The LaGrou lawsuit blamed alleged dumping at Whirlpool Park by Whirlpool for causing a number of cancer cases. The lawsuit is named for Tim LaGrou, one of the plaintiffs. He was the husband of Christina LaGrou, 23, who died of cancer in 2006.
The demise of the LaGrou lawsuit leaves another federal suit filed against Whirlpool by Warren and Wendy Brown and other families affected by the cancer cluster. Whirlpool has filed a motion to dismiss that lawsuit, too, but there’s been no ruling yet from U.S. District Judge James Carr, the federal judge presiding over the case in Toledo.
Joe Albrechta, one of the attorneys who filed the LaGrou lawsuit, could not be reached for comment Friday after calls were placed to his law office and his cell phone.
James Murray, one of the attorneys from the Murray and Murray law firm in Sandusky who had joined in the LaGrou lawsuit, said Friday he cannot comment on the decision to dismiss the lawsuit.
Tom Bowlus, a Fremont attorney, represents Jonathan Abdoo, who bought the former Whirlpool Park property from Whirlpool. Abdoo had planned to build a house on the property but halted work after EPA tests showed the land was contaminated.
The LaGrou lawsuit had named Abdoo as a defendant. Bowlus had denounced that, saying his client was told the property was clean when he bought it.
“By doing the voluntary dismissal, they dodged a potential bullet,” Bowlus said Friday.
He noted Whirlpool had made a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. If Carr had agreed, the judge’s ruling would have ended the lawsuit, meaning it could not be refiled. Voluntary dismissal at least keeps the possibility of a lawsuit alive if more favorable evidence emerges, Bowlus noted.
Whirlpool recently released testing data that showed PCBs at Whirlpool Park, but it showed no evidence that it or other harmful chemicals had gotten into groundwater.
“Now that the data’s out, it arguably supports the notion Whirlpool Park was not the cause of the cancer cluster,” Bowlus said.
While there’s no question Whirlpool polluted, a key question is whether the pollution has been migrating from the site, Murray said.
Bowlus said the dismissal was an appropriate outcome and a relief for his client.
“It was an extremely stressful situation for Jonathan and his dad,” Bowlus said. “Even though they felt and were reassured there was no valid claim against them … it was still extremely distressful for them.”
Whirlpool did not offer any official comment. In a newsletter distributed to Whirlpool employees in Clyde, the company stated: “We remain committed to defending ourselves against unfounded allegations made by plaintiff attorneys, and will keep you informed of further developments in these cases.”