to the plate," said Jan P. Helder, the Kansas City-based attorney representing the group. "If they don’t, we’ll make them. This case is about holding them accountable. The time for talk and delay is over."
In 2002, families living along the Tittabawassee River and its flood plain were notified by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality that the soil in their backyards was contaminated with dioxin. The lawsuit contends that Dow was negligent in its handling and disposal of dioxin, resulting in levels as high as 7,300 parts per trillion. The state’s residential cleanup standard is 90 parts per trillion.
The dioxin has been traced to Dow waste discharges into the river between 1915 and 1937.
Dow has acknowledged its responsibility for the contamination. Two state agreements, one in 1985 that was the result of an exchange for building a boat launch, and another in 1997, deemed Dow released from all claims and action related to discharge of dioxins into the river.
DEQ spokespeople have said it is unknown if the two documents will affect liability.
"They don’t relieve Dow Chemical of any liability they might have under federal law," Andrew Hogarth of the DEQ said.
Last year, Dow attempted a deal with the MDEQ that would have raised allowable dioxin contamination levels ninefold in Midland. The deal, which included an offer to fund a health study of the effects of dioxin along the plain, fell apart in December.
Dow, in a statement issued Tuesday, said it continues to work with the state and community. It warned that homeowners should not be alarmed by the suit and that there has been no evidence that property values have been affected.
"As a member of the Tri-Counties for many years," the statement continued, "we are, and have been, fully committed to the health and environment of this community. It’s unfortunate that litigation could hurt what should be a collaborative process with all residents, elected officials, and any company involved."
Helder expects Dow to respond to the suit in about 30 days. The wait for a jury trial could be as long as two years, he said.
He does not expect Dow will be interested in settling out of court.

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Families believe homes have no value due to dioxin

Kathie Marchlewski , The Midland Daily News

03/26/2003

When Gary and Kathy Henry first considered buying their Freeland waterfront property, they ran straight for the river.
"We wanted to be near the water," Gary remembers. "We didn’t even look at the house."
Nineteen years later, the flowing water is the enemy. Floods have deposited contamination on their property. The land and the gray-blue ranch-style home that sits on it are worthless, the Henrys say.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in 2002 issued a warning that there should be no contact with soil around the house. Children should stay away from the riverbank and dirt should be washed thoroughly and immediately from skin. Gardening should be done only in coveralls. Shoes should always be worn.
Downriver in Saginaw, Wendy and Dennis Domino received a similar notice and immediately put their Stroebel Road home up for sale.
"It was frightening," Domino said. "We were extremely panicked."
Wendy called The Dow Chemical Co., whose historical manufacturing processes are believed to have produced and released the dioxin.
"I told them, ‘Why don’t you buy my house. No one else will,’" Domino said.
Dow representatives came to visit, and over the next two months, the company paid for two appraisals of the Domino home.
"Consistent with our commitment to be responsive to the community, Dow agreed to fund an appraisal for a resident on the Tittabawassee River," Dow spokeswoman Terri Johnson said.
The couple believed Dow was planning to answer their request to buy the house. Later, Wendy said, she and her husband were advised to sell the home on their own.
"They told us ‘Dow is not in the real estate business,’" she said.
To that, she said she answered: "I’m not in the toxic clean-up business, either."
Johnson said the results of the appraisal showed that the dioxin had not impacted the property’s value.
Five purchase agreements and five broken deals later, the Dominos believe it has.
"We listed our house and every time a buyer saw the dioxin warning, they ran like hell," Wendy Domino said.
The Dominos and others who filed the class action suit against Dow say they are stuck in their dioxin-drenched yards. Buyers won’t look at their property and non-disclosure is not an option, legally or morally.
"Morally, there’s no gray area," Wendy said. "The buck has to stop somewhere."
"The Dominos and others are above that," said lawyer Jan P. Helder Jr. of the idea that they would sell without disclosing the information about dioxin. Helder is the Kansas City attorney representing residents of the Tittabawassee River flood plain. "And they’re smarter than that. On a legal level, they understand that this is not a particularly safe place to be."
Filing the suit against Dow Tuesday was a last resort, say the 26 residents who have joined the effort.
"We had hoped that the state and officials and Dow were going to do something," said John Taylor, a Thomas Township flood plain property owner.
That didn’t happen.
"I dread the thought of waiting and appeals and expense," said Domino, who hopes the matter will be settled out of court. Helder and others think a settlement is unlikely.

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Saginaw County residents sue Dow for dioxin contamination

By LIZ AUSTIN
The Associated Press
3/25/03 6:47 PM

DETROIT (AP) -- Twenty-six Saginaw County residents have filed a class-action lawsuit against Dow Chemical Co., saying dioxin contamination caused by its Midland manufacturing plant has threatened their health and left their property worthless.

Dioxins are highly toxic byproducts of manufacturing and incineration systems and may cause cancer, birth defects and other health problems in humans.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Saginaw County Circuit Court, seeks to represent about 2,000 people who have lived along the Tittabawassee River and flood plain since January 1984.

Dow Chemical said it had just learned of the complaint and couldn't respond to specifics. But the company said it has seen no evidence that property values were hurt and adds that it remains committed to the health of the community.

"Dow has been working to understand the concerns of residents along the Tittabawassee River and has been meeting with the community, individually and collectively, for more than a year," the company said in a statement.

In the lawsuit, the residents ask the court to make Dow establish a medical monitoring trust fund for them. The fund would pay for dioxin poisoning testing and treatment, as well as for studies of the toxins' effects and possible cures.

Jan P. Helder Jr., an attorney for the plaintiffs, said such testing is very expensive and is available in just a few places, such as the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We believe that Dow should bear the burden of that, certainly not innocent bystanders," Helder said Tuesday.

The lawsuit also asks for compensatory and punitive damages to help the plaintiffs move to safer locations.

Given the original values of the properties involved, the compensatory damages alone could add up to more than $100 million dollars if a judge certifies the class of 2,000 plaintiffs, Helder said.

Last year Dow tried to broker a deal with the state Department of Environmental Quality that would have raised allowable dioxin contamination levels nine-fold in Midland. The deal, however, fell apart in December.

Michigan's current standard is 90 parts per trillion. As much as 7,300 parts per trillion has been detected in some contaminated areas, the lawsuit contends.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Dow facing dioxin lawsuit, Saginaw News 03/26/03

Click here for scan of page 1

Click here for scan of page 2

 

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Dow sued, Chicago Tribune Online Edition 03/26/03

Dow Chemical sued

Tribune staff, wire reports
Published March 26, 2003

Twenty-six Saginaw County, Mich., residents have filed a class-action lawsuit against Dow Chemical Co., saying dioxin contamination caused by its Midland, Mich., manufacturing plant has threatened their health and left their property worthless. The lawsuit seeks to represent about 2,000 people. Dow Chemical said it had just learned of the complaint and couldn't respond. In the lawsuit, the residents ask the court to make Dow establish a medical monitoring trust fund for them.

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