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Whirlpool Park owners join lawsuit

Tom Jackson • Aug 13, 2014 at 2:06 PM


The people who bought the former Whirlpool Park property after being told it was clean and uncontaminated have joined a federal lawsuit against Whirlpool Corp.

The attorney for the Abdoo family, Tom Bowlus of Fremont, cited Whirlpool's sale of contaminated land to the Abdoo family and said Whirlpool has yet to make a serious offer to compensate the Abdoos for damages. 

But Bowlus said the Abdoos joined the lawsuit reluctantly and would still be willing to reach a settlement with Whirlpool. Talks are continuing, he said.

"Filing a lawsuit against Whirlpool was literally the last thing my clients wanted to do," Bowlus said. "We were left with no option."

Whirlpool continues to deny it knew about any contamination on the land when it sold the parcel to the Abdoos. 

Listed as new plaintiffs on the third amended complaint filed recently in federal district court in Toledo are Jonathan Abdoo, Brandy Abdoo, their company Grist Mill LLC, Robert Abdoo and David Abdoo.

Jonathan Abdoo had planned to build his "dream house" on the former Whirlpool property, Bowlus says.

Tests carried out under the supervision of the U.S. EPA, however, show that the land is contaminated with PCBs and other industrial residue.

The amended complaint, which lists more than 30 plaintiffs, links Whirlpool contamination to the Clyde-area cancer cluster that sickened and killed young people in the Clyde area.

A Whirlpool spokeswoman, Kristine Vernier, said Monday that Whirlpool will continue to fight the "baseless lawsuit," which she said is not scientifically substantiated.

The amended complaint states when the Abdoos bought the property, the purchase agreement stated that the Whirlpool Corp. "represents and warrants to purchaser that, to the best of its knowledge, the soil and groundwater are not contaminated with hazardous materials.” The lawsuit states that Grist Mill planned to develop the 27-acre property as a housing develop for both the Abdoos and for third parties. 

According to the lawsuit, "Witnesses claim that dumping of toxic materials was occurring at the Whirlpool Park up through the 1990s and up to the time it was sold."

Bowlus said his clients have had talks with Whirlpool but do not believe the company has made a fair offer to buy back the land, considering that Jonathan Abdoo spent money to prepare it for development, and that Jonathan Abdoo and his father, who are contractors, had their credit frozen and lost business when the land's environmental problems became known. 

Bowlus said Whirlpool also violated an agreement it had made with the Abdoos to work with the Abdoos' environmental consultant when a report about the property was prepared for the U.S. EPA.

"We are still trying to work with Whirlpool," Bowlus said. "I am not slamming the door on any type of good faith negotiation."

In response, Vernier emailed a statement to the Register on Monday.

"Whirlpool has not reached a settlement with the property owners. Whirlpool did meet all of its obligations related to the sale of the former park. We had no knowledge of any contaminant located on the site when the park was sold in 2008 and neither Whirlpool nor the current property owners became aware of the PCBs until we were informed by the U.S. EPA," she wrote.

"Whirlpool is a responsible corporate citizen of Clyde and is continuing to vigorously defend against the remaining lawsuit in Clyde. The allegations that have been made are unfounded, and we are prepared to work through the process to present the facts and defend ourselves against these claims," she wrote.

"We empathize with the families who have suffered illnesses or deaths of their loved ones. The allegations made by the plaintiff attorneys in the lawsuits that have been filed, however, are not supported by scientific or medical evidence. They have not established a link between health issues and any of Whirlpool’s operations at the Clyde plant or the limited and contained amounts of PCBs found at the former Whirlpool Park. We will continue to oppose any efforts by the plaintiffs’ attorneys to abuse the litigation process and inappropriately extend this baseless lawsuit," she concluded.

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