Lawsuit blames Whirlpool for cancer cluster

FREMONT — A law firm has filed a $750 million class action lawsuit against the Whirlpool Corp., blaming the company for causing the Clyde Cancer Cluster by dumping toxic chemicals at the former Whirlpool Park in Green Springs.
Tom Jackson
Mar 29, 2013

 

Attorneys Joe Albrechta and John Coble filed the suit Thursday in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court on behalf of Tim Lagrou, of Fremont, and his son, Hayden Lagrou. Tim Lagrou’s wife, Christina Lagrou, was 23 when she died of cancer in 2006, the suit says.

Other plaintiffs in the suit include members of the Gill and Strayer families, including Alex Gill, a boy who the suit says suffered neurological damage from toxic substances at Whirlpool Park.

The suit says Christina Lagrou was born and raised within 1,500 feet of Whirlpool Park and her mother used the park, including when she was pregnant with Christina. Members of the Gill and Strayer family live within 1,500 feet of the park. The suit blames Christina Lagrou’s cancer and other cancer cases in Clyde on toxic substances allegedly dumped at Whirlpool Park.

The court documents also note that U.S. EPA testing at the park last year showed the presence of PCBs and metals and a layer of dirty sludge. The suit, assigned to Judge John Dewey, seeks class action status to represent many people in the Clyde area.

Defendants in the lawsuit are Whirlpool; Grill Mill LLC, the current owner of the former park; and unknown companies accused of placing toxic chemicals in the park. Whirlpool closed the park years ago and sold it to Grist Mill.

The suit seeks damages on behalf of the plaintiffs and punitive damages of $750 million for the plaintiffs and members of the class action.

Whirpool responded with a statement from spokeswoman Kristine Vernier: “We are currently reviewing the lawsuit filed today. As a member of the community for over 60 years, with more than 3,000 employees in the area, we are also very interested in figuring out the facts behind this ongoing issue.”

“We are working closely with the current property owner, the U.S. EPA and the Ohio EPA to address the issues at the former Whirlpool Park through the Ohio EPA Voluntary Action Program,” Vernier said. “We have submitted a Phase I Property Assessment Report and Phase II Work Plans for comment and approval by both agencies.”

Further testing is expected at the former park after the plans are approved. 

Other attorneys involved in the case suggested the lawsuit may be premature. Several families affected by the Clyde Cancer Cluster have hired a different set of attorneys from a Salt Lake City, Utah, law firm, Dewsnup, King and Olsen. Those attorneys haven’t filed a lawsuit yet, but they’ve been conducting tests and collecting documents.

Alan Mortensen, a member of the law firm, has said further testing hasn’t been carried out yet at Whirlpool Park, and his firm has no relationship with the attorneys who filed the lawsuit Thursday.

“It is the Cancer Cluster Families’ hope that the lawsuit filed by the Albrechta firm is based upon solid expert opinion and science and will assist in finding the cause of what has been causing their children to get sick and in some cases die,” Mortensen said. “The Cancer Cluster Families believe that if the lawsuit filed by the Albrechta firm was done prematurely or with speculative opportunism based upon the work that has been done by the Cancer Cluster Families, their experts and attorneys, the Sandusky County Health Department, the Ohio EPA and the United States EPA, that it may be detrimental to their ultimate search for the truth.”

Fremont attorney Thomas Bowlus, who represents Grist Mill LLC, said he is “surprised and disappointed” Grist Mill has been listed as a defendant, and he denied Grist Mill and its co-owner, Jonathan Abdoo, have any liability for contamination at Whirlpool Park. Bowlus said the suit seems premature.

Grist Mill was told the property was clean when it purchased the parcel. When Grist Mill first learned the property was contaminated, it immediately began working with Whirlpool, the U.S. EPA and the Ohio EPA to conduct further testing with an eye toward eventual cleanup, Bowlus said.

The only data showing contamination is the initial tests the U.S. EPA carried out last year, Bowlus said. 

“There’s nothing to establish the causal connection between that and the cancer in anybody,” he said. “They haven’t connected the dots as far as any exposures.”

Coble said the timing of a class action lawsuit is always tricky, but his clients were ready to move.

“Once they knew who had caused this problem, they wanted to go after it and start getting more answers,” Coble said.

Maning Grist Mill LLC as a defendant is a normal part of the process, Coble said, although he added: “They may well have a claim within this suit against Whirlpool.” 

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Comments

Cowboy

Shame on you Whirlpool! Total disregard for human life in order to make a buck! Wrong in so many ways! I feel for the families who lost loved ones.

John Harville

Ride 'em Cowboy...
Albrechta is hoping for a quick settlement - but will take years to identify - let alone pay the 'class' plaintiffs.
End story... save your pity for ALL the families who have been affected - I can probably name for you a hundred families in the Clyde area who have battled cancer in some form in the last two decades who have had some contact with the streams, with carcinogens in the old schools, with decades of emissions from the deep well atomic injection in Vickery, with Racoon Creek along the 25-acre Clyde City Dump (a 2009 EPA Superfund cleanup. They go after Whirlpool cuz they have the deepest pockets.

Simple Enough II

I have to agree with that.

Morningbreezes1

I pray that these folks will get justice. But... good luck on trying to collect.
I am one of the " Love Canal" kids from the 50 & 60's. And trust me... Whirlpool could tie this up for years on end.

John Harville

Morning... Albrechta already has set it up to go on for years - the Firm has to identify the 'members' of the 'class'
There's all kinds of cancer in Clyde and Green Springs, folks, carried along by the streams and underground streams the fill the area.
You should recall the entire area from Bellevue to Bowling Green sits upon the Great Black Swamp which is fed by at least 22 streams and rivers.
One wonders if Albrechta and Coble did their research?

John Harville

Untimely filed to be first - a classic Albrechta/Coble move. $750 million with a 'class' that could total thousands (anybody whoever swam at Whirlpool Park)? Filing it as a class action is the means to prevent the Plaintiffs having to pay.
Ironic one of the defendants is the Abdoo family (Owners of Grist Mill) and Jeff Abdoo who owns the property and with his attorney is taking action against Whirlpool to clean up the site.
It could take years to adjudicate this. First Albrechta and Coble have to identify the 'class' AND get it approved as a class action. Since the stream that flows through Whirlpool Park also flows through Green Springs and St. Francis.... hmmm.

Cowboy

I will not buy another Whirlpool product until each and every family is properly compensated! YOU CAN TAKE THAT TO THE BANK!

swiss cheese kat

You gonna buy GE? GE has been known to be a big polluter too ya know.

mrmorency

My question would be if Whirlpool did the dumping when it was considered legal and without ill-effect. I would think that if the gov't said it was ok or it was generally accepted 60 yrs ago then Whirpool would be protected from litigation now. But I'm no lawyer.

ladydye_5

I agree. When this was done, they were not KNOWN toxins. There was no LAW about it. It was not illegal.

2cents's picture
2cents

Neither was asbestos but you see the adds on TV every day for claims. It is what it is!

The Big Dog's back

The problem is these companies who made asbestos, etc., did not divulge all of their test results. You know, the tests where people got sick.

Kimo

Seventy years ago, everyone dumped any and all unwanted items anywhere they could find a place to dump. In the early forties I lived across the road from an industrial dump that was on Sandusky Bay. Dump over the bank, cover it up with cinders. Bad batch of asbestos ceiling tile, no problem dump it over the bank. Pump the outhouse pit, dump it in the Bay.

Where does the runoff from the "no till" end up?
.

Kimo

BTW
The GOP aka big bucks/big business wants to abolish the EPA and go back to the forties.......
.

2cents's picture
2cents

I think not abolish, maybe rein in a little. They have been telling congress what to do! I wish we could ship them to China for a few decades, the people on the west coast are complaining about the acid rain that is caused by the air pollution from that part of the world with no EPA!

The Big Dog's back

So you acknowledge that the companies that moved their businesses overseas did so to avoid having to clean up their messes?

John Harville

2cents.... imagine if there had been an EPA in, oh, 1960 to regulate industries.

Maybe we wouldn't have the cancer clusters?

Now we have voices botching because the federal government is calling for controls on agricultural chemicals in our waterways and manure from factory farms.... breeding the next cancer cluster?

John Harville

Kimo... actually the EPA was founded by Richard Nixon and came into existence in 1971.

PCBs were legal until 1976.

The park and pool have been there since 1930.
Whirlpool bought it in 1956.
There were no laws or enforcement until the EPA began in 1971.

Clyde City Dump opened in the late 30s just north of town and operated unregulated until 1969 when the great flood washed over it and it was improperly closed. It continued leaching into Raccoon Creek until it was 'cleaned up' as an EPA Superfund Project in 2009.

There are similar histories in surrounding small towns and in Fremont - though more closely monitored by EPA.

gene44870

well there goes another plant and jobs for the Clyde and surrounding areas. You can bet when this is all said and done , whirlpool will close and move over seas
You can bet on that .
Its a shame too , but as I see it nothin can replace life and the ones that made these children sick should be made to pay

Cowboy

That's fine, send them to North Korea! That will be our Trojan Horse!

2cents's picture
2cents

No, just across the boarder to Mexico, the freight is less than ocean container freight.

John Harville

44870... "the ones that made these children sick should be made to pay".
But who are 'the ones'? City dumps? Everready? Clyde Paint Factory? Backyard septic tanks all over the county. Toxic runoff from agriculture?
Grist Mill (present owner of the park site) and all it's relatives with the last name Abdoo?
Whirlpool is just the 'big dog' with the deep pockets.
NOTE: Grist Mill is a DEFENDANT in this case but a PLAINTIFF in its own case to force Whirlpool to clean up the site - even though the Abdoos have been dumping at the site - and filling a pond in Green Springs with Fremont Middle School.
So... who are 'the ones'?

BEHAPPY

Maybe it's KARMA for all of the NASTY, nasty people that work there and boy do they have 'em all the way from the top to the bottom! Anyway, I sure hope Whirlpool did not knowingly do this and has been hiding it after all this time. GOD bless to all their victims and GOOD LUCK! I hope you get justice for all of your pain and suffering. Nice job Whirlpool~we do know that there are MANY people there without a conscience.

Mark Chesler

...In a June 26, 1994, Cleveland Plain Dealer article entitled Environmentalists Leery of Possible Loopholes, Chris Trepal, co-director of the Earth Day Coalition in Northeast Ohio, lambasted the enabling VAP legislation as "one of the poorest public policy measures I’ve ever seen." A clairvoyant Richard Sahli, executive director of the Ohio Environmental Council, echoed his sentiment in the May 26, 1994, Cincinnati Post, "We do predict there will be a lot of shoddy cleanups under this bill the state will never catch." Testifying before the House Energy & Natural Resources Committee on behalf of the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers, Cincinnati environmental lawyer David Altman asserted, "This bill is a definite bait-and-switch. What it is supposed to do and what it does is two different things."

A seminal, 152 page 2001 Gund Foundation funded study by the Green Environmental Council confirmed the critics’ predictions. A dearth of agency resources to provide meaningful regulatory oversight combined with the lack of a credible, established enforcement mechanism has rendered the feckless, industry aligned program toothless. "It’s a broken program - it doesn’t work," declared the council’s Bruce Cornett in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Both the Sierra Club and Ohio Citizen Action opposed the 2000 $400 million Clean Ohio state bond issue out of concern the fungible proceeds could be utilized to prop up the lame Voluntary Action Program and create a trojan horse polluters slush fund. "This is the governor's attempt to whitewash his EPA," charged Jane Forrest Redfern, environmental projects director for Ohio Citizen Action in a November 1, 2000, Cleveland Plain Dealer article. Dedicated professionals, veteran Ohio EPA bureaucrats attempted to rectify the problem. According to the October 4, 2000, Cleveland Plain Dealer, "EPA staffers who shared some of the environmentalists’ concerns, at one point launched a quiet but unsuccessful campaign to disband the program."

For six years after the Voluntary Action Program’s 1996 implementation, the U.S. EPA refused to extend program participants federal immunity and threatened to decertify the Ohio EPA due to the VAP’s expansive, inhibiting secrecy provisions and tangible lack of transparency. In a brokered, bifurcated modification to the Ohio VAP that "frankly doesn't make sense at all," according to Ohio Public Interest Research Group director Amy Simpson (Akron Beacon Journal, February 24, 2001), an alternative "memorandum of agreement" VAP track with enhanced public access was crafted. Companies that elect the original, opaque, "classic" option, which conceals under an embargo the extent and nature of contamination, will not be afforded U.S. EPA liability insulation. "Why Ohio would want a two-headed monster is beyond me," quipped the Ohio Environmental Council’s Jack Shaner. In SCA’s case, the jaundiced, green and incompliant wants to hide what you can’t see.

Mark Chesler
Oberlin, Ohio

luvblues2

Thank you very much for the lesson in legalize, Mark Chesler. Why don't you try talking like the rest of us so we don't fall asleep half way through your dribble?

Also, understand this, Mark Chesler. I did intend to say dribble instead of drivel. Afterall, you are just bouncing a ball on the floor so you don't get called on traveling charges.

Hoss McGee

I used to go to the pool all the time growing up at least 1 time a week. And I'm fine and healthy no cancer. And my kids are just fine also. I do feel sorry for all these families don't get me wrong. It's just sad all they are thinking and seeing are $ signs!

grandmasgirl

Me too. I took my children over there at least once a week in the summer. When they had swimming lessons, it was an everyday affair. No one in my family has cancer. They can blame Whirlpool all they want, but proving that it came from this site is something else. I am sorry that anyone has to go through cancer, but it is rampant throughout the U.S. They might have more cases (or clusters) in Clyde and Greensprings, but how do you know it doesn't come from the insecticides or pesticides that farmers use? There are so many chemicals in or on our food that no one is safe.

John Harville

On good authority there is a breast/uterine cancer cluster in Green Springs.

Fireside

coal tar

Kimo

For over fifty years I was in the "service business". My customers were the general public.
In the early sixties one of my customers had a boy that would today be diagnosed with autism. That was the only person that I remember for at least another twenty five years. Today it is a common condition.
All this to say: "What chemical or chemicals are we subjected to that made that change?"
.

2cents's picture
2cents

Maybe DNC :)

Katelih-Trailer...

Kimo..About 25 years ago when I was a kid...I think I visited a place where a lot of people with Autism were housed. I wonder if autistic people were put in "homes" by their families due to lack of knowledge about the disorder or maybe because they were ashamed of them..
Maybe I am just being naive cause I don't really want to accept the fact that the government is poisoning us.

Simple Enough II

Curious about that also, maybe all chemicals leeching out of plastics we use? Who knows.

mikel

money grubbers.

i hope that if found to be non negligent that these companies go after the lawyers and people behind the lawsuit and sue them for legal costs and defamation!!!!

there is NO solid proof that whirlpool or any other company is negligent.

BEHAPPY

Funny how some here want to accuse the victims of being money hungry. I BET you would do the SAME if it were your kids sick and dying! BTW~how many of you blaming the victims work at or have family/friends that work at Whirlpool?

John Harville

Behappy. Be happy that only four of the 37 in the 'cancer cluster' have died. Many conquered the beast and are living fruitful happy lives.

We have cancer in our family.

We never looked for someone to blame, just took the treatments and still alive cancer-free two decades later.

Hoss McGee

Well BEHAPPY I know nobody that works at Whirlpool. Like I said I do feel bad for the families and am very sorry. Anyway why jump the gun and start the lawsuit. I know other places in Clyde that could an should be tested. My family and I use to go to the park all the time for many years. My parents never had cancer, I never had cancer or my siblings, or any of are kids. Now a few have cancer. Yeah it sucks and I'm sorry. There are other things that could be tested

mikel

hoss, i agree. while i do feel sorry, there is no solid evidence that whirlpool or any others listed in this lawsuit are negligent. until that time comes i feel that this lawsuit is irresponsible

John Harville

MIKEL... Grist Mill Inc. - the other DEFENDANT - is owned by Jeff Abdoo and other Abdoos and have spent six years dumping construction debris at Whirlpool Park AND in a pond IN Green Springs. The Albrechta suit would hold Grist Mill/Abdoo accountable.
Said Abdoo/Grist Mill is a PLAINTIFF in another action attempting to force Whirlpool to clean up the site...
Opposite sides of the same coin? Strange bedfellows?

here in ohio

And like nobody saw this coming !!!! I hope that nobody gets one dime !!!!

bobaluey

Seeing $$ ... other places need to be tested.. and let's just one time consider the possibility of past/ or present habits such as drug use by parents/grandparents ( who may have passed something on -- like a gene mutation , perhaps ) or the deceased themselves cigerette smoking, etc etc.

Yes, I'm sure the pesticides from the fields etc. are a factor. But people are ignoring the obvious. Although some people just admit to bad lifestyle choices .

I'm not saying that's for sure what happened just another angle.

Good Luck with the $750 million ...... uh, yeah.

nosey rosey

A total BS lawsuit filed by people who think that money will make up for their unfortunate circumstances. How many people, young and old, are diagnosed and die every day from cancer? If this one location was supposedly responsible for people getting cancer, the area would be a ghost town. Greed and witch hunts won't bring back anyone from the dead. Please seek counciling and move on with you life. And by the way, I have lost loved ones to this disease but I don't spend my life trying to find someone to blame.

The Big Dog's back

Such a kind and compassionate response.

BEHAPPY

I agree BIG DOG.....they are cruel, evil people here. If you notice...most of them are no matter the story. It's today's culture just nasty, vicious so called "human beings" anymore.

BEHAPPY

BTW, most of the evil ones work at Whirlpool.....and THAT's the truth. I'm not saying they are all here (on SR blogs) but they are all THERE!

tk

To those of you who say there are other places that should be tested: There were agents from the US EPA in the area about a year ago, they published a number to call if you had information about any site that might have been contaminated. Did you call?

John Harville

TK a LOT of people called... which is why the EPA has been back testing and re-testing - and cleaning up.

KURTje

Staber Washer & Dryers. Made in Groveport, Ohio since 1993. Featured in Wall St. Journal, Consumer Reports & more. Pay more & get much more.

EZOB

Might sound a bit negative but Whirlpool will probably close. I doubt many other large employers would consider setting up base in Clyde so where does this leave Clyde say 10 years from now? A Ghost Town? Can they absorb the tax loss?

The Big Dog's back

Typical Repub. Money 1st, lives 2nd.

8ballinthesidepocket

This comment was removed because it made too much sense.

luvblues2

What planet do you live on? Why should the afternoon shift worker at station 6 on line 3 have to pay for management's mistakes?

8ballinthesidepocket

I suppose if the foreman told all these lemmings on station 6 line 3 to climb up on the roof and jump off, they would. Why didn't they say something or report to the OSHA hot line about this ooze they were dumping??? Why didn't they go to the union? For the same reason management did, nobody knew the consequences or do you really think management had a plan to pollute the area?

KURTje

Union @ Whirlpool? Where?

John Harville

Kurt... no place. In fact they closed the 'home' factory in St. Joe/Benton Harbor when it tried to unionize.

BillieChris

This lawsuit was filed before the test results have come back. The families that are doing the testing, are not a part of this suit. The attorneys are not even the same.

John Harville

The Utah attorneys (the lead attorney grew up in Gibsonburg) in the Cancer Cluster case (no lawsuit filed yet) are under no responsibility to share their results.

Alrechta just wants to be first in line for the money IF there is any. His suit is not based on much science and his clients aren't paying for research. If the EPA does NOT discover a link at Grist Mill (Whirlpool) Park, the suit goes away.