St. Charles Parish residents file class action over Dow/UC's chemical spill

By Michelle Massey | Aug 16, 2010

Several St. Charles Parish residents have filed a class action suit stemming from alleged exposure to chemicals released from the Dow/Union Carbide Hahnville plant in July 2009.

Kerry Wilson and Deone Wilson, individually and on behalf of their two minor children and Aaron Adams and Joelle Adams, individually and on behalf of their four minor children, filed suit against The Dow Chemical Co., Steve Milligan, Union Carbide Corp. and Vernon Joseph St. Pierre, Jr. Parish President of St. Charles Parish July 2, 2010 in St. Charles Parish District Court. Union Carbide removed the case to federal court in New Orleans Aug. 6.

The residents claim they were exposed to a release of chemicals from the Dow/Union Carbide Hahnville plant on July 7, 2009. According to the lawsuit, a seam in a tank at the facility developed a crack, causing a release of ethyl acrylate and other hazardous chemicals.

The incident caused the evacuation of numerous homes, schools, business and roads in the area, the suit claims.

The residents claim they were harmed by the release of the chemicals and further harmed due to the "slow, faulty, poorly executed and tardy evacuation process ordered and carried out by the Parish of St. Charles."

Symptoms from chemical exposure include eye and throat irritation, injuries to their skin, gastrointestinal tracts, lung irritation, shortness of breath and nausea, the suit claims.

Dow and Union Carbide are accused of failing to properly handle and contain the hazardous and harmful substance with which they were dealing, failing to warn to keep away from the hazardous substances, failing to inspect their equipment and plant facility, acting in a careless and negligent manner, failing to enforce safety rules and operations, inadequate and negligent training and hiring, and failing to take the appropriate action to mitigate the incident.

St. Charles Parish is accused of negligence for failing to guard the public's safety, failing to properly warn, acting in a careless and negligent manner, failing to recognize or properly react to the incident and failing to bring the situation under control.

The Wilsons are seeking damages for injuries, symptoms, inconvenience, emotional distress, mental anguish, medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, psychological damages, damages related to evacuation, property damage, interest and court costs.

The proposed class is represented by Jennifer Willis and William Buckley of Willis & Buckley in New Orleans, David Haik in Metairie and Gary J. Gambel of Murphy, Rogers, Sloss & Gambel in New Orleans.

U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:10cv02563

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