BELLEVILLE – Jacqueline Everson and Tyrha Dooley, who fired their lawyers for settling 11,256 pollution-related disease and property damage claims against Monsanto for $21 million, have retained attorney Greg Lathram of Collinsville.
He can now argue a motion Everson filed on her own to invalidate the settlement.
Chief Circuit Judge Andrew Gleeson had withdrawn Environmental Litigation Group as counsel for Everson and Dooley on Jan. 15.
Gleeson denied withdrawal for about 500 plaintiffs who signed a petition to fire the group, saying Everson couldn’t represent them.
Since then more plaintiffs have fired the group, some by filing motions and others by sending certified letters to the firm.
Gleeson signed a withdrawal order for those plaintiffs at a hearing on Feb. 20, clearing the way for them to seek counsel.
At press time, the Record could not determine the number of withdrawals.
Gleeson set a hearing March 28, for plaintiffs to tell him whether they found counsel or intended to proceed without a lawyer.
After the hearing, Everson introduced Lathram to about 30 plaintiffs.
He said he wouldn’t talk to plaintiffs who didn’t fire their lawyers.
“Justice has been denied to people in East St. Louis for years,” Lathram said outside Gleeson’s court after the hearing.
“I’m not going to be intimidated. You can’t buy my soul.”
Environmental Litigation Group started the litigation for about 1,000 plaintiffs in 2009, seeking damages from Monsanto and Cerro Copper.
Former chief judge John Baricevic stayed the proceedings for mediation.
Monsanto and Environmental Litigation Group reached a settlement in 2014.
The plaintiff group then sued Cerro on behalf of about 10,000 plaintiffs.
Most plaintiffs received $600 payments from the settlement in 2015.
In 2016, Gleeson signed an order finding good faith in the settlement.
Cerro appealed, claiming the order wouldn’t let it seek contribution from Monsanto in the event of a jury award.
Last April, Fifth District appellate judges vacated the good faith order.
They found that a lack of information cast doubt on the validity of the settlement.
Gleeson set a first trial for March 18, but he canceled it on Feb. 1.
He ordered Monsanto to file a motion for good faith, and re-set trial for July 8.