BELLEVILLE – Lawyers who lowered the expectations of 11,256 clients in a pollution suit against Monsanto and Cerro Copper lowered their fee as a result.
In a letter to clients on Sept. 25, the Environmental Litigation Group of Birmingham, Ala., reduced their percentage from 40 to 26.5.
“As we communicated in our most recent meetings at the Temple, the blood test results that came back did not show a significant difference of PCB amounts between the East St. Louis community and the general population,” the attorneys for the group stated.
PCB stands for polychlorinated biphenyls, a group of compounds vital to the electric industry in the 1970s.
Because of the test results, the lawyers wrote, “the overall fund amount is lower than initially projected due to the lower than projected blood test results.”
““We understand you may be disappointed with the amount of the settlement but please understand that it is because higher than normal amounts of the PCB chemicals were, generally, not found in the claimant population,” they wrote.
They wrote that they reduced their fee, “in recognition that the total settlement funds were lower than projected due to the results of the blood tests.”
Plaintiffs accuse Monsanto of producing, storing, and disposing of hazardous substances on its property and at a landfill in Sauget.
They accuse Cerro Copper of draining hazardous substances into a creek running through its property. They claimed Monsanto and Cerro Copper released substances for more than 70 years, actively concealing health risks.
They further claimed they suffered diabetes, hypertension, tumors, gout, heart disorders, arthritis, hysterectomy, thyroid problems, respiratory infections, asthma, leukemia, emphysema, osteoporosis, bone diseases, and various forms of cancer.
Property owners sought recovery for loss of value.
Plaintiffs settled with Monsanto but not with Cerro Copper.
Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson and Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot approved the settlement, which provided $600 each to most plaintiffs.
Cerro appealed, claiming the settlement abused its rights.
In April, Fifth District appellate judges vacated the settlement.
Justice Judy Cates wrote that the court should determine whether plaintiffs received enough information to make informed choices.
Cates wrote that Gleeson and Lopinot approved the settlement without reading the agreements behind it.
“The settling parties did not offer even an estimated amount of the final settlement or any basis for the settlement proposed,” Cates wrote.
“The total lack of information casts a shadow on the legal validity of the settlement itself.”
By the time the Fifth District acted, Monsanto had sent out settlement checks.
Plaintiffs petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court for leave to appeal, and the Court denied the petition on Sept. 26.
In the letter the Alabama lawyers sent the previous day, they wrote that they were still battling Cerro Copper “on similar but still different allegations.”
“We must work together at this juncture to ensure that the case we have built against Cerro Copper continues to place pressure on this defendant,” they wrote.
They wrote that Cerro Copper has refused to negotiate.
Lopinot, about to retire, no longer presides jointly with Gleeson.