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The Suburbanite
  • Attorneys negotiate a confidential settlement with landfill’s neighbors

  • More than four years after hundreds of residents filed a lawsuit against the Countywide Recycling and Disposal Facility in Pike Township, claiming they had suffered from noxious landfill odors, the attorneys in the case have negotiated a confidential settlement.

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  • More than four years after hundreds of residents filed a lawsuit against the Countywide Recycling and Disposal Facility in Pike Township, claiming they had suffered from noxious landfill odors, the attorneys in the case have negotiated a confidential settlement.
    A jury trial had been scheduled for this week in Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court before visiting Judge H.F. Inderlied Jr. filed an order Monday  indicating attorneys for the plaintiffs and Countywide’s owner Republic Services had reached a settlement.
    The plaintiffs received a settlement letter marked “privileged and confidential” from their attorney, Curt D. Marshall of environmental litigation law firm Weitz & Luxenberg in New York.
    Marshall wrote that attorneys would brief the plaintiffs of the terms of the settlement and how much money they would get at four meetings next week at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bolivar. The meetings will be 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to noon Saturday and 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday.
    The letter said “that the settlement will be confidential and there will be a joint statement with Republic Services related to the resolution of the litigation at the appropriate time.”
    The letter said all of the plaintiffs — more than 600 individuals and businesses in southern Stark and northern Tuscarawas counties— except for those who are children must attend one of the meetings or they will not receive settlement money.
    SILENCE
    The plaintiffs’ attorneys, Marshall; Steven Bell, who is based in Brecksville, and Kevin Madonna, a law partner of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., did not return calls seeking comment.
    Republic Services’ attorneys Robin Weaver and Colin Jennings also did not return calls. Another attorney, Brian McQuaid, declined to comment.
    It’s not clear what would happen if not every plaintiff agrees with the settlement.
    The plaintiffs’ attorneys took the case on contingency, where they would only be paid a percentage of whatever settlement or judgment resulted. So far, they have paid all of the costs of litigating the case, including the costs of depositions and expert witnesses. A proposed client agreement distributed at a prospective plaintiffs’ meeting at Tusky Valley High School in January 2008 said the attorneys would be paid up to 45 percent of a settlement.
    “No one’s counting their dollars,” said plaintiff Dwayne Flickinger, who emphasized that he hasn’t yet agreed to any settlement. “Ultimately, we want Countywide more responsible and hold them accountable for their actions regardless of what the settlement amount is.”
    Plaintiff Bill Huth of Bolivar said, “I don’t believe the landfill folks wanted to have this thing appear in a trial by jury ... I think its inevitable that they were going to settle.”
    LONGTIME CASE
    Residents began smelling intense, nauseating odors from Countywide starting in 2005 and 2006 that were the result of a reaction between aluminum dross waste, dumped at the landfill starting in the 1990s, and circulated liquid waste.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Ohio and U.S. Environmental Protection agencies ordered Countywide to get the odors and an underground fire under control.
    In 2007, Flickinger persuaded Madonna and the other attorneys to take the case, and they sued Republic and Waste Management in October 2008. As the case proceeded during the years, many plaintiffs were dismissed, and in 2011, the plaintiffs’ attorneys dropped their claims against Waste Management, which claimed another company with the same name had owned the landfill in the 1990s.
    Flickinger said Republic’s attorneys questioned him and about 70 plaintiffs under oath in depositions. He said a mediator made four attempts to resolve the case.
    In February, Inderlied made a ruling limiting the evidence both sides could present at trial. That included excluding a 1994 Ohio EPA memo that said an aluminum dross reaction could be hazardous. The plaintiffs’ attorneys wanted to show the landfill should have known not to accept the aluminum waste. It’s not clear if the ruling influenced the decision to settle.
    “I think (Republic) decided to cut their losses and make a deal they could live with rather than be tarnished in the media and public eye,” said Flickinger.
    Times Reporter writer Meghan Millea contributed to this report
    Reach Robert at 330-580-8327 or robert.wang@cantonrep.com.
    On Twitter: @rwangREP