Dispute over $3 million fees from Hartford pollution cases settles

Steve Korris Oct. 29, 2010, 7:34am

Lawyers Jeannine Kelly and Mark Goldenberg have ended their dispute over $3 million in fees from settlements of claims that oil refineries polluted groundwater in Hartford.

On Oct. 1, Kelly dismissed a suit she filed in Madison County circuit court against the firm of Goldenberg, Heller, Antognoli, Rowland and Short.

In August, she claimed to possess a document proving she withdrew from the litigation due to concerns over the firm's conduct in mediation.

She alleged the firm might have jeopardized the interests of Hartford residents.

From 2002 to 2006, Kelly and Goldenberg's firm jointly represented property owners asserting claims against several oil companies.

When she withdrew, she wrote that she accepted a position with a private employer and would no longer engage in private practice.

She sued the firm in 2008, claiming half of $6 million in fees from settlements with BP, Shell Oil and Equilon Enterprises.

Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth dismissed the complaint this January, with leave to amend it.

A new complaint alleged she quit because the firm sought to "act in a way that might be disloyal" to Hartford residents.

The firm's lawyer, John Papa of Granite City, again moved to dismiss.

He wrote that he couldn't reconcile her positions.

"It was plainly false for her to tell the court that her new job responsibilities motivated her withdrawal if the real reason was defendant's alleged misconduct," he wrote.

He wrote that if her allegations were true, she failed to advise the court of circumstances that could have been detrimental to her clients.

Her lawyer, Michael Downey of St. Louis, responded in August that she prepared a memorandum to warn her clients.

He wrote that she didn't send it because she was threatened with legal action that would have breached the confidentiality of the mediation.

"To permit Goldenberg Heller to dismiss Ms. Kelly's complaint by blaming her for not revealing their own misconduct would continue to reward Goldenberg Heller for their bad conduct," Downey wrote.

Litigation continues over claims that refinery operations created an underground lake of petroleum that releases harmful vapors with every rainfall.

Sinclair Oil and Apex Oil remain as defendants but deny liability.

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