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Brewton v. Reichhold Chemicals Inc.

February 06, 1998

LINDA BREWTON, BURNELL GILES, LEONA LYNN CARROLL, RENE HELVESTON, BETH MITCHELL, BONNIE JEAN MCCRAW, HOWARD EARL POLK, JR., REBECCA WELLS, RICKY SCARBOROUGH AND DONALD WAYNE WILLIAMSON
v.
REICHHOLD CHEMICALS, INC. AND LESLIE ALEXANDER



DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/06/94 TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MICHAEL RAY EUBANKS COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: MARION COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - TORTS (OTHER THAN PERSONAL INJURY AND PROPERTY DAMAGE) DISPOSITION AFFIRMED - 02/05/98 MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED: MANDATE ISSUED:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mills, Justice, For The Court:

EN BANC.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

¶1. This toxic tort action was brought in the circuit court of Marion County on July 2, 1993. Originally, one hundred and three plaintiffs sought damages from Reichhold Chemicals, Inc and Leslie Alexander, a former employee of Reichhold. The trial court selected fourteen plaintiffs to pursue their claims. Among these plaintiffs, two decided not to proceed to trial on the merits and two more were dismissed. The ten remaining plaintiffs proceeded to trial.

¶2. On June 29, 1994, the defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as to all claims of the plaintiffs. In response, the plaintiffs confessed judgment as to their claims for property diminution. Additionally, the plaintiffs admitted the existence of no medical testimony establishing a causal link between their alleged physical injuries and exposure to Reichhold chemicals. The trial court, therefore, dismissed with prejudice the property diminution and physical injury claims of the remaining plaintiffs. Thus, the plaintiffs' claims were reduced to only emotional distress and fear of contracting a future illness. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment on these claims on July 26, 1994.

Discussion

I. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN GRANTING THE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT.

¶3. Upon considering the motion for summary judgment, the trial court was presented with the following uncontested facts:

1. None of the plaintiffs underwent medical testing to determine the presence of chemicals from the Reichhold site in his or her body.

2. No tests to determine contamination were performed on any of the plaintiffs' property or on the offsite locations where Reichhold allegedly disposed of chemicals.

3. The plaintiffs' own expert witness, Dr. Arthur Hume, testified that there are tests and air modeling which could have been performed to detect the presence of some of the chemicals within the plaintiffs' bodies.

4. Dr. Hume had no knowledge of any alleged improper disposal of chemicals and offered no opinion on potential exposure to chemicals from the offsite locations.

5. Dr. Hume admitted that he had no data to render an opinion on whether any of the plaintiffs were exposed to anything ...


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