CHICAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--This week a group of 38 individual homeowners in East Chicago, Ind. filed a federal lawsuit against a group of companies the EPA says are responsible for the decades-long contamination of their property with lead and other contaminants. The Plaintiffs, all of whom own property in East Chicago’s Calumet neighborhood, within the U.S.S. Lead Superfund site, seek damages for decreased property values and emotional distress caused by the companies. The property owners are represented on a pro bono basis by Chicago law firm Goldberg Kohn.
The lawsuit alleges that for decades, the Defendants ignored environmental laws and knowingly disregarded the safety and property interests of the area’s residents by generating airborne emissions of contaminants from plant stacks, and leaked or spilled hazardous contaminants, including lead, arsenic, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), cadmium, antimony, and mercury, among others, into the surrounding area. This polluted the soil, groundwater, and interiors of Plaintiffs’ homes with extremely dangerous levels of these contaminants. The defendants in the lawsuit include Atlantic Richfield Company, Tesoro Corporation, E.I. DuPont DeNemours and Company U.S. Smelter and Lead Refinery Inc., Mining Remedial Recovery Company, Arava Natural Resources Company Inc., and Mueller Industries Inc.
“For many years, these companies’ lead smelting, lead refining, and other manufacturing processes wreaked environmental havoc in the Calumet neighborhood,” said David Chizewer, the Goldberg Kohn partner representing the Plaintiffs. “The health problems associated with this type of contamination include increased risk of various organ disorders, seizures, respiratory issues, behavioral problems, the development of various cancers. The physical and emotional distress caused by these health issues, combined with the fact that this type of environmental contamination, even once remediated, has reduced our clients’ property values to the point where it is difficult, if not impossible, for them to sell their properties, indicates very real damages that we are asking the court to award our clients.”
All of the Plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $75,000, including but not limited to: the diminution in property market value resulting from the contamination; costs for the remediation of other contaminants not addressed by the EPA’s remedial plan, including costs for groundwater remediation; damages for the interference with the reasonable use, development, and enjoyment of their properties since they learned of the contamination; damages for annoyances experienced during remediation of their properties and neighboring properties; damages for the emotional distress suffered since learning of the contamination; and punitive damages to deter Defendants and other companies and individuals from acting in a similar manner.
“Importantly, we have filed this case on a pro bono basis to obtain justice for people who came to us directly and asked for help,” Chizewer said. “These are ‘real’ people dealing with a terrible situation not of their own making. This is not a class action on behalf of hypothetical claimants with whom we have had no interaction. The class action device is an important, powerful tool in certain types of cases, but we do not believe that it is called for in this matter.”
Since 2016, Goldberg Kohn and its attorneys have been instrumental members of a coalition providing pro bono services to Calumet residents impacted by the contamination, advocating on their behalf with local, state and federal officials.
A copy of the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, is available upon request.
About Goldberg Kohn
Over its more than 40-year history, Chicago-based, Goldberg Kohn has grown to become one of the nation's most respected mid-size law firms. As a full-service firm that advises clients ranging from Fortune 50 companies to smaller, privately held firms in a broad range of transactional and litigation matters, Goldberg Kohn operates with a simple philosophy: aside from strong legal work and an unwavering commitment to client service, it can best serve its clients by possessing a keen understanding of their legal, business and industry challenges. This includes clients in the automotive, banking and financial services, construction, education, hospitality, media and advertising, pharmaceutical and telecommunications sectors, among others. Goldberg Kohn is constantly looking ahead to new and emerging challenges, finding opportunities for current clients, and developing new relationships.
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