BENTON – Owners of land south of Hartford who sued 3,500 defendants over pollution and froze the proceedings for a year have asked for another year.
On Jan. 25, their Chemetco Site Group asked U.S. District Judge Staci Yandle to extend a stay of the proceedings from this March 1 to next March 1.
Attorney Gary Justis of Overland Park, Kan. filed the suit last Feb. 12, seeking to recover the group’s cleanup costs.
His clients were identified as potentially responsible parties cooperating with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in response to their activities and identification of other responsible parties.
Justis moved for a stay last Feb. 15, pleading that the group filed suit because a statute of limitations might run out before they could correctly identify defendants.
According to Justis, the group’s intention was to issue settlement offers to all defendants and to dismiss settling defendants and non-viable ones.
Yandle granted it last Feb. 20, “for all matters except voluntary dismissals of defendants by plaintiff.”
This Jan. 4, she ordered a status report.
Justis filed it on Jan. 25, as a motion for extension.
“Plaintiff’s collaborative process with EPA to mine information from the historical Wang based computer system has continued throughout the current stay and is ongoing,” Justis wrote.
His pleading further indicates that once the group obtains information about weights of materials shipped to the site, it would conduct research to determine whether the weights could be attributed it to a viable potentially responsible party.
Chemetco Site Group has issued settlement offers to 2,121 defendants and other parties they didn’t name as defendants.
It has dismissed or settled with 708 named defendants and identified more than 900 that might not be viable.
The group also has started serving defendants that didn’t settle and those that let settlement offers expire.
Justis wrote that the group would issue waivers of service to defendants that don’t want to settle. Also, the group would formally serve defendants who don’t waive service and would seek reimbursement for it.
On Jan. 29, lawyer Donnelly Hadden of Ann Arbor, Mich., objected to the extension on behalf of Haggerty Metal and State Metal.
“While this case is pending these defendants have the unliquidated contingent liability of being a potentially responsible party,” Hadden wrote.
“This impairs their credit, their ability to obtain financing, their ability to budget, and the market value of the good will of their businesses.”
Comparison of allegations against his clients to payment demands showed an obvious disparity, he wrote.
“It is alleged that Haggerty Metals contributed 1,215,350 pounds of material to the Chemetco site and State Metals contributed 460,600 pounds,” he wrote.
“Yet the amount claimed for contribution from State Metals is 2.57 times more dollars than from Haggerty.”
He wrote that there are clearly factors in play besides dollars per pound, and that defendants need to know the methodology.
“They should be allowed to do some discovery while we are waiting,” he wrote.
He also wrote that he could find someone in Ann Arbor who could convert raw Wang data to an intelligible modern format.
“I should be allowed to discover the Wang material as pertains to my clients, while we are waiting,” he wrote.
He proposed to extend the stay to May 31. He also proposed to allow limited discovery from plaintiffs commencing March 12.
Finally, he proposed to allow defendants to file dispositive motions during the stay and through Aug. 31.