BELLEVILLE – About 175 persons who fired their lawyers and hired Greg Lathram of Collinsville to pursue injury claims against Monsanto and Cerro Copper will get a different judge.
At a hearing on March 28, Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson told about 20 plaintiffs he would create a new docket for Lathram’s clients and make an assignment.
Gleeson granted a withdrawal motion from Environmental Litigation Group of Alabama, after reading 153 names into the record.
He will continue to preside over more than 10,000 claims that pollution has caused a wide range of diseases and property damage.
The Alabama group and local counsel filed a series of complaints in 2009, blaming Monsanto for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and Cerro for dioxin.
Then chief judge John Baricevic ordered mediation and stayed the proceedings.
For five years the Alabama group added potential plaintiffs.
In 2014, plaintiffs settled with Monsanto for $20.7 million.
The Alabama group then filed a series of mass actions against Cerro.
In 2015, most plaintiffs received $600 participation payments from Monsanto.
In 2016, Gleeson and former circuit judge Vincent Lopinot found that plaintiffs and Monsanto settled in good faith.
Cerro appealed, claiming the settlement would prevent it from seeking contribution if a jury awarded damages.
Fifth District appellate judges vacated the good faith order last April.
Plaintiffs contacted the Alabama group and learned they would receive little beyond the $600 payment.
This January, Gleeson withdrew the Alabama group from representation of Jacqueline Everson and Tyrha Dooley.
In February, he denied withdrawal for about 500 signers of a petition.
At a hearing, he told some of them Everson couldn’t represent them.
Everson retained Lathram in February, and others followed.
At least two signed up after the hearing, in the fourth floor corridor.
Lathram told them it isn’t a class action and each of them has a right to a jury trial.
As of the hearing date, Monsanto had not filed a good faith motion as Gleeson directed in February.
He will hold a hearing in the greater mass of cases on May 28.