Years after the Monsanto plant near Nitro closed its gates for good, those who lived in the shadow of the herbicide plant finally have resolution in a longstanding court battle with the company.
Claimants in a class action lawsuit which took eight years of litigation have finally come to an agreement on what benefits the company will pay. The lawsuit filed by those who lived, worked, or attended school in Nitro during those years was finalized in 2012 ahead of what was expected to be a long and complicated trial. The plaintiffs sued and were awarded medical monitoring for health effects of dioxin as well as environmental cleanup on their property.
This week a claims office opened in Nitro to begin registering members of the class for the benefits included in the $93 million settlement.
"The court's direction is to have the office open for 120 days or until October 31st," said Charleston attorney Tom Flaherty. "We're trying to get the word out as best we can."
Flaherty said more than 5,000 people who pre-registered have received letters. Letters have also been sent to the entire class area. They also hope to reach former residents who may have moved away, but still qualify for the monitoring. Those wishing to register can call 1-877-673-5049.
"Under the court's order the program for getting benefits is a 30-year program," he said. "But there's a narrow window of 120 days and they have to register to get them between now and October 31st."
Flaherty said it's a small hurdle when considering the length of the lawsuit which is now final.
Under the settlement, Monsanto agreed to a 30-year medical monitoring program. The settlement designates $21 million for testing and a subsequent fund of $63 million to continue treatment depending on the level of dioxin found in the tests.
If the testing reveals a claimant is suffering adverse health effects from dioxin, the victim retains the right under the language of the settlement to sue for personal injury from the company.
Additionally the company will spend $9 million to clean up 4,500 homes.