Alton attorney wants share of $5 million fees in Hartford pot

Steve Korris Jul. 24, 2008, 9:25am


As attorneys prepare to divide more than $5 million in fees from settlement of claims against Shell Oil subsidiary Equilon and Clark Oil successor Premcor Refining over refinery pollution in Hartford, Jeannine Kelly of Alton protests that they left her out.

Kelly moved July 11 to intervene in the settlement, claiming she created the basis for the litigation and the theory behind the settlement.

"She created the idea of class action," her attorney, David Jones of East Alton, told Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack at a July 15 hearing.

"She worked on it four years," Jones said.

Premcor Refining attorney Jim Bennett told Stack that Kelly's intervention would make his client's payment difficult if not impossible.

Stack denied intervention, ruling that Kelly could pursue her claim in a separate action.

According to Jones, Kelly engaged in contracts to represent certain plaintiffs in 2002.

She withdrew in 2006, Jones wrote, "due to an unavoidable conflict."

In the case before Stack, village residents allege that oil companies and pipeline owners negligently created an underground pool of petroleum waste.

Rainfall causes harmful vapors to rise into homes, creating health hazards, interfering with enjoyment of life and reducing property values, according to plaintiffs.

Equilon and Premcor agreed in April to pay $16 million in exchange for release from the litigation.

They authorized a third of the total, $5,333,333, in fees for
plaintiff attorneys.

The agreement directed half the fees to Goldenberg, Heller, Antognoli, Rowland and Short of Edwardsville, and half to Stueve Siegel Hanson of Kansas City, Mo.

The firms pursued competing cases for three years but began cooperating last year.

Kelly's claim would affect not only the settlement of Equilon and Premcor, but also future settlements or verdicts involving other defendants.

British Petroleum, Sinclair Oil, Apex Oil and several smaller companies continue to deny liability for the pollution.

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