Lawsuit in a northwest Ohio cancer-cluster region filed today

3/29/2013
BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

FREMONT -- A class action lawsuit on behalf of all who died resulting from exposure to cancer-causing PCBs or other toxins in a northwest Ohio cancer-cluster region was filed today in Sandusky County against Whirlpool Corp. and other defendants.

Whirlpool Park which is closed to the public and is now being tested for harmful chemicals Wednesday, 08/08/12, in Green Springs, Ohio.
Whirlpool Park which is closed to the public and is now being tested for harmful chemicals Wednesday, 08/08/12, in Green Springs, Ohio.

The suit seeks punitive damages for plaintiffs and other class members of $750 million and compensatory damages of more than $25,000 each.

The suit links an increase in area children’s cancer cases to the former Whirlpool Park, at County Roads 187 and 181 and previously owned by Whirlpool and used by area residents. In November, 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a report indicating the presence of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, at the park.

The property is now owned by Grist Mill Creek, LLC, which also is listed as a defendant. The suit alleges Grist Mill Creek “failed to decontaminate” the property containing “a toxic chemical dump site.”

The suit states Whirlpool “knew or should have known” that dumping or allowing toxic materials at the park would “injure its neighbors.”

“Defendant Whirlpool Corporation had a duty of ordinary care to its neighbors, including the plaintiffs, which it breached by dumping toxic materials at Whirlpool Park without designating or disclosing the site,” the suit states.

The cancer-cluster region is defined in the lawsuit as parts of Erie, Ottawa, and Sandusky counties.

Ohio Department of Health spokesman Tessie Pollock said there’s been no cause or specific site linked to the cases of 35 known children with cancer in the cluster area.

The lawsuit was filed by the law firm Albrechta and Coble based in Fremont. Among the plaintiffs is Tim Lagrou of Fremont, whose wife Christina Lagrou died in 2006 at age 23 from large cell lymphoma, the suit states. The suit alleges her death “was caused by defendants’ intentional, reckless, or negligent handling and disposal of toxic and hazardous chemicals, including PCBs.”

The suit also asks for the creation of a medical monitoring fund and a cleanup fund. 

A Whirlpool spokesman said in a written statement the company is reviewing the lawsuit. She said Whirlpool is working with state and federal agencies to address issues at its former park through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Voluntary Action Program.

“... [W]e are also very interested in figuring out the facts behind this ongoing issue,” said Kristine Vernier.