Pennsylvania Record

Friday, September 20, 2019

New lawyer files appeal in Lancaster chemical cases against AWI; Previous lawyer was DQ'd by judge


By John O'Brien | Apr 5, 2019

Lancaster County Courthouse

LANCASTER – The next chapter in long-running Lancaster litigation against Armstrong World Industries will ask whether it was fair for a judge to boot the plaintiffs’ lawyer off of their cases.

Armed with a new lawyer, Todd Mosser, the plaintiffs who are blaming AWI for exposure to certain chemicals are appealing the decision of Judge Leonard Brown to disqualify attorney George Chada and dismiss their cases.

Brown decided last year that Chada was ignoring court orders and filing superfluous documents as he attempted to lead more than 30 lawsuits against AWI and Brenntag. He said Chada “made a mockery of the law.” He also used words like “incompetent,” “frivolous” and “dishonest.”

The first case was filed a decade ago, and plaintiffs are seemingly no closer to their days in court. Brown dismissed the cases following a Jan. 10 hearing at which no plaintiffs or attorneys representing them were in attendance.

Mosser filed a statement of the matters he is appealing on March 6.

They include Brown first issuing an order demanding Chada show why he should not be disqualified before doing so.

Mosser wrote that his appeal to the Superior Court asks whether Brown created “a conflict of interest since (he) served as both movant and finder of fact, and bore the burden to show why Chada should not continue as counsel.”

The first lawsuit in the series was brought by plaintiff Sandra Cooper in 2009. Sandra alleges her late husband Gene died at the age of 58, because the company exposed him and other AWI facility workers to dangerous substances trichloroethylene (TCE) and “Safety Solvent," whose fume inhalation would later allegedly cause him to suffer toxic encephalopathy with Parkinson’s disease-related symptoms.

Other plaintiffs alleged the exposure caused cancer and different forms of fatal disease.

Chada's lawsuits allege a mixture known as “Safety Solvent” was used at the Lancaster facility despite its harmful effects on those who breathed its fumes.

(AWI is based in Lancaster, makes floors and ceilings and is one of several dozen companies forced into the bankruptcy system by asbestos lawsuits.)

In Chada’s complaints, he says Safety Solvent was a blend of three organic solvents developed by AWI, but at the same time alleges Brenntag made it. The company eventually asked the court to sanction Chada for suing it when he had no reason to think Brenntag made or sold Safety Solvent.

Cooper paid Chada’s six-figure appeal bond after the court sanctioned him more than $100,000. She also led a movement to oppose Chada’s disqualification by attaching emails of support from her fellow plaintiffs.

That is another point in the plaintiffs’ appeal – that Judge Brown was wrong to disqualify Chada after they expressed their desire to retain him.

Other issues being appealed include the dismissal of the cases, the sanctions order and the presence of Safety Solvent at AWI.

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Organizations in this Story

Armstrong World Industries Inc. Brenntag Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas

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