PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Legal Newsline) - The architect of the lead paint lawsuit filed by the state of Rhode Island has filed a class action over a Nuclear Fuel Services materials processing facility in Tennessee.
Fidelma Fitzpatrick announced that her firm, Motley Rice, filed the lawsuit Monday against NFS and a handful of other defendants in a Tennessee federal court, alleging exposure to radioactive substances released into the environment.
"We have seen in previous environmental contamination cases the devastating impact that potentially negligent environmental practices can have on a community, and our hope is that Erwin residents will now have their day in court as well as initiate changes in the safety culture at NFS," Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick had the idea to use a public nuisance claim in lawsuits brought against the paint industry by former Rhode Island attorneys general Sheldon Whitehouse and Patrick Lynch. The public nuisance claim allowed them to avoid certain defenses available in a products liability claim, like the tolled statute of limitations.
Ultimately, the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled for the companies.
The class in the Tennessee case is any person who lived or worked in the Erwin area since 1957 and experienced property damage or was diagnosed with severe or fatal illnesses.
The defendants in the lawsuit are W.R. Grace & Company, individually and as successor-in-interest to Davis Chemical Company and NFS; Chevron, individually and as successor-in-interest to Texaco, Getty Oil and Skelly Oil; NFS Holdings; Nog-Erwin Holdings; Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group; B&W Nuclear Environmental Services; and NFS.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, funeral-related expenses, emotional distress, damage to property and attorneys fees. It also seeks punitive damages.
Other counsel working with Motley Rice are the firms Rogers, Laughlin, Nunnally, Hood & Crum and Napoli Bern Ripka & Associates.
Motley Rice was the subject of a recent motion in a Tennessee asbestos case that asks a judge to prohibit the firm and its litigation partner from communicating with potential witnesses.
A group of companies say letters sent to potential witnesses asking them not to speak with defense counsel was tantamount to witness-tampering. The chairman of the Tennessee Bar Association's ethics committee agreed.
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.