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Management Side
Attorneys Argue Merits of Glatfelter Lawsuit
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Chillicothe, Ohio, USA 07 December 2015 -- (From the Chillicothe Gazette) -- Attorneys defending a $5 million class action lawsuit against Glatfelter and its Chillicothe paper mill say those bringing the suit have not provided enough facts and specifics about their claims to justify the case going to trial.

Lawyers for the class and its three lead plaintiffs -- South Hickory Street resident Teresa Ford, Ervin Avenue resident Jack Leach and Patton Hill Road resident Rhonda Leeson -- say they don't have to go into all the specifics the company is asking for until the case gets to trial.

The two sides will come together in an initial pre-trial conference Jan. 12 before Magistrate Judge Terence Kemp of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in Columbus.

The lawsuit, filed June 29 on behalf of the class by the Columbus law firm of Kitrick, Lewis & Harris Co. and Detroit firm Liddle & Dublin P.C., claims the paper mill releases "noxious odors and air particulates onto Plaintiffs' property, causing property damage through trespass, negligence, gross negligence and nuisance." The suit also calls the company negligent in the way it maintains the facility and says the odors interfere with residents' ability to get full enjoyment from their properties while creating an "unreasonable risk of harm" to residents.

In a motion to dismiss the case filed by Molly Crabtree, of the Columbus firm of Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur, the company takes issue with what it says are "bare-bones" allegations that lack facts or specifics to back them up. For instance, Crabtree says the original complaint does not address the nature of the odors and particulates supposedly posing a risk, proof that the Glatfelter mill caused the alleged releases, dates or a rough time range in which alleged releases took place and the nature or extent of supposed damages to those bringing the suit.

As part of the argument, Crabtree claims odor, itself, does not legally make for a trespass claim, that no facts have been offered showing properties have actually been damaged by odors or alleged particulate releases, and no proof has been offered showing Glatfelter has been negligent in operating the mill. She cites such vague wording from the original complaint as the releases took place "on occasions too numerous to mention" and that Glatfelter "fail[ed] to reasonably repair and/or maintain their facility."

"Plaintiffs merely plead without fact that Glatfelter was negligent or grossly negligent "in constructing, maintaining and/or operating the facility," the motion to dismiss reads. "Plaintiffs' allegations could not be more vague, as constructing, maintaining and operating are just about the only things one can do with a paper mill."

In response, those bringing the suit claim that they don't have to prove their entire case in the filing of the initial lawsuit, only that grounds exist for the lawsuit to move forward.

Those involved in the suit note in the response that the Glatfelter mill has been the subject of several complaints to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency by residents concerning noxious odors and air particulates, that those odors and particulates have "physically invaded" residents' properties, that specific dates of alleged releases are difficult to provide because the situation has been ongoing and that the existence of the odors and particulates should lead to the conclusion that the facility is being operated negligently.

Whether those bringing the lawsuit have suffered "significant damages" as the result of Glatfelter's operation of the mill should be left to a jury to decide, the response claims.

Glatfelter's attorneys, in their latest reply before the court, said that the plaintiffs offered no more specifics in their response than they did in the original lawsuit and ask that the case be dismissed.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Glatfelter defended its environmental record, saying for the last several years it has been examining options to prepare for U.S. Clean Air Act requirements that focus on a reduction in boiler emissions and that it began spending the capital for needed improvements around the beginning of this year. The total investment will be around $31 million in the effort to convert two coal-fire boilers to natural gas and to upgrade a pollution control system on a wood-fired boiler.

 

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