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Lawsuit for brain injuries caused by dangerous chemicals settled

Eighteen families working on an undisclosed number of Missouri farms northwest of Columbia have settled a lawsuit against Burns & McDonnell Engineering Co. for $10 million. The lawsuit covers a time period that spanned from 1983 until the early part of 2009. The claims alleged that victims suffered brain injuries and other problems from the use of a dangerous chemical, hexavalent chromium, as a fertilizer on farms located in Buchanan, Clinton, DeKalb and Andrew counties. The engineering company admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, but for a portion of the time covered by the lawsuit, it acted as a consultant to the tannery that provided the objectionable chemical.

Prime Tanning, located in St. Joseph, initially denied use of the chemical at the plant, then later acknowledged use after the discovery that between 100,000 and 1 million pounds of the chemical was stored at the facility over a 3-year-period. Following the revelation, the tannery and a related company filed for bankruptcy protection and were dismissed from the lawsuit, which has now been settled.

The issues first came to light after local residents in Cameron complained about a perceived high incidence of brain injuries, including tumors, in the region. A state of Missouri investigation ultimately centered on the use of hexavalent chromium on the farms named in the lawsuit. While the government study concluded the chemical levels were not medically hazardous to those exposed, the now-settled litigation was pursued.

Prime Tanning is said to have been the last tannery in the nation to use the dangerous chemical. While the lawsuit has now concluded, other claims alleging brain injuries in the bankruptcy proceedings against the tannery are pending before a court in Maine, where Prime Tanning is based. These related claims all underscore the caution we all should take involving chemicals, whether in Columbia or any place in the state. Those who believe they have been negligently exposed to a dangerous chemical would do well to both seek immediate medical attention and become familiar with the relevant law and procedures regarding claims for financial remuneration occasioned by any wrongful conduct.

Source: KansasCity.com, "Burns & McDonnell settles case alleging hazardous sludge," Karen Dillon, March 2, 2012

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