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Whirlpool wants to change venue

Tom Jackson • May 10, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Whirlpool Corp. seeks to move a class-action lawsuit from a county court in Fremont to a federal court in Toledo.

A Fremont law firm filed the suit March 28 on behalf of Tim Lagrou and others who claim a group of patients became sick with cancer because someone dumped toxic substances at the former Whirlpool Park in Green Springs. 

The lawsuit was assigned to Sandusky County Common Pleas Court Judge John Dewey.

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In a court filing, however, Whirlpool argues the federal court in Toledo is the proper place to handle the case. The law firm that filed the original suit is fighting the move and wants to keep the case in Fremont.

Whirlpool spokeswoman Kristine Vernier said the company is invoking a federal law, the Class Action Fairness Act.

“This act was passed by Congress so that cases like this would be managed in the federal courts,” she said.

Whirlpool’s attorneys said the fairness act applies to class-action cases involving a supposed class of more than 100 members and diverse parties. The company is headquartered in Michigan, the filing notes. 

The lawsuit seeks damages of more than $5 million, which would meet another requirement of the fairness act, according to Whirlpool’s court filings. 

The Albrechta & Coble law firm in Fremont filed the original lawsuit. Attorney Joe Albrechta said his firm is preparing to file a response explaining why the case should stay in Fremont.

“It’s a matter of state injury. It’s a matter involving individuals in the state of Ohio. It is a particularly local matter, confined to a very small geographic area,” Albrechta said.

The docket in federal court lists seven Whirlpool attorneys from law firms in Cleveland, Denver and Charleston, S.C., Albrechta said. 

He hinted that he’ll soon be bringing in additional attorneys to help his small law firm.

“Stay tuned,” he said.

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