Lockheed Martin, others sued over Fla. groundwater, soil contamination

Claim alleges that corporations knew toxins migrated off-site but failed to inform residents...

MT. PLEASANT, SC, Sept. 6, 2005 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Legal action for property damage and emotional distress has been taken against Lockheed Martin Corp., Loral Corp., Wire Pro Inc., WPI Sarasota Division Inc. and BECSD LLC, on behalf of property owners and residents in Manatee County, Fla., whose property was contaminated by hazardous chemicals and substances including beryllium dust, trichloroethylene, 1, 4 dioxin (TCE) and perchlorethylene (PCE), that allegedly emanated from a manufacturing plant at 1600 Tallevast Road in Sarasota, Fla., owned and/or operated by the above-mentioned defendants.

The action was filed in Manatee County Circuit Court. by the plaintiff's lawyers at Motley Rice LLC along with law firms Michie Hamlett Lowry Rasmussen & Tweel of Charlottesville, Va.; The Cottingham Law Firm of Charleston, S.C.; and Robert Walker & Associates of Richmond, Va.; and Whittemore Denson Law Firm of St. Petersburg, Fla.

From 1961 through 1996, Loral Corp., owned and operated a precision machine/metal working plant on the property. The property was subsequently acquired by Lockheed Martin. The claim alleges that Lockheed Martin became aware of the hazardous chemicals and substances being released by that plant into the soil and groundwater. The company subsequently sold the property to defendant WPI, Inc. Testing in 2003 showed the contamination was rapidly growing and had migrated into residential areas. It was not until 2004, however, that local residents were made aware of the contamination and the danger it presented them.

"The alleged non-disclosure is particularly egregious because the defendants were aware that the plaintiffs were using potentially contaminated well-water for drinking, cooking and other general use," said Edward Cottingham, Jr. of The Cottingham Law Firm, attorney to the plaintiffs.

"These residents are frightened. They woke up one day and found out that they are living in a toxic waste dump. They have learned that they had been drinking water that can cause cancer," said Gary Kendall, of Michie Hamlet Lowry Rasmussen & Tweel, attorney to the plaintiffs. "They are rightfully scared for their well-being and for the well-being of their children."

The suit alleges that defendants knew for years that their operations and waste management practices were environmentally unsound and that, as a result, these various toxins migrated off the site into the adjacent residential community and onto plaintiffs' properties. The claim alleges that despite knowing that these highly dangerous toxins had migrated into area groundwater and soil, the defendants failed to disclose this information to plaintiffs.

"Testing has shown that this toxic plume has been growing for quite some time. In fact, groundwater samples have shown TCE levels up to 2100 ug/1 - hundreds of times greater than the maximum allowable levels. Something has to be done about this terrible circumstance," stated Motley Rice attorney, Fritz Jekel.

Motley Rice LLC is one of the nation's largest plaintiffs' litigation firms. Motley Rice attorneys gained global recognition for their pioneering work on behalf of asbestos victims, the State Attorneys General in their landmark litigation against Big Tobacco, and the 9/11 families in their groundbreaking lawsuit against terrorist financiers. Its attorneys are currently representing clients in the Graniteville train disaster and chlorine spill property damage class action case and the Attorney General of Rhode Island in the recently settled case against manufacturer of lead pigment DuPont.

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