Mediation breaks down in Hartford vapor complaints

Steve Korris Feb. 27, 2008, 7:10am

Nine months of mediation in lawsuits of Hartford residents claiming damages from petroleum vapors brought the village to a dead end.

Five oil companies rejected a final settlement demand Jan. 25, according to plaintiff attorney Stan Faulkner of Edwardsville.

Faulkner broke the news to Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack on Feb. 8, in a notice of termination of mediation.

He informed Stack that discovery would resume Feb. 25.

Residents claim damage from vapors that rise on rainy days from an underground lake of hydrocarbons resulting from refinery operations.

They seek compensation for economic and physical harm.

Stack ordered mediation last May 1, appointing retired judge William Quinlan as mediator.

Faulkner's notice stated that after formal mediation with Quinlan, the parties continued informal discussions.

"Through many in-person conferences, telephone conferences and electronic mail exchanges, several demands and offers were discussed and exchanged between these parties," he wrote.

Now Stack must take charge again, in a case where both plaintiffs and defendants disagree not only with each other but also among themselves.

Faulkner and Mark Goldenberg represent some Hartford residents, and Missouri attorneys represent others.

The Missouri team includes Teresa Woody and Norman Siegel of Kansas City and David Helfrey, Philip Graham and Christopher Dysart of St. Louis.

Oil companies have denied causing the problem and have pointed fingers of blame at each other.

The Missouri attorneys filed suit in 2003, seeking to certify a class action.

Goldenberg sued in 2004, without asking for a class action.

Stack certified the first suit as a class action in 2005, but he granted a defense motion to reconsider.

That swung the advantage to Goldenberg, who negotiated a settlement with oil companies on a class basis.

The Missouri attorneys protested that they represented the class, but in 2006 Stack granted preliminary approval to the Goldenberg settlement.

Goldenberg's advantage vanished, however, when his deal broke down.
Stack then ordered mediation.

Premcor Refining Group, Shell Oil subsidiary Equilon Enterprises, BP Amoco, Sinclair Oil and Apex Oil participated in mediation.

Defendants Koch Pipeline, St. Louis Pipeline, Illinois Petroleum Supply, Marathon Ashland Pipeline, Explorer Pipeline, Alberta Energy, Encana Corporation, Pan Canadian Energy, Conoco Phillips, Toscopetro, and Buckeye Pipeline did not participate.

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