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

Pittsburgh judges reverses, accepts Apollo expert's testimony

You don't have to work in a poisonous environment to be exposed to health hazards. Toxic chemicals or nuclear materials from factories and plants can pollute the air and seep into soil and groundwater. Residents often don't make a connection between a local plant and the diagnosis of a serious health condition, like cancer, until neighbors also become sick.

A federal judge shocked a Pittsburgh courtroom recently by reviving a liability lawsuit. The decision overturned a federal magistrate's ruling last summer, that barred testimony from the plaintiffs' expert on radioactive leakage from a defendant-owned plant in Apollo. The legal action, filed in 2010, includes over 75 plaintiffs.

The complaint states emissions from Atlantic Richfield Co.'s plutonium plant and Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group's uranium plant sickened residents nearby. The plaintiffs' allegations include personal injury and wrongful death claims. The recent decision is expected to strengthen the plaintiffs' position at trial, the second of two legal actions against the plant owners.

The defendants' plants were in operation from about the late 1950's until 1986. The Babcock & Wilcox nuclear fuel processing plant was once owned by NUMEC, the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. The defendants have denied the plants caused any harm to people living in Apollo and Park.

Toxic tort litigation often isn't about negligence from a single accident. Damages to victims exposed to poisons frequently occur silently and secretly over time. It's only when an extraordinary pattern of cancers or other serious health problems appear that victims suspect they have a deadly, common bond.

Damage awards for victims harmed by pollutants may cover past and future medical costs, emotional distress and wage losses. Families of victims who've died may receive compensation for the impact a loved one's wrongful death has had on their lives. In addition, courts may decide to impose punitive damages to deter defendants from acting carelessly in the future.

Valley News Dispatch, "Judge's surprise ruling revives 2nd Apollo nuclear lawsuit" Mary Ann Thomas, Feb. 28, 2014

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