Rohm & Haas reaches settlement over Illinois toxic tort cases

By Jim Boyle | Dec 29, 2014

Pennsylvania-based chemical company Rohm & Haas, a division of Dow Chemical, has agreed to an undisclosed settlement with 33 plaintiffs that lived near one of its plants in Illinois and claimed improper disposal methods caused brain cancer.

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Lisa Rau accepted the settlement Dec. 23 between Rohm & Haas and the lead plaintiff Joanne Branham.

In her lawsuit, which was filed at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in the spring of 2006, the plaintiff claimed that her late husband’s brain cancer diagnosis was tied to groundwater and air contamination coming from a Rohm and Haas plant in Ringwood, Ill.

Franklin Delano Branham died shortly after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor at age 63.

Branham claimed in her suit that the chemical company knowingly and recklessly dumped vinyl chloride, a toxic substance, into an unlined pit for decades at the Illinois plant, which is located a mile away from the Branhams’ longtime home.

The plaintiff claimed that the vinyl chloride percolated up through the ground and into air around the nearby houses.

In the summer of 2011, as the case was making its way toward trial in Philadelphia, Common Pleas Court Judge Allan Tereshko granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, in response to their motion seeking to dismiss the strict liability claim before the case came before a jury.

The trial court had found that the chemical company’s disposal of vinyl chloride in the unlined pit at the Illinois plant didn’t constitute an “abnormally dangerous activity.”

Tereshko ultimately entered a nonsuit in the middle of the case after it had gone to trial on the remaining negligence and fraud claims. A Superior Court panel reversed Tereshko's ruling in 2013 and ordered a new trial in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

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