Kraft Foods Global, Inc. will pay $8.1 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by 124 families in Attica, Indiana, who alleged that pollution from a local Kraft-owned factory contaminated the air and water inside their homes. Under the terms of the agreement, Kraft is also required to clean up the plant site and groundwater, and install mitigation systems in affected homes. The settlement was approved last Friday afternoon by a US District Court judge in Indianapolis.
A team of experienced lawyers from two small Chicago-area law firms represented the plaintiffs. Known as The Pollution Lawyers, they are Shawn Collins and Ed Manzke, of the Collins Law Firm in Naperville, IL, and Norm Berger and Mike Hayes of Varga Berger in Chicago. Commented Collins, “The residents of Attica faced an invisible enemy. These kinds of cancer-causing chemicals are odorless and colorless. And those who caused the problem are almost always telling you ‘not to worry.’ But people must take steps to protect themselves.”
Norm Berger continued, “It’s extremely difficult for an individual to go toe-to-toe with a big company, like Kraft. And, let’s face it, when there’s pollution it’s very unlikely that just one or even a small number of local families are impacted. That’s why class actions are effective in contamination cases. We’re pleased that the residents of Attica had their day in court, and that the end result here, besides monetary compensation, is clean-up of the area and improved quality of life for these families.”
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs alleged that the chemicals were spilled on plant property beginning in 1957. Families in the vicinity of the plant claimed that chemicals such as cleaning fluids were dumped into the ground, thereby contaminating the groundwater – which in turn allowed cancer-causing vapors to migrate up from the groundwater and into their homes.
The chemicals released into the Attica groundwater included vinyl chloride (“VC”), trichloroethylene (“TCE”) and tetrachloroethylene (“PCE”). These chemicals were discovered in testing to be present in homes in the impacted area.
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