Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Liability suit may resume against Pennsylvania chemical company

The first of 33 McCullom Lake liability lawsuits was thrown out by a Philadelphia judge in 2010. A Pennsylvania appellate court now wants the lower court to prove the judge made the right choice. The Superior Court may be prepared to reinstitute the owner negligence lawsuit.

McCullom Lake is an Illinois community where neighbors allege toxic chemicals from a Pennsylvania-owned company leaked into the neighbors' wells and air. A disproportionately large number of residents developed pituitary and brain cancer. Plaintiffs argued defendant Rohm and Haas created hazardous conditions that led to the diseases and death.

The initial case was filed in 2006 by a McCullom Lake resident whose husband died of glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer. The woman's neighbors filed separate lawsuits when they also developed cancer tumors from what they believed was exposure to poisonous vinyl chloride.

Participants expected the first McCullom Lake case to take 10 weeks when it went to trial in the fall of 2010. The legal proceeding was cut short by the judge over a dispute about testimony from the plaintiff's epidemiological expert.

The witness told the court that McCullom Lake residents developed glioblastoma multiforme cancer at a rate up to five times higher than other places in the state.

The strict liability lawsuit was dismissed and appealed. Plaintiffs said the judge acted unfairly by dismissing the epidemiologist's testimony and the lawsuit before the plaintiff's attorney could argue the case fully.

The defendant maintained the toxic chemical was confined to the Rohm and Haas property. Lawyers asserted the company had no responsibility for the health issues of nearby residents.

The plaintiff could have taken the legal claim to an Illinois court. A trial in the plaintiff's home state would have been considerably more convenient and less stressful. The plaintiff's lawyer chose to file the liability lawsuit where the case might have greater impact; the defendant is headquartered in Philadelphia.

Source:, "Brain cancer appeal ruling forthcoming?" Kevin P. Craver, Jun. 04, 2013

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