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Whirlpool hits back at critics

Tom Jackson • Aug 30, 2013 at 9:19 AM

The company’s court brief contends the class-action lawsuit ignores the fact reputable federal scientists have failed to identify the cause of the cancer cluster.

Whirlpool is asking U.S. Northern District Court Judge James Carr to toss out the lawsuit, which was filed in May by relatives of children who died of cancer in the eastern Sandusky County area. The plaintiffs, including Warren Brown — father of cancer victim Alexa Brown, 11 — and other relatives of children who died of cancer allege a variety of illnesses resulted from dumping at the former Whirlpool Park site, as well as from pollution at the plant.

The Whirlpool brief says the lawsuit amounts to “a request to launch an enormous fishing expedition.”

The company’s brief says the lawsuit ignores “multiple federal, state, and local environmental and health agency reports and studies that have found there is no known environmental cause — much less a common source of exposure to any carcinogen — of the reported childhood cancer incidents in Sandusky County.” The brief also says the plaintiffs allege illnesses — such as low sperm count, learning disabilities, diverticulitis and all types of cancer — “bear almost no relation to ... (the) allegations that there is a cancer cluster in the area.”  

The company’s brief states: “Plaintiffs’ lawyers have turned a blind-eye to the agencies’ findings and have embarked on an unjustified campaign to blame the area’s largest employer and manufacturer, Whirlpool, for every childhood cancer or other health issue experienced by 58 different Plaintiffs, including many adult Plaintiffs who indisputably are not part of any alleged childhood cancer cluster.”

Carr could agree to toss out the entire lawsuit, or he could keep all of it intact. He could also strike out portions, while allowing other portions to proceed in court. With Whirlpool filing its answer to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs’ attorneys have 30 days to file an answer. Whirlpool then has seven days to answer that reply, which means October would be the earliest anyone would see a decision on the company’s motion to dismiss.

Carr could choose to listen to attorneys argue the motion, or he could base his decision on the written legal briefs. Ultimately, it’s up him to decide when to rule on the motion, and it’s impossible to know when that will happen. Carr has a reputation for diligence, so it’s reasonable to expect a ruling by year’s end, a Whirlpool official said.

Whirlpool is also fighting a separate lawsuit, Lagrou vs. Whirlpool, filed in March in Sandusky County Common Pleas court. The lawsuit says alleged dumping at the former Whirlpool Park is to blame for illnesses in people who live near the park.

Whirlpool succeeded in getting the lawsuit moved to federal court after Carr ruled that this was the appropriate place to handle the case. Whirlpool has also filed a motion to dismiss the Lagrou lawsuit. It appears likely Carr will combine the two cases.

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