In the News

WASTE-DISPOSAL PROCESS COSTS FIRM $8.2 M (

National Law Review, March 15th, 1999

 

Cash Type: toxic torts

Case: _______ v. NPC Services Inc.,

336561 (Dist. Ct., Baton Rouge Parish, La.)

 

Plaintiff’s Attorney’s: C. Locke Meredith of Baton Rouge, La.’s Locke Meredith & Associates; and John W. deGravelles, of Baton Rouge’s deGravelles, Palmintier & Hothaus

 

Defense Attorney’s: John Schwab and Gerald L. Walter Jr., of Baton Rouge’s Schwab and Walter

 

Jury Verdict: $8.2 million

 

From the 1970’s onward, a number of petrochemical companies dumped hazardous wastes at a site in north Baton Rouge, La., said plaintiff’s attorney Locke Meredith. In the 1980’s, the Environmental Protection Agency declared the area a Superfund site and the companies, including Exxon Corp., Shell Oil Co. and Allied Chemical Corp., formed NPC Services Inc. to handle the cleanup.

 

In 1987, ___________ worked as a supervisor of the solidification process of this cleanup. “The solidification process was not well thought out,” said Mr. Meredith. “They were dumping dirt and lime in with the chemicals and then mixing them with track hoes.” The mixture, he said, “would heat up, causing significant chemical emissions.” _________ sustained lung damage by breathing in these emissions; he has been disabled for the past nine years, Mr. Meredith said. ________ sued NPC and the petrochemical companies, charging that they had failed to protect him from or warn him of the hazard. The defendants contend that _____ was neither harmed nor disabled, but on Jan.19, a Baton Rouge jury awarded him $8.2 million, including $5 million in punitives. _____ is also entitled to pretrial interest that would double the jury’s award, said Mr. Meredith. Post-trial motions are pending.

 

after deliberating for about 1 hour and 45 minutes..

WOMAN HIT BY VEHICLE SETTLES SUIT

By: Adrian Angelette, 2003

Baton Rouge Advocate

 

 

A 72-year-old Baton Rouge woman who suffered brain damage after being struck by a car last year settled her lawsuit against the driver for $1.25 million Thursday, her attorney said.

______________, 72, was trying to cross Highland Road near West Roosevelt Street on Jan. 29, 2002, when she was struck by a Chevrolet Malibu driven by Ryan M. Deville, an LSU student at the time.

_______ contended Deville is liable for damages because he was speeding, failed to take evasive action to avoid the accident and failed to see her as she was crossing the road.

_________ attorney, Locke Meredith, said the settlement amount was for the maximum insurance coverage on the car driven by Deville. Meredith said the liability insurance through Trinity Universal Insurance Co. was for $250,000 and the same company had a $1 million umbrella policy on the vehicle.

 

The attorney for Trinity Universal couldn’t be reached for comment.

___________ claims she suffered injuries to her brain and spine, is having to cope with serious headaches and now has memory problems.

 

“She was once a very independent woman and now she has to be cared for at the nursing home,” Meredith said. “Her quality of life is now gone.”

 

The lawsuit, filed in state district court in Baton Rouge, says she has been under constant care of physicians who have determined that her physical and mental problems are permanent.

 

District Judge Duke Welch has determined that ________ is unable to care for herself. The judge gave control of her financial and legal affairs to her two sons, _______ and ________ __________.

MAN INJURED IN WRECK SETTLES FOR $1.2 MILLION

By Adrian Angelette

Baton Rouge Advocate

The second man injured in a Jan.4, 2004, accident between a pickup and an 18 wheeler settled his lawsuit for $1.2 million against the trucking company and the insurance companies on Monday.

_____________, 24, of Walker, agreed to settle his lawsuit against Mike’s Trucking Co., owner of the 18 wheeler, Locke Meredith, _____________’s attorney, said.

_____________ was the passenger in the pickup struck from the rear by the 18 wheeler. He suffered multiple injuries, including brain damage, Meredith said.

The insurance companies are Star Insurance Co., Nutmeg Insurance Co., and Twin City Fire Insurance Co.

 

In late March, a jury awarded the pickup’s driver, _____________, 29, of Walker, $15.5 million in damages for brain damage and other injuries. The jury awarded another $1 million to _____________’ parents, ______ and _______ _________, for loss of consortium with their son after a trial in state District Court in Baton Rouge.

 

Meredith represents the __________.

The trucking company’s attorney, Jim Pate of Lafayette, confirmed the settlement terms Monday. Pate said the company, which he described as a “mom and pop operation” is no longer in business and exists in name only.

Pate said his client doesn’t have the money to cover the damage awards in connection with the accident.

 

A May 5 hearing will begin the process of determining how the damage awards will be paid by the trucking company and insurance companies involved in the lawsuits.

Before the trial began, Mike’s Trucking accepted complete responsibility for the accident, according to court records. The trial was held solely to determine damages.

 

There was no testimony during the trial about what caused the accident, but it appears that the truck driver, Dwight Daigle, was not paying attention, Sean Fagan, _____________’ attorney, has said.

The plaintiffs claim the truck, carrying 28 tons of sand, had defective brakes and also contend the driver was speeding.

 

Daigle was charged with negligent injuring, driving without a license and careless operation. According to court records, the negligent injuring and careless operation charges were dismissed, and Daigle paid about $160 in fines and court costs for driving without a license.

 

Fagan has said the accident occurred about 9 a.m. on La. 3034 while _____________ was heading to his job at DEMCO. _____________ had the left-turn signal light on and was waiting for traffic to clear when an 18 wheeler hit him from behind.

The crash catapulted the pickup into a patch of trees.

_____________ suffered brain damage that has reduced his mental capacities to that of an 8-year-old, Meredith said. Court records also indicate that he suffered paralysis of the right side of his body, as well as injuries to his spine, eyes, shoulder and mouth.

 

Meredith said _____________ suffered brain damage that has resulted in the memory loss and other neurological defects. _____________ also suffered injuries to his spine and shoulder, Meredith said.

“There were no blood clots in his brain like _____________, But _____________’s injuries are still very disabling,” Meredith said.

Meredith and Pate said the parties agreed that reasonable damages in this case would be $1.2 million. Meredith said the judicial interest would add another $200,000 to that damage award.

AGENCY AMENDS TAX BREAK PLANS

By Ted Griggs, Baton Rouge Advocate 1995

 

The Louisiana Housing Finance Agency on Wednesday amended a tax-break program to force federal officials or courts to decide whether developers get more time to finish apartment projects hampered by public opposition.

Developers receiving tax credits normally have two years to complete low-to-moderate income projects. However, the LHFA changed its rules last month, and reserved the right to reissue federal tax credits to developers when delays are cause by frivolous lawsuits or housing discrimination.

 

Under Wednesday’s additional amendment, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or federal courts, not the LHFA, will decide whether a lawsuit is frivolous or delays were caused by housing discrimination. The tax credits will be held in reserve until HUD or the courts make a decision.

 

If HUD or federal courts decide that frivolous lawsuits or housing discrimination caused project delays, developers will be given two more years or longer to finish projects, depending on the time it takes to complete a lawsuit.

 

Critics have said the tax-break extension will benefit Baton Rouge’s controversial St. Jean Apartments, proposed on South Harrell’s Ferry Road near O’Neal Lane.

 

Wayne Neveu, an LHFA attorney, said the extension was not designed with any single project in mind. Affordable housing developments have been halted or delayed throughout Louisiana and the United States, he said.

“All the agency has done here in this qualified allocation plan is adopt a national policy that frivolous lawsuits will not result in affordable housing being denied to those who need affordable housing.” Neveu said.

The agency does not want to be a part of unlawful procedures or strategies to deny people affordable housing, Neveu said.

Locke Meredith, an attorney representing homeowners who oppose the St. Jean Apartments, said the latest changes to the program will remove political pressure on the LHFA.

Meredith said he would prefer to see the courts decide whether lawsuits are frivolous or if housing discrimination has taken place.

He would also like to proof that a project has not changed before the tax-break extension is granted.

POLICE BEATING CASE SETTLED

BATON ROUGE ADVOCATE

BY: PENNY BROWN ROBERTS

Date: Dec 21, 2005

Start Page: 1

Section: B

The lawsuit alleges their son, ___________ a juvenile at the time suffered a broken jaw, bruises and contusions and had to be rushed to a hospital after Baton Rouge Police Officers Tat-Chi Lam and Paul D. Patterson stopped him on North Sherwood Forest Drive.

The Baton Rouge Police Department knew or should have known that Officer Tat-Chi Lam had a propensity for violence, the ________ said in their lawsuit, and that this propensity placed plaintiff at a substantial increased risk of harm at the hands of Officer Tat-Chi Lam.

Last month, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Kwame Asant said that since Hurricane Katrina, the organization had logged as many as 75 complaints of police misconduct, excessive force and brutality most of them from black men under the age of 25. He issued a statement calling for Baton Rouge Police Chief Jeff LeDuff to address the issues of police misconduct and brutality.

MAN WINS $8.2 MILLION IN DAMAGES

BATON ROUGE ADVOCATE

By: Christopher Baughman

Date January 20, 1999

 

Exxon Corp. and nine other companies must pay more than 8 million to a man that claims his lungs were damaged while cleaning up a North Baton Rouge hazardous waste site, a jury decided Tuesday.

______________’s award includes more than $3.2 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.

The Louisiana Legislature abolished punitive damages for hazardous waste suits in 1996, said Locke Meredith, one of _________’s attorneys. But _________’s case qualified for punitive damages, which are meant to punish a defendant for wrongful conduct, because he suffered his injuries in 1987.

After the verdict in State District Court, the 47 year old _________ said he felt relief only because the 2- week trial had ended.

“Moneys not going my health back” said _________, who contends his lungs have hardened and lost their elasticity from exposure to chemicals. “But I’m happy the jury saw it my way and punished the chemical companies for what they have done”, he said.

 

John Schwab, who represented Exxon Corp. And the other defendants, said he did not know how the companies would divide payment of the award.

“I know that Exxon has the biggest share,” he said.

 

But Schwab added that he expects his clients to appeal the verdict.

The hazardous waste site is on Brooklawn Drive in north Baton Rouge between Highway 61 and the Mississippi River. It is a Federal Superfund site, which means it’s on a priority list for cleanups.

In the 1960’s and 70’s, Petro Processors of Louisiana Inc. A now defunct firm, owned and operated the Brooklawn site and another on Scenic Hwy. Said John deGravelles, another of _________’s attorneys.

Petro Processors hauled chemicals from Exxon and other companies and dumped them into lagoons there.

 

In 1980 The Environmental Protection Agency sued Petro Processors and the companies whose chemicals were dumped at the site, he said.

The EPA suit was settled in 1984 with the chemical companies agreeing to clean up the site, deGravelles said.

The first cleanup plan called for mixing the hazardous materials with lime and sucking out the water until a solid formed, deGravelles said. The solid material was to be taken out and put into an underground vault.

The solidification method was tried only about 25 times during the late 1987 and didn’t work deGravelles said.

_________ who worked as a night supervisor on 17 of those attempts, suffered lung damage from breathing new chemicals that formed when the lime was mixed with the hazardous material, Meredith said. “Some of this stuff, you couldn’t smell until it hurt you”, he said.

And when _________ had time to don safety equipment for breathing, it wasn’t good enough to protect him, Meredith said.

On Tuesday, deGravelles reminded the jury that _________’s treating physician testified a mark on _________’s lungs from a 1988 X-ray “more likely than not” came from exposure to chemicals at the site.

_________ has lost half the size of his lungs and 40% of their capacity, he said. “The chemicals, did indeed, cause this man’s problems”, deGravelles told the jury during his closing argument.

“The chemicals, did indeed, cause this man’s problems,” deGravelles told the jury during his closing arguments.

But Schwab told jurors that doctors used by the defense testified the streak was probably caused by pleurisy, a disease not related to his job.

Defense doctors said that if _________, who used to smoke two packs of cigarettes daily for 20 years, had lung problems, they didn’t come from working at the site, Schwab said.

_________ tended to be a hypochondriac, was obsessed with his body and saw the opportunity for a big payday by suing the chemical giants, Schwab told the Jury.

_________ also was trained and knew how to use safety equipment, he said. That all adds up to a lack of proof that _________ was injured on the job, Schwab said.

“There is no causation of injury to _________ by any chemicals at the site,” Schwab said.

 

The jury disagreed, and awarded _________ compensatory damages of more than $3.2 million. Compensatory damages are meant to compensate plaintiffs for their losses.

Jurors also found that _________ was injured through reckless and wanton actions by the chemical companies, setting up a decision over punitive damages.

 

Schwab told the jury it did not have to award punitive damages.

“It’s discretionary,” he said.

Although deGravelles did not ask for a set amount, he told the jury that Exxon’s profits in 1997 exceeded $8 billion. If a person making $20,000 a year had been reckless and wanton, taking 10 percent from them would be reasonable, deGravelles said.

He urged jurors to “send a message.”

“If you don’t want this kind of conduct to happen again, you have to make a meaningful award,” he told the jury.

A description of the case filed in court in preparation for trial lists the other defendants as American Hoechst Corp., Copolymer Rubber and Chemical Corp., Dow Chemical Co., Ethyl Corp., Rubicon Chemicals Inc., Shell Oil Co., Uniroyal Chemical Co., United States Steel Corp., and NPC Services. NPC Services was formed by the chemical companies to handle the cleanup.

DeGravelles and Meredith also represent more than 200 people who worked at nearby plants and claim to have been injured during the cleanup.

About 50 of those people were in court Tuesday to see the outcome of _________’s trial.

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