columbus dispatch

Suit settled for $22 Million

Georgia Pacific to compensate '97 blast victims

Friday, October 19, 2001

By: Jim Woods
Dispatch Staff Reporter

A 17-year crusade against Georgia Pacific finally paid off yesterday for Roberta Booth and her South Side Community Action Association as they agreed to a $22 million out-of- court settlement.

"We have climbed many mountains, we have cried in the valley, and today we're going to rejoice a little," Booth said before meeting with about 125 South Siders who gathered last night at the Hosack Street Baptist Church to hear more about the settlement.

Georgia-Pacific is agreeing to put in escrow $22 million to end a class- action lawsuit that was filed three years ago on behalf of neighbors of the chemical plant. As many as 6,000 people who live around the plant could qualify for some of the money.

The suit was filed after an 8,500- gallon resin kettle exploded at the plant on Sept. 10, 1997.

A worker was killed in the explosion and 13 others were injured. In addition, 15 homes were evacuated and the concussive shock wave damaged a number of houses.

The settlement means there is a greater chance that people will be reimbursed for damages, said D. David Altman of Cincinnati, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

"Some of the people being compensated would have never been able to bring a case in a court of law because of the rigidity of the law," Altman said.

Residents in the Georgia-Pacific neighborhood will now be sent claim forms to fill out if they've had their health or home damaged. After all claims are submitted, a "fairness hearing" will be held in December to allow residents to make their complaints known before any final amounts are paid.