Attorneys representing hundreds of current and former Nitro residents are investigating concerns over the medical-monitoring portion of a landmark settlement agreement with Monsanto Co.
Residents who lived, worked or went to school in the Nitro area sought medical monitoring for dioxin-related illnesses and a cleanup of what they argued was a contaminated community.
On the eve of an expected six-month trial, in 2012, Monsanto agreed to a 30-year medical-monitoring program with a preliminary fund of $21 million for initial testing and up to $63 million in additional money — dependent upon what level of dioxin is found in residents. Money that isn’t used goes back to Monsanto.
The settlement allows residents to retain their right to file personal-injury lawsuits against Monsanto if medical tests turn up illnesses potentially related to dioxin exposure.
Dioxin has been linked to cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities, endometriosis and other infertility problems, and suppressed immune functions. The chemical builds up in tissue over time, meaning that even a small exposure can accumulate to dangerous levels.
Attorneys for the class of plaintiffs told a judge earlier this month that there are a number of discrepancies regarding the test results.
“Class counsel takes its role in ensuring that the participants in the medical-monitoring process get all the benefits they’re entitled to very seriously,” said David Carriger, a lawyer with the Calwell Practice. “That’s why we’re trying to get more information about the process by which the blood samples were obtained and the process by which they were shipped and stored in the lab.”
Getting the information needed to determine whether the monitoring process is flawed has been a challenge, though, according to the attorneys.
Thomas Health System is fighting a subpoena that was filed by attorneys for residents, according to Carriger. Charleston attorney Thomas Hurney of the Jackson Kelly law firm, which is representing Thomas Health System, didn’t return a call Friday.
Circuit Judge Derek Swope, of Mercer County, who approved the 2012 settlement and presides over the case, told attorneys for both sides during a Sept. 1 hearing, to try to reach an agreement regarding the subpoena.